The cigarette goes between your lips. You hold the flame close, cupping your hands against the breeze. As you draw on the cigarette, you feel the smoke going deep into your lungs, relaxing your nerves and calming your body.
That simple act can create an addiction to a deadly drug. Although there are occasional declines, more and more young adults are becoming addicted to tobacco products today, said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. CDC said any cessation programs, both nationally and locally, have varying success; even though some numbers are down, others have stagnated, and tobacco usage continues to claim lives every year.
Tobacco use is an epidemic, said the CDC. The epidemic continues because youth and young adults begin to use — and become addicted to — cigarettes and smokeless tobacco products, even though there are numerous warnings.
Trying to be ‘cool’
Larry Boyer of Enid knows about quitting smoking. Boyer tried his first cigarette in grade school and started smoking full time when he was about 15 years old. He started smoking for several reasons: First, his parents did not want him to, plus he thought it was cool.
“I saw older friends smoking, and people smoked in the movies,” Boyer said.
He had several false starts before finally quitting. Boyer said he woke up in the morning and started coughing. It felt like he was “coughing his lungs out.” He would smoke a cigarette, and it went away.
At the time, he was studying to be a drug and alcohol counselor, and was scheduled to go to a seminar in Oklahoma City. While preparing for the seminar, a friend called who was quitting smoking. She was attending a program sponsored by the Seventh-day Adventist Church, and asked him to accompany her. Boyer said he went to support her, but did not think he would quit. He walked into the hospital and put his cigarette out before entering the lecture, and never smoked another cigarette.
Boyer attended the program for five evenings, originally in support of his friend. He partnered with her to provide support, and she stopped answering her phone. He said she still smokes.
“Smoking helped me feel more relaxed, not like a tranquilizer, but it helped me feel relaxed. It was just like taking a breath of fresh air and holding it. Cigarettes had the same effect,” Boyer said.
Boyer kept a partial pack in his pocket for several days, in the event he wanted to start smoking again. Boyer’s wife, Carol, smoked when they were first married, but he encouraged her to quit, and she did. Boyer’s friends encouraged him to quit during the stopping process, he said.
The first night of the class, the instructor showed pictures of lungs with cancer, but Boyer said that did not have much effect.
“Every smoker knows they are jeopardizing their health,” Boyer said.
The class taught techniques to replace smoking with healthy habits, like taking a breath of fresh air when they wanted a cigarette. After a meal, when most smokers want to light up, they suggested taking a walk, jogging or riding a bicycle. Boyer owned a business at the time, and lived in an apartment above it. He had smoked in the apartment and realized how bad the cigarettes smelled. In the middle of a very cold winter, he opened his windows for a couple of days to get the smell out.
Among the techniques he learned was to remember the urge to smoke was temporary. The third day was the most difficult. Boyer said he felt like he was on another planet because of the withdrawals.
“I was out of it. I don’t even remember parts of that day. I’m sure people had to tell me things several times,” he said. “My brain wasn’t working 100 percent.”
The fourth day and afterward was easier. Boyer has not smoked since that time, and after the first week, does not recall feeling any type of desire to smoke.
“ I feel if anyone can make it a week they can quit for a lifetime. They just have to ride out the first few days,” Boyer said. “The bottom line is, the smoker has to want to quit himself — he can’t do it for anyone else.”