Kicking butts to kick addiction

Do you remember Ramona Quimby, the young protagonist of Beverly Cleary’s young adult books? I haven’t read the series in at least 15 years, but I still remember one of my favorite scenes. In it, Ramona makes numerous attempts to get her father to quit smoking. When she replaces his cigarettes with rolled-up notes that read, “Smoking can kill you,” Mr. Quimby ignores her. Then she tries to make a poster that reads, “No Smoking,” but since she runs out of room, the sign ends up saying, “Nosmo King.” When Daddy walks in and sees the sign, he says, “Who is the Nosmo King?”

Even in the early 1980s when this book was written, people knew about the dangers of smoking. In fact, we’ve known since the late 1960s that smoking can cause lung disease. Yet everywhere I go, I see young people lighting up. They are not just rebellious sixth graders, but college students and graduates — some of the most brilliant people on campus. Take, for example, the “smoking club” that forms Wednesday evenings outside the Social Science Building. The students who participate are, quite frankly, the future leaders of America. They probably speak multiple languages and have a 4.0 average grade point average. They are by no means stupid. But every Wednesday around 7:30 p.m., they leave the building to smoke as many cigarettes as possible before returning to their classrooms and reeking of burnt paper.

Surely these geniuses know the negative effects of smoking. I am sure that the vast majority of the 23% of Americans who smoke are aware that their habit is not only filthy, but that it can cause serious damage to the people around them as well as themselves.

Smoking can cause cancer of the mouth, throat and lungs. It causes emphysema, bronchitis and various other nasty maladies. Sufferers of these diseases die horrible deaths. If that’s not enough to scare student smokers, consider the following short-term effects of smoking, according to the American Lung Association:

– Premature aging of the skin.

– Shortness of breath and a nagging cough, which often prevent the smoker from participating succesfully in sports and physical activity.

– Increased risk of sexual impotence in men. (Who said smoking is sexy?)

– Increased risk of heart disease.

– Increased risk of strokes in women who take oral contraceptives

– Increased risk of birth defects in babies.

– Decreased ability to smell and taste.

Also consider some other negative consequences:

-Smoking is expensive. If a studentsmoke $20 worth of cigarettes in a week, that student could save $1,040 per year by quitting. Invested at 9.00%, this would yield over $1 million by the time you are ready to retire. Don’t believe me? Check out .

– Secondhand smoke can be fatal for babies and children with asthma. Exposure to secondhand smoke can be just as damaging as smoking a cigarrette.

Convinced? Good. Because within 20 minutes of quitting, these negative symptoms begin to disappear. Now comes the hard part: quitting. Many of my smoking friends have tried to quit only to find that their success was temporary.

Nicotine is an extremely addictive substance, but after several months of being a nonsmoker, the body is no longer physically addicted. People who smoke after abstaining for several months may have fallen prey to a psychological addiction.

So how does one quit smoking and remain a nonsmoker? In my conversations with smokers, I’ve found that quitting is actually the easy part. Whether choosing to go cold turkey, reducing the amount of cigarettes smoked per day or per week or using Nicorette gum, patches or prescription medication, that person still has to adjust to becoming a nonsmoker. For many, the psychological addiction is much stronger than the physical one.

Terry Martin, a researcher who kicked the habit several years ago, offers these tips:

– Avoid temptation by spending time in places where smoking is not allowed, such as movie theaters, shopping malls, restaurants, etc.

– Avoid beverages associated with smoking, such as alcohol and coffee.

– Avoid situations that became closely associated with smoking, such as watching TV. If a person used to smoke after meals, he or she should take a walk. Those accustomed to smoking while driving should try listening to music instead.

– Don’t buy into the “just one won’t hurt” mentality.

– Plan activities with non-smoking friends.

– Take care of your health by drinking lots of water, getting enough rest, exer-cising and eating a balanced diet. This will also help prevent weight gain.

For more tips, check out .

For those who chew tobacco, mouth cancer is a risk. Chewing tobacco can also cause the teeth to fall out.

While smoking cigars and pipes is legal, smoking marijuana can mean jail time. Don’t do any of them because they can cause the same negative health effects as cigarette smoking.

To quit any sort of smoking, one can use many of the same tips applicable for cigarette smokers. Remember that there is no safe way to smoke.

Good luck to those who are on their way to becoming nonsmokers. And for those who don’t smoke, be supportive for your smoking friends and family. Encourage them to join the elite ranks of the nonsmokers.

Tereza Zambrano is a junior majoring in international studies and is a triathlete.

Readers can comment or ask her questions at .