By Jake Hughes
I was 16 years old, hanging out with my older brother Josh. It was one of the rare days when we got along. We’re talking horror movies and heavy metal when he pulls out a pack of cigarettes and lights up. Desperate to appear cool in his eyes, I ask for one, light up, take a puff… and proceed to almost puke my guts out.
Sort of a vainglorious way to start smoking, but not an uncommon one. Looking back, I wish I had been smarter and more secure in myself to not give in to peer pressure. 16 years later, I still smoke around half-a-pack a day. Honestly, I don’t know why I still smoke. We all know the facts. In the United States, 1 out of every 5 people die each year from smoking-related illnesses. We also know the risks. Smoking greatly increases your chance of lung and throat cancer, emphysema, and heart disease. The cost? Yep, we know that too. On average, Americans spend over $80 billion on cigarettes and cigars each year. Basically, smoking costs you a lot of money, gives you about a 1-in-3 chance of an early, horrible death, and is harmful to the people around you.
I hear what you’re saying because I have been saying it for years. “Well, 1 out of 3 ain’t too bad, so I’ll risk it. I’ve been smoking for years, and I’ve never noticed any ill effects!” Well, allow me to scare the pants off of you. Here are a few odd effects of smoking that commonly go unnoticed.
Trying to expand the ol’ gene pool? The American Center for Reproductive Medicine reports that women who smoke take much longer to get pregnant, and also suffer from infertility at higher rates, and have higher rates of miscarriage and ectopic pregnancy leading to miscarriage. What’s that, ladies? You’re not planning on having a baby? Well, a 2005 study showed that smoking is a leading cause of breast ptosis. What’s that? Well, it’s a big, fancy term for it makes your boobs sag. And don’t feel left out, guys! Smoking has been linked to erectile dysfunction, softer erections, and lowered performance.
Still feel like lighting up? After doing research for this article, I sure don’t. My sister Jennifer kicked her habit a few years back, cold turkey, and has been giving me dirty looks ever since. My mother is a nurse, so she despises smoking. They have been giving me grief for years to quit, and I have decided the time is now. On Monday, September 18, I, Jacob J. Hughes, am going to quit smoking. No more excuses, no more dilly-dallying, no if’s, and’s, or but’s, and certainly no more butts. Heh, get it? Like… l-like a cigarette butt? Anyone? Anyone at all? Meh, maybe my sense of humor will get healthier, too.
That’s not all. I am officially putting out the challenge: if you smoke, quit with me. Stop making excuses like, “Oh, I’ll quit at New Year’s,” or, “When I turn 30.” I mean, why not now? You literally have nothing to lose and everything to gain. But I’m not going to leave you to it. No, sir, I was a Drill Sergeant, so I lead from the front. Next week, I will be posting videos on ConnectingVets.com, updating my progress and sharing tips and tricks you can use to kick the habit. I will be there every step of the way, so do it with me.
What do you have to lose?