Friday, June 30, 2006

On the Eve of Moving In With the Human Chimney.

My father smokes easily two packs of cigarettes a day. But its okay, because all the "smoking may be hazardous to your health" stuff is really just a conspiracy that started when Jimmy Carter, the peanut-farmer-turned-Governor-turned-President, wanted to get back at the tobacco farmers in Georgia. I presume that large packs of tobacco were roaming over the plains of Georgia, grazing willy-nilly and destroying the peanuts' natural habitat. So when he was elected governor in 1971, he bribed the Surgeon General of the United States to start that nasty "tobacco causes cancer" rumor, all in cahoots with that pinko-commie, Lyndon Johnson. In fact, Dad's fond of saying, cigarettes have 32 (or sometimes 24, or sometimes 28) different chemicals that are known to have medicinal attributes -- the argument there being, I suppose, that smoking is actually good for you.

This was actually one of the conspiracy theories he used to spout before I began openly mocking him with pesky, conspiracy-busting facts. These would include the fact that the first warning label, which read, "Caution: smoking may be hazardous to your health," appeared on the side of cigarette boxes as early as 1966, and that the Public Health Cigarette Smoking Act was signed on January 2, 1971, nearly three weeks before Jimmy Carter took his gubenatorial oath of office. And it was signed by Richard M. Nixon (a conservative Republican, if I'm not very much mistaken).

He hasn't told the Jimmy Carter story in a while. I suppose that, when confronted with facts and dates, the theory was just kind of holey and laughable. But he still clings fervently to the notion that his 2-pack a day habit (aside from costing him $100 a week) doesn't hurt his health, nor the health of anyone else around him. Secondhand smoke, my father, the non-doctor, will tell you, is absolutely harmless to anyone not actually doing the smoking.

Guess its time to start mocking again.

So, now... again... for the umpteenth time... the Surgeon General has once more proclaimed that secondhand smoke kills. Period. It's like global warming. We can check the records for the last two hundred years. We can measure the polar ice caps. We can demarcate the water table levels for the last few thousand years, based on geological evidence to same. There is no doubt among people who aren't in a coma. The world is getting warmer. What's causing it, and how to fix it might be arguable, but the condition itself is not. And Fox News reporting to the contrary will not change those facts.

Likewise secondhand smoke. There is no more dispute that it kills, except amongst the soulless idiots that operate as "spokesmen" for the tobacco industry and otherwise intelligent, decent smokers, deeply in denial, who can't face the fact that their habit is killing the people around them, too. Smoking is the only addiction that has built-in "collateral damage" -- if my father were shooting up heroin, that would be bad, but I could escape physically unscathed. But smoking affects not only the smoker but everyone in the immediate vicinity. Blood consistency, pulmonary response, blood pressure -- all of these have been measured and found to be changed in nonsmokers exposed to secondhand, sidestream smoke.

If you smoke, and you would like to quit, now is as good a time as any. If you smoke, and you don't want to quit, have the decency to consider those around you whom you claim to love that do not smoke -- especially your children. If you do not smoke, but live with or around a smoker, take heed that you expose yourself as little as possible to their smoke.

Statistically, secondhand smokers (for that is what we are) are nearly as at risk to develop long-term pulmonary damage as primary smokers. Our rates of cancer and heart disease are much higher than non-exposed nonsmokers. And emphysema, which is nearly exclusively a "smoker's disease" is much more likely to show up among secondhand smokers.

So, yesterday, in honor of my lungs and my life (and my vocal chords, being that I'm a singer), I ordered two Ionic Breeze Quadras, which were for sale for half-price. Let's hope its enough to preserve my health while I'm living there, caring for him.

Because, with all due respect to President Clinton, sooner or later, a person just has to inhale.


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