Monday, August 2, 2010

It Ends With The Grave

I am going to share another man's story tonight. It won't take that long. I met this man in a class that I teach, I believe I have mentioned this class in the past. The purpose of the class is to educate tobacco users on the health consequences of said use, the benefits of quitting, some evidenced based methods for quitting and to to inform them of community and company resources that might assist them in this process. It is NOT a quit smoking or tobacco cessation class. Everyone in the class either uses tobacco or is exposed to enough second hand smoke to test positive for the nicotine metabolite, cotinine. (yes those people exist)

The gentleman that I am referring to is over fifty, possibly sixty, years old. In tonight's class we talked about reasons that people may be motivated to quit tobacco. The usual reasons are always to save money, improve health, set a better example and to be free of the addiction (the compulsion to use). I will call my gentleman, Bob. Bob said much of those same things and I asked him, "Can you stop before you get one of those diseases or do you have to have the diagnosis first?" He smiled and said, "I think I might need to have a touch of something first." Ah, that is too bad. Then Bob told us about his brother. His brother died at the age of 63. He was a smoker and he suffered from and died from COPD - most likely emphysema. Bob took care of his brother. "I watched him as he gasped for breath, folded over his walker." Bob helped him with his oxygen that he had to use all the time. He helped him with his rescue treatments when he could barely breathe at all. "My brother kept smoking, he couldn't even breathe but he would smoke." Bob smoked too. Bob smoked then and Bob smokes now. Bob said that his brother couldn't smoke. He couldn't. He also did not have cigarettes. "He would go out on the porch and take my old cigarette butts out of the ash tray and smoke them."

Our class tonight had been about addiction and I think there is no clearer example of the powerful nature of nicotine. Bob's brother died about a year ago. Bob told the class that he would stop smoking before he got that way. He said that he would never do what his brother did. I asked Bob, "Did your brother not say the same things?" There are some people, as Bob brother shows, who will quit only when they are in the grave. I said that to Bob, I said that I hoped he would not be one of those people.

I will close with my newest assertion about cigarettes. You may have heard me say this recently, but only in the last few months. I do NOT fault tobacco companies for marketing, even aggressively, a product that they are legally allowed to sell. Instead, I fault the government for allowing them to do so at all.

Bob's brother was simply too young to die. Remember death in old age is the only death we are powerless over.

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