Smoking, Health and Forest Fires.


Living in Reno, Nevada, we are frequently engulfed in smoke from forest fires around the area. Last year it was the big Yosemite fire, this year we were living under a blanket of smoke from the massive King Fire just east of Sacramento, California. Air quality was in the unhealthy range day in and day out. With clean air in the Truckee Meadows so dependent on the wind direction, we were praying for wind direction changes and the return of our Nevada blue skies.

Someone told me about a scene he saw at his work during the time we were blanketed in smoke. He left for lunch and walked past the smoking area outside the building. He saw two people smoking outside in the already smoky air and one waving her hand, cigarette in the other, “This smoke is killing me!” We humans are a funny bunch!

So I thought I would have some fun with that and take a photo. My disclaimer: I am not a smoker and never have been and boy did I learn something about smoking in the brief 10 minutes I had cigarettes going for the photograph!

  1. My tongue felt fury.
  2. My wife did not enjoy our first kiss.
  3. My clothes smelt of smoke immediately afterwards and this did not disappear until I washed them.
  4. I coughed immediately.
  5. I had to brush my teeth and take a shower right away.
  6. If I disliked it so much then it must be addicting as I struggle to believe those who have chosen to smoke don’t eventually bypass these sensations and thereby continue to smoke.
Smoking and our Reno Air Quality

Smoking and our Reno Air Quality

My Dad was a thoracic surgeon with a specialty in lung and esophageal cancer. As a consequence, I have always been very aware of the health issues related to smoking. I have never been addicted to anything (some who know me well may say I am addicted to exercise, talking to strangers and coffee!). I have seen numerous patients who smoke despite having significant reasons not to. For example, one person I recall had COPD, was on oxygen, had cardiovascular disease and had recently had a spine fusion (smoking delays healing) and was still smoking. Some of these smokers are in the healthcare profession too. Putting these factors together suggests to me that whether we like it or not, smoking must be incredibly addicting. Everyone who smokes knows it is bad for their health but they continue doing it. This begs the question: “What makes people change?”

People change because the pain of their present situation (smoking) is more than the pain of making the change (the withdrawals after stopping?). The pain of smoking depends on the individual and is different for each person. Some may see their wife pregnant and decide to stop smoking on account of the youngster about to be born. Some will have significant ongoing disease and still keep smoking (not painful enough yet). I have even spoken with someone who had simply given up as the disease process had gone too far.

I feel somewhat cheap talking about smoking cessation as I am not a cessation specialist nor am I a smoker who has kicked the habit. I have a real interest in why people change. This is the reason for my post. That being said, I recently met an incredible man. During his lifetime he stopped alcohol, methamphetamine, smoking and violence all cold turkey!

How is it he was so strong and quit all those things and many of us struggle?

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