I started smoking cigarettes—Lucky Strikes—at fifteen years old. I was in love with sixteen-year-old Rhonda Stevens and wanted to seem older, cooler and more sophisticated. I was pretty sure a cigarette hanging from my pimple-covered face would drive Rhonda to a state of uncontrollable lust for my bony body.
I just knew that if I smoked, I’d look as cool as James Dean or Cool Hand Luke. Turns out I more resembled Joe Camel, the cool Camel cigarette mascot.
Like James Dean, I wore a tight white tee shirt and stored my Lucky Strikes in the left sleeve. Part of my reason for quitting cigarettes years later was that my shape changed—my belly grew as my biceps withered away—which caused the tee shirt to fit tightly around my gut but loosely at my arm, resulting in the frequent loss of expensive cigarettes.
As a young man, I thought I was ten feet tall and bulletproof. I’d never look, feel or grow old. I’d live forever. I’m here to tell you, that hasn’t worked out for old Joe. As the years passed, the smokes started to take their toll. I noticed I tired more easily and would experience shortness of breath, especially after extreme exertion, like the time I lost the remote control and had to get off my La-Z-Boy and walk to the TV to change the channel.
Doc Braley warned me I was on a direct path to a heart attack or stroke if I didn’t give up the tobacco products. He’s such a Gloomy Gus. He’s always a pessimist; never sees the sunny side of life.
“You’re gonna kill yourself with those cancer sticks, Joe.”
“Plus, you’re more likely to develop erectile dysfunction if you smoke,” Doc explained.
Yeah, whatever . . . “What? You mean I wouldn’t be able to . . .”
“That’s right, Joe. You heard me right.”
Now he had my attention. He’d never told me cigarettes could ruin my life!
I used to buy a pack of smokes for about a Kennedy half dollar. They were cheap. When they got to be about 50 bucks a carton, that was the last straw.
I did the math one night—with the help of my two-year-old grandson, Sumner, and the calculator app on his Ipad—and figured out that comes to about $3000 per year.
I quit smoking cold turkey right then and there. After all, three grand will buy a lot of Miller Lite.