I was a third-year medical student on an oncology (cancer) elective, following around a gray-haired oncologist in his daily hospital rounds and clinic visits. One day, a woman in her 40s came in with her husband, carrying a thick envelope of chest films.
She was from a small farming town, the mother of two teenage children and she had been a smoker since her teens. She had been meaning to quit, but the stress of her job, raising children and financial difficulties caused her to put if off. Then she became ill - first a cough, then shortness of breath and some weight loss. Initially, she thought it was just a flu, but when her symptoms didn't dissipate after six weeks, she saw her local doctor and was diagnosed with lung cancer - advanced, inoperable lung cancer.
She and her worried husband sat in the little room, hoping the university-affiliated physician would have something to offer her that her primary care physician didn't. We reviewed her films outside in the hall and he shook his head. Lung cancer is just too aggressive. It was too late.
We went back into the room, I picked up a magazine from an empty chair, and sat down. The oncologist detailed the bad news, and explained her options for palliative chemotherapy, to stall the inevitable by perhaps a month or two.
Finally the woman's husband asked "Doc, how much time are we talking about?"
At that point, knowing the answer would be less than a year, I looked down at my lap, and the magazine I was holding. On the back-side of the magazine, there was an advertisement for a popular brand of cigarettes. A gorgeous, healthy-looking, model was smoking a cigarette, beaming at the camera with a perfect white smile.
Somehow the profitable tobacco industries can get away with this, while Americans pay $97.2 billion each year in health care costs and lost productivity due to smoking-related illnesses.
We all know what cigarette smoking does to you. It stinks. I also causes bad breath, wrinkles, bad teeth and gums, mouth and throat cancer, emphysema, heart disease, strokes and lung cancer. So, knowing this, why do people smoke? The answer is that cigarettes are marketed well, and nicotine is extremely addicting.
The cigarette is an efficient, and highly-engineered delivery system that transmits nicotine to the brain; where it essentially tickles the brains's pleasure center. Removing this stimulus causes a withdrawal syndrome that can last for a month or more after quitting.
So is easy to quit? No. Is it hopeless? No way! According to QuitTobacco.org , the benefits are almost immediate.
Don't keep putting it off. See your doctor for help.
You can do it.