For 15 years I smoked about a pack of cigarettes every day. I started smoking when I was in college. I had a part-time job as a draftsman at that time; some of my fellow workers didn’t appreciate the smoke, so I tried cutting down for their benefit. Sometimes I would go outside to smoke, or sit by a window so that I could blow the smoke outside.
At first I enjoyed smoking and I didn’t see anything wrong with it. It took a few years for my smoker’s cough to develop. At first I tried to pretend it was a stubborn cold, but eventually I noticed that most smokers have a consistent cough. I thought about quitting, but the prospect of living without cigarettes was hard to imagine. I tried to justify my smoking by thinking about friends and relatives who had smoked for 20 to 30 years; surely a few more years wouldn’t hurt me.
I’d smoked for almost 10 years when I married. My wife didn’t smoke, and she didn’t appreciate my smoking. She often reminded me of a bumper sticker she’d seen: “Kissing a smoker is like licking a wet ashtray.” To please her, I tried to quit several times but after a few days or a week I’d give in and start all over again.
When our son was born I felt a new sense of urgency to quit. I didn’t want him breathing my smoke and I didn’t want to be a bad example for him. It seems that the older he got, the more I tried to quit, but one failure after another made it more difficult to imagine myself breaking free from cigarettes.
Listed below are the seven major reasons I finally quit smoking:
1. Health. I couldn’t ignore the warnings all around me. On television, on radio, in newspapers and magazines, one warning and research conclusion after another bombarded me with the risks of smoking. Smokers are likely – in some cases, much more likely – to develop cancer, heart disease, high blood pressure, and other various conditions and diseases.
I had developed a cough that wouldn’t go away. Every morning, usually in the shower, I went on a coughing jag that lasted 5 to 10 minutes. Sometimes when I laughed I’d start coughing and couldn’t seem to stop. My doctor told me I needed to get my blood pressure down. He strongly recommended that I quit smoking.
2. Inconvenience. I didn’t like the burning sensation of cigarette smoke curling up into my eyes. I developed quite a distaste for the smell of smoke, and ashtray odor turned my stomach. The filth of ashes all around my ashtrays at work and at home was aggravating.
I can remember embarrassing situations at meetings or at other people’s homes when I would light a cigarette, then discover I wasn’t supposed to smoke there or there weren’t any ashtrays around. It’s not a way to “win friends and influence people,” as the old saying goes.
3. Example. I came to the realization that as a parent, my behavior, good or bad, was an example to my son. After a while I realized the power of influence that everyone’s example plays in the lives of others. Whether we want to accept responsibility for our behavior or not, it’s hard to deny the reality of learned behavior.
4. Freedom. When I smoked I constantly had to plan my life around cigarettes. Almost everything I thought about doing brought about such questions as: Do I have enough cigarettes on me to go for a short trip with someone? How long will I have to go without a smoke if I go into a meeting or have an appointment with someone in a no-smoking situation? Will I make a bad impression on someone if I smoke in front of him or her?
I longed to simplify my life. Cigarettes made a lot of situations much more complicated than they needed to be.
5. Money. Most of the time I smoked I bought cigarettes by the carton. If I was trying to cut back I’d buy only one pack at a time and try to ration them out to myself. So how much did I spend on cigarettes? Assuming I smoked a pack a day and each pack cost a dollar, I spent $365 a year. I figure I spent $5,475 in 15 years.
There are also a lot of indirect expenses involved with smoking. My life, health, and auto insurance premiums were higher than a nonsmoker’s. It seemed like I was always buying boxes of matches and cigarette lighters. And then there was the time I accidentally burned a hole in a drawing I’d been working on for several days. I spent a lot of unpaid time redrawing.
6. Testimonies. I heard a lot of different stories from people about how and why they quit smoking. One of them really made an impression on me. It came from a retired heater/air conditioner repairman. This is his story:
“I smoked for more than 20 years. I was thinking about quitting one day when I was working on a dirty old heater. I took the flue loose and a cloud of soot came down on me. It made me think about all the smoke I had breathed in and out, and all the soot I had put into my throat and lungs. I couldn’t stop thinking about the soot. It wasn’t long before I quit.”
A lot of smokers gave me their unspoken testimonies: deep, uncontrollable coughs, yellow (sometimes rotten) teeth, foul-smelling breath, and stale odors.
7. Smoking became a sin. Shortly after I accepted Jesus Christ as my personal Saviour, I was convicted of a lot of sin in my life. I began to see smoking in that light. But I was almost afraid to try quitting again, for I didn’t want to fail my Lord. I hadn’t been able to quit for anyone or anything.
For a week or so I tried hard to rationalize my right to smoke. But every time I read the Bible I became convinced of my need to quit. Romans 12:1 struck me with particular force: “I urge you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.”
I kept asking myself the same question: Is my smoking acceptable to God? The answer that after a while I couldn’t ignore was No! Your smoking isn’t acceptable to God.
I became convinced, not of my ability to quit smoking, but of God’s ability to provide me with the strength I needed to quit. Late one night I decided to quit. I chose these two verses to support me: “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me” and “No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, that you may be able to endure it”.
It’s been three years since I’ve smoked. I no longer cough, and my blood pressure is down to a healthy level. The greatest benefit for me that has come out of this experience is the boost it has given to my faith. Not only did God provide the strength I needed to quit, but He also lifted off the addictive hold tobacco had on me. We truly have a gracious, loving God.
If you smoke, I strongly recommend you get all the information you can about smoking. You can learn a lot from the American Cancer Society, the American Heart Association, and the American Lung Association.
My best advice to any smoker is to take the matter before the Lord. He can make the difference.