She stands in the white tiled bathroom looking out through the screen protected window, as the ash of a Virginia Slim Ultra Light Menthol is flicked into the grey, pale looking ashtray. Its an ashtray of much experience. One that has never failed to do its job. She stands feeling relaxed, examining the kidney bean shaped pool that sits in the backyard filled with leaves that have fallen from the trees that linger above. She’s on the way to finishing yet another pack. A pack she wishes she never wanted. A pack she wishes she never needed. She was not alone in her addiction, it was not unfamiliar to her. It had a long history in the family as her mother, her grandmother, and even her aunt were smokers. Her first exposure to cigarettes was when she would run errands for her mother and grab a pack of Kent Kingsize from Danza Supermarket on Flatlands Avenue in Brooklyn . After trying cigarettes with her friends who were smoking around her as they made their way to junior high , she never once thought such a fixation would arise within her, especially one that would last over 20 grueling years . It was an addiction that began in a different place and time. The dangers were not all that known to her, the dangers were not all that important to her.
Tobacco is the number one cause of preventable death with five million deaths attributed to smoking alone and the possibility of rising to ten million by the 2030’s. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in 2015 nearly 7 out of 10 or 68 percent of all current smokers in the United States reported that they wished to quit completely . However, while many attempt to put their addiction behind them for good, it is not so simple. Smoking cessation is an arduous and draining process that may result in several relapses. The American Cancer Society says that it takes an individual around 8-10 attempts, while the Australian Cancer Council advises 12-14, and the CDC reports that it takes 8-11 attempts to permanently quit the habit . Although one may suffer through several setbacks in their journey to completely eliminate cigarettes from their lives, there are tools available to aid them during that difficult journey. Such tools that have been effective include nicotine patches, nicotine gum, and non-nicotine medications such as Zyban and Chantix to relieve the physical symptoms that arise. Even hypnosis has proven to be successful. The CDC also states that treatments from your doctor, counseling, behavioral therapies, and programs that provide treatments over the phone are other ways to aid those in cessation . Quitting for good ultimately comes down to patience and perseverance.
The time had finally come to put the cigarettes and all its harmful chemicals away for good and end the addiction that overstayed its welcome. After contemplating it for some time, she realized it had to be done. Following a cardiac stress test with the cardiologist, she was determined to take on the daunting task. After being advised by the cardiologist, she understood and completely agreed. She had to do it for herself. She ditched the Virginia Slims, but not the nicotine and the menthol. Although, she may have been ready to abandon her addiction, a part of her wasn’t fully committed. As an alternative, she purchased a Logic e-cigarette and bought menthol cartridges to go along with it . The addiction may not have been completely gone, but it was a step in the right direction. She was beginning a new chapter in her life, one where she was free and relieved of her burden. The craving may still linger in her mind, especially when the scent of the cigarette occasionally rushes up her nostrils as she passes by someone smoking and she begins to miss her past . She refrains, stays strong, and keeps moving.
Cessation is no easy task, yet smoking has declined from 20.9 percent, which is 21 out of every 100 adults, in 2005 to nearly 15.5 percent, more than 15 out of every 100 adults, in 2016 . Although there has been a significant decline, there are still an estimated 37.8 million people living in the United States that continue to smoke cigarettes , while over 16 million Americans live with a smoking-related disease . There may still be a considerable amount of people still smoking, but the advantages that coincide with mustering the strength to overcome the addiction of cigarettes is incredible. Such benefits can be visible within 20 minutes to 15 years of quitting. According to the American Lung Association, after 20 minutes one’s heart rate drops a normal level and after an astounding 15 years, one’s risk of coronary heart disease the same as that of a nonsmoker . The CDC says that quitting lowers the risk of lung cancer and other cancers, reduces the risk of heart disease, stroke, infertility in women, respiratory symptoms, and the risk of developing certain lung diseases . Not only will you reap the the benefits physically, but financially as well. Rather than wasting money on packs of cigarettes on a weekly basis, you will save significant amounts of money that can be put towards things that will bring real joy to your life. Reaping all the rewards that ultimately come along with quitting are within reach, but it most certainly comes with its hardships. Muhlenberg College offers smoking cessation help and there are resources in the Lehigh Valley such as the Lehigh Valley Health Network Tobacco Treatment Program and the St. Luke’s Tobacco Cessation Program .
The road to a smoke-free life isn’t easy, especially when it has been such an important part of your life for so long. There are those, though, who feel its effects and make the tough decision to make the change in their lives. It has been four years since she has touched a “real” tobacco cigarette . Four years of happiness, success, and support from her family. She has found in a new life in the healthier alternative of e-cigarettes and it has truly changed her life for the better. She, my mother, overcame her addiction, transformed her life, and the lives of her her family.