Tuesday... February 5, 2002—Ground
Zero Plus 147
Terror & The Cigarette
Editor, New York City Combat Correspondent News
GROUND ZERO, New York
City--I admit it. I smoke.
I'm one of 61 million Americans, 29% of the total
population, according to the Center of Disease Control, who smoke.
The good news is, I don't want to smoke.
Each time I light one up, I think of it as being
Osama bin Laden. I try and see his face on the tip of the cigarette,
laughing at me--hissing--"I gotcha, Cliff!"
It's one thing to be attacked unexpectedly by
Terrorism. It's quite another to willingly perform an act of
Terrorism against yourself, your body, your health, and others around you.
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) reports that
nearly 3,000 lung cancer deaths per year are reported among non smokers.
They call it ETS--environmental tobacco smoke. They also report as
many as 62,000 deaths from coronary heart disease annually, a result of
I like to argue. I like to take issue
with things. It keeps my mind sharp. But, if the CDC
told me that 100% of all people who smoke will die of cancer, I'd believe
them. Not because it was necessarily true, but because I think
smoking is nothing more than slow poison--a torture to one's self, and an
endangerment to those who inhale its residue.
It is truly insane for me to smoke. Over a decade
ago I recognized (and so did everyone else), I had a problem with alcohol.
I haven't had a drink since November 7, 1989. The idea of ingesting
alcohol into my system is as repulsive a thought as injecting Plumber's
Helper into my veins, or sticking my hand down a whirring garbage
Ah, but put a pack of cigarettes in front of me,
and I hear their Voices. They lure me with lustful siren
songs--"Smoke Me Cliff---Please, Just One Drag--Smoke Me...Smoke Me!"
All of you who have ever heard their Voices know what I
mean. Those of you who haven't, I hope you never do.
My five-year-old grandson gave me a No Smoking magnet
for Christmas. He shakes his head whenever he catches me with
a cigarette. "GPa--that's bad. You're bad for smoking.
I'm going to tell on you.""
It's sad, isn't it. A grown man who
has been through cancer and much physical abuse, still stupidly shoves a
known carcinogen into his mouth and sucks its Terrorism into his lungs,
robbing him of breath, energy and slowly pounding nails in his coffin.
Long ago, when every doctor on television shows smoked,
and cigarettes were as accepted as Microsoft is today, people would say:
"Got an extra coffin nail?" when referring to cigarettes. Knowing
cigarettes aren't good for you isn't new news. Doing something
about it is.
The CDC reports that with all the negative promotion
about smoking, since 1982 the number of "new smokers" per year hasn't
changed--about 1.5 million. The old die, the new replace them.
Even the Health Care Industry shudders thinking about
people quitting smoking in masses. All their actuaries are based on
the early deaths of guys and gals like me who cling to the stupid, deadly
habit. Were we all to stop, we would bankrupt the Health System.
We would live longer, bring greater burdens on the economics of health
But, there is Hope. There has been a slight
decline in smoking since 1978. The below chart shows me that I could
have a chance against the bin Laden's of tobacco.
It's not that I haven't
tried to quit, or that I've resigned myself to being a prisoner of Tobacco
Terrorism all my remaining days. In the early 70's I went to
Shick's aversion training to quit smoking. Each time I puffed on a
smoke, they shocked me. I sat in a "torture room" full of
stinky cigarette butts and had to smoke one after another, getting shocked
hard and harder.
It didn't take long
for me to pick up again. Then I tried hypnosis. That
worked for a while until I forgot to close my forefinger to my thumb and
I progressed to the
patches. Then to the Wellbutrin.
Toward the end, I was wearing a
patch and taking Wellbutrin, and, of course, smoking in violation of all
the warnings not to.
This morning I went to the gym.
I'm dieting. Again. I grew up a skinny kid and
have loved the feel of weight on my bones as I grew older until the size
of my waist didn't stop. And my knees started to ache. And
bending over became an effort. And the 59 steps up to our New York
City East Village quaint apartment became a slow, huffing and puffing
Getting healthy means
quitting smoking. So, along with my diet, I'm trying to fight the
Terrorism of cigarettes. I went to the gym today for the first time.
The Dolphin Club, or Dolphin Center--never quite sure of the name.
I worked on my cardio vascular system.
I drew a nice sweat. Then
I left and bought a pack of smokes, and sucked them down like a kid
starved for candy just after the dentist had drilled three cavities clean.
Oh, the pain of being Terrorized.
I often think of my cry for
Vigilance against Terrorism, and then watch my hand seem to automatically
move from my body to a cigarette, and my fingers curl around it against
every rational bone in my intellectual body. It's as
though the Terrorists had be bound and were stuffing the smokes in my
mouth, forcing me at gunpoint to inhale.
In a slow, hacking, coughing way, I
am allowing Terrorism into my body. I am participating in its
cancerous growth throughout my system. In many ways, I'm like
the parents who doesn't give any credence to the Pledge of Vigilance, and
doesn't stand guard at the Gateway Of Emotional Terrorism with the Shield
of Vigilance to help ward off the enemies of "self-worthlessness," or
"self-incrimination," or "self-depreciation" that left unchecked,
untreated, can cause a child to stunt his or her emotional growth.
I aid and abet the crime of killing one's
self physically, while neglectful parents can allow their children's self
to be poisoned by "fear," "intimidation" and "complacency" unless they
take action to quash it.
I sit here at my computer with a box of Nicotrol
within arm's reach.
a cigarette holder in which you insert a cylinder of nicotine and inhale
it to supplement the craving for a cigarette under tobacco attack. Nicotrol is my current Shield of Vigilance against smoking. I carry
it with me so when I finally decide to quit, I'm armed with support. I am Vigilant about being Vigilant, even
though I am not now Vigilant. (in other words, I'm hedging.)
I think of the Homeland Security anti-smoking
How many of us need to crush the Terrorists in the little packages of
cigarettes we carry? How many families would be safer?
Priorities, I think. Where have all the priorities gone? Is
bin Laden more dangerous than a cigarette? Perhaps not in the long
run. But the new media and President would hardly get Congress
to budget billions to fight tobacco.
I don't throw rocks at glass houses by blaming
anyone for my defects.
I know fighting the Terrorism of Smoking is a lonely battle I must ultimately be
the referee of, for no one can make me quit. Hopefully, by
seeing bin Laden's gruesome face laughing at me at the end of my cigarette
when I light it, and thinking of how Al Qaeda is behind the Great
Cigarette Terrorism Plot, I might be able to muster the courage,
conviction to take the action necessary to quit. I might become a
Citizen of Vigilance for Anti-Smoking Terrorism. The life I save will be my own,
and anyone around me when I smoke.
If I do quit as I hope I will, I will have
to thank bin Laden. I would hate to think his brand of Terrorism
could kill me--but it will, if I don't act vigilantly. His brand if
To Diary--Feb. 4--Positive & Negative Ground Zeros
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