You can detour off tobacco road

Walking east on Chestnut Street in Dunkirk’s First Ward and nearing the Resource Center, I notice a group of people across the street from it smoking away. I nod acknowledgment, say “How’s it going?” and continue on my walk; as I’m motoring down Sixth Street, nearing Eagle, I see some individuals across from Brooks Hospital also smoking away. This brings me to the heart of this letter: a brief look at some of my recollections of the wicked weed.

It wasn’t always so. One First Nations resident of the Cattaraugus Reservation told me that some tribal cultures held tobacco with reverential esteem and was used in ceremonial rites. But that’s one of the rare edifying notes of tobacco. My introduction to smoking was around the age of 13 or 14. A buddy of mine showed me how to hold and inhale a cigarette (Don’t hold it at the tips of your fingers or people will think you’re a girl! Hold it at the base, near the hand. And, you’re not inhaling it right. Watch me.) So, I learned how to hold it like a guy, inhale it without foresight, and get hooked like a fool.

Now to date myself. Who can recall: Lucky Strike Green Goes to War; Pick Up a Lucky Instead of a Sweet; The Marlboro Man; The Old Gold dancing troupe; I’d Walk a Mile for a Camel; You’re a Lemac Now; Raleigh coupons; More Doctors Smoke Camels … and others that maybe you can remember.

Even in those glory days of big tobacco’s dominance, there were those who had forebodings. One of my uncles called them cancer sticks. Another acquaintance labeled them coffin nails. This of course went over my youthful know-it-all mind and I continued down tobacco road.

Eventually cigarettes began to take their toll and I tapered down to a one non-inhaled cigar a day. By then Surgeon General Everett Koop came out with his report on tobacco and its consequences to health and life when I finally woke up and realized that addiction is an affliction and all the rosy thinking in the world wont change that, and I quit entirely.

So you out there across from the Resource Center and across Brooks Hospital give yourself a goal to achieve for the year 2018. Get into a support group, go to smoking cessation class, get help and if you succeed, help another person out. You’re stronger than those coffin nails and cancer sticks.

Ralph Burke is a Dunkirk resident.

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