150,000 Times

We were sitting around at the Magic Castle on January 2, at the 51st anniversary party.  From out of the blue, Siggie asked if any of us had any cigars.  She’s always been kind of a firebrand.

“My father died of smoking in 1989,” I shot back with a bite in my voice.

My father sitting in his favorite chair, smoking

My father sitting in his favorite chair, smoking

Everybody at the table was silent for a long moment.  Finally, Adam chimed in cheerfully.

“How do you know he died of smoking?”

I shot him a look.  He was wearing a red suit and a shit-eating grin on his face.

“Because he was a pack-a-day smoker,” I said.  “He went into the hospital with one of the most advanced cases of undiagnosed COPD and emphysema the doctor had ever seen.  He died of a series of strokes and heart attacks.”

Family 260

Smoking at age 21 in Korea.

“Yeah,” Adam said, “but how do you know it was the smoking?  Lots of people these days are dying of lung cancer who never smoked in their lives.”

“My father didn’t die of cancer.  It was COPD and emphysema.”

Clearly, Adam wasn’t understanding my tone, which was filled with venom and warning, or perhaps he was perversely choosing to ignore it, maybe to get under my skin.

“I know that,” Adam said, “but how did you know it was smoking that caused it?”

“Adam,” I said, “the Surgeon General issued a report as far back as 1964 showing a strong correlation between smoking and lung disease.  This is well established.”

“That was a long time ago,” Adam said.  “Our research has come a long way since then.  There are all sorts of reports these days finding different kinds of things.”

“What kinds of things?”

My father approximately age 58

My father approximately age 58, looking quite a bit older and sicker.

Adam floundered for a while trying to answer that one, and I let him flounder.  He was proving himself wrong, although by that time, there was nobody else there to witness it.  Adam has a similar contrarian view on climate change, government regulations, the national debt, and other Fox News lies.

“You can’t tell me what kinds of things,” I finally said.  “But I can tell you that the tobacco companies are evil.  Reagan’s Surgeon General, C. Everett Koop, said that smoking was as addictive as heroin.  And I can tell you that on his deathbed, my Dad said that he had tried to quit 150,000 times.  Those were his exact words, ‘150,000 times.’  And after he died, we went through his stuff and found all sorts of literature about smokers’ rights.  And you know who published it?  Organizations that were funded by Philip Morris and all the other tobacco companies.”

I never did convince him, but he convinced me of something: that he appropriately summed up the dictionary definition of ignorant.

To read my other posts about my father’s death from smoking, click here and here.


4 thoughts on “150,000 Times

  1. We have something in common, here – sadly. My father too died from smoking. Cancer, in his case. Or several of them, to be precise. And even after a permanent tracheotomy and 3 cancer operations, he never managed to quit smoking. Yet, it is only the “hard drugs” that get the press, while the tobacco lobby is allowed to be as powerful as it is, and some scientists are prostituting themselves for research grants from tobacco companies.

    I too cannot understand how, in any family, assisting to the slow and excruciating death of a tobacco addict is not enough to instill in all those who stay behind an almost holy fear of the thing, and prompt them to quit smoking presto-presto-presto. In my family, most people still smoke – even those who already suffer from smoke related illnesses – and shrug their shoulders. Like your relative, there. With all sorts of rotting arguments.

    I like the way you are able to speak about your family, with such a clear and independent voice. It is something that I need to do, yet cannot, as I keep considering the damage it’d inevitably do. Therefore, thank you for your writing, maybe one day it’ll have an inspirational cumulative effect strong enough to prompt me into action… ::smile::

    • I’m not always so strong in my opinions about smoking. However, sometimes I get angry. A few times, I’ve seen teens smoking and said to them, “You know, my father died of smoking. And I loved my father.” Then I’ve walked away. That’s pretty angry. I can’t keep it up on a regular basis. If I did, someday, I’d get punched out.

  2. Thank you. This is why I will go out of my way to shop at CVS. My dad died of brain cancer, but had COPD and had quit smoking 30 years earlier. EVIL is the right word. I’m so sorry you lost your dad so young.

  3. Watch my father and my father-in-law die as a result of smoking. neither reached the age of 59. Too early. This story is a part of too many of our families.

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