2014-10-01 / Columns

Mike Reese

“I was just thinking”

I recently saw a woman (probably the mother) removing a child from its car seat. Nothing unusual about that scene, until the woman turned toward me with about four inches of lit cigarette dangling from her lips, smoke circling the child’s face. “Well, lady,” I thought. “You do know it’s 2014, don’t you?” I didn’t think we needed further proof that cigarette smoke, second hand smoke is detrimental to all of our lungs, especially to a young child’s still developing lungs.

I through briefly about saying something to her, but I left Dairy Queen in silence, knowing that it probably wouldn’t do any good and I’d just be seen as a “busybody”. You know how it goes, “It’s my child, and I’ll do as I please, and, while you’re at it, chief, mind your own d..n business.” She was probably one of those smokers, though, who are very considerate of adults and doesn’t smoke around non-smokers, always waiting to go outside to “light up.” Most smokers I know are like that. Today, most go out of their way to not make me participate in their nicotine addiction. But, when it comes their helpless children, some probably would say, “Hey, buster, I’ll smoke around my kids if I want.”

I began to think of my childhood and smoking. I inhaled second hand smoke every day. Daddy’s dessert after our meals was a couple of L&Ms. A six inch “cancer cloud” hovered over our dinner table. Now, this was in the 1950 and 1960s. We hadn’t been told, yet, of the dangers of smoking. Of course, the tobacco companies knew, but kept their dirty little secret to themselves to protect sales and profits.

I had childhood asthma, probably got it from Daddy’s smoking that I inhaled along with him. I suppose, families that smoke together, you know, stay together. Folks back then just didn’t connect the dots – smoke, shortness of breath, asthma, emphysema. It’s almost laughable today if the consequences weren’t so serious.

Back then, when doctors still made house calls, I can remember Dr. Mulkey coming to our house in the middle of the night to relieve me of an asthma attack, usually a hypodermic needle was involved, I recall. And, while he was there, he and Daddy, both, were sucking on their nicotine pacifiers while I gasped away, me sucking, too, for every bit of oxygen I could get through the blue haze they created right above my bed and my head.

I’m not being critical. They just didn’t know then what is common knowledge no. But, I wonder what are we doing to our children and ourselves today that in 10, 20 or 50 years will seem as dangerous as cigarette smoke was found to be last century? As the saying goes, “we live and learn.”

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