The VigilanceVoice
Tuesday... February 5, 2002—Ground Zero Plus 147

Terror & The Cigarette

Cliff McKenzie
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 ETS.
      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 disposal.
      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 care.
     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 meditate.
          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 journey.
          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.  It's 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 task force.   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 Complacency.  

Go To Diary--Feb. 4--Positive & Negative Ground Zeros

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