Let’s light one up

Rodney Dangerfield was a funny guy. He died about 10 years ago after many years of delighting us with his: “I don’t get no respect” shtick. One of his gems was something like: “I met C. Everett Koop the other day. He offered me a cigarette.”

Dr. Koop was the Surgeon General from 1982-1989. I’m not sure anyone knew who the Surgeon General was before that or what the person in that office did. For that matter, I don’t know who the Surgeon General is now. I’m pretty sure no Surgeon General has been as visible or has had as much impact as Dr. Koop. He’s the guy who railed against the cigarette industry and the dangers of smoking.

I think everyone, even smokers, is aware of the dangers. A story on the radio today said the number of smokers has dropped significantly since the 80’s. About 33% of people smoked when Dr. Koop started his crusade. By 2011, the number was fewer than 20%.

Recently, an acquaintance told me he’d like to quit smoking. He’s tapering off and one of his strategies is “rolling his own.” He told me the smoke shop tobaccos are cleaner than brand name smokes since they have fewer chemicals. He believes tapering off will be easier since there’s less in the tobacco to which you can become addicted. That led to further discussion of healthy things like vitamins and supplements. It was an interesting, informative conversation.

Then it got really interesting. The conversation led to the idea that Dr. Koop and others have taught us that cigarettes are a very efficient delivery system for nicotine and all the additives. The breathed-in smoke apparently permeates every system of the body quite well.

Sooooooo, the question we came up with is: why can’t we use that efficient system to deliver healthy stuff? Suppose we could deliver medication and necessary vitamins and minerals that way? How big a stretch is it to go from a deadly tobacco leaf to a healthy cabbage leaf? Imagine this conversation: “Hey, want to smoke some slaw?” “Absolutely, I could use a dose of vitamins C, K, and B-6!”

Great idea or what?

Oh, you don’t think so? Sheesh, I don’t get no respect either.

But what does deserve respect is addiction. That’s not to say that it should be entered into or condoned, it’s just to say that its power needs to be respected. That power can overtake, control, and ruin lives. And addiction to tobacco is as powerful and damaging as any addiction.

It is possible to beat addiction, though, and many people do. One way is to do it on your own, and for tobacco issues, websites sponsored by The American Cancer Society and the American Lung Association provide lots of information. And remember that there is lots of support available from experienced addictions counselors at Family Services of Warren County.

Gary Lester directs Leadership Warren and is a counselor with Family Services of Warren County. “Like” its page on Facebook for great tips about happy and healthy living.