Friday, March 18, 2005

A Finger to the Surgeon General

**Did you know that I went to the same memorial chapel twice in just three months? See, that's two deaths three months apart.

I was playing a video game at around 12:30 in the afternoon when Loida, our domestic friend from the province, barged in and delivered some piping bad news. "Patay na si Tito Boy!" Tito Boy was one of the more infamous characters in the neighborhood. He was, well, one of the least favorable role models around on account of he smoked a lot, he drank a lot, and his complexion was tainted by all that rum. Incidentally, he smelled like he was distilled. He never left home without a cigarette in one hand and then the other nineteen in the pack in his pocket. He was almost always walking in zigzags, and he was the universal poster boy for eau de Tanduay Rum. He was the perfect candidate for the so-called "sakit sa bopis," i.e. "sakit sa baga, sakit sa atay," but enough of the eulogy.

Just two days ago, he was sentenced to a maximum of thirty days under complete life support. See, he had an issue with his lungs, and the cancer has already corrupted just about half of it. What he had left was but half of what he was born with, and sources say, it wasn't even the size of his fists. Of his curled fists. Anyway, this wasn't something that's totally unexpected, I mean, he DID smoke too much. It was at least a pack of the cancer sticks in a day, and that was during the better part of his life. His smoking habit, at the height of his nicotine dependency, was the stuff legends are made of. It was at least three packs a day, and then there came a time when he'd wake up during the early hours of the morning just to get a cup of coffee and then two sticks. He was basically another fatality waiting to happen, and it happened around 12 in the afternoon. This afternoon.

It was when Loida added that "
kamamatay lang niya kaninang mga twelve," that I had this sudden urge to remain calm.

Remain calm with a cigarette, that is.

Somebody died of smoking-induced cancer just thirty minutes ago, and I was with a cigarette in between my lips. Of course you'd understand how I received the news with much apprehension, but I was ironically seeking comfort in something that killed someone just thirty minutes ago. It's not something that I did on purpose. I never did like the guy, but I'm not spiting or mocking his memory with a cigarette between my lips. I'm doing that out of habit. See, I smoke with an unbridled lack of discipline. And I am aware of the detriments that my chosen vice is capable of inducing, but I don't hate the surgeon general not one bit for he has been very consistent with his warnings.

Tobacco companies try to be discreet with their health warnings, hopefully attempting to wash their hands clean of this bad habit that's making them millions of dollars in profit. So what they do is they print out surgeon general warnings on each pack of cigarette, effectuating a propaganda that defeats the point of smoking in the first place. I'm not buying cigarettes to be reminded of how unhealthy they are in the first place.

I know that cigarette smoking is dangerous to your health, smoking is harmful to children and pregnant women, and smoking kills, but do I care? It's probably out of my mind as soon as that first stick fresh out of the pack hits my lips, and is compeletely forgotten after the second one. And then there's another warning on my second pack, but these words of advice goes out in smokes in this viciously nonterminating cycle.

But am I even threatened, let alone intimidated by such horror stories, however factual? What is it with us smokers; we are well aware of the different malignancies introduced by this habit, and yet we still find ourselves taking a drag on that Marlboro Lights.

Arsenic makes for a healthy lunch, and smoking is good for the lungs. A reliable source once told me that there are about four hundred different chemicals slash poisons in a single cigarette stick. Some of these chemicals include ammonia (used as a household cleaning agent), acetone (nail polish remover), naphthalene (mothballs), methanol (rocket fuel), phenol (disinfectant), hydrogen cyanide, toluene (industrial solvent), and of course, pesticides. Of course I was slightly taken aback by the realization that I was smoking mothballs all along, but then it doesn't stop there. The list goes on to include those used in embalming fluids like arsenic and formaldehyde.

Call me paranoid, but something tells me to kick the habit altogether. But the thing is, I can never seem to get off of this smoking thing, or I'm almost always with a cigarette in between my lips. I reckon that I can always quit later, and when "later" happens to be a little too late, then I might as well go to hell with the poison of my choice.

I have always tried to lessen the sticks I've been consuming, or rather puffing on, hoping that I will be able to gradually kick the habit in the long run, but hell no. The more I promise to refrain from smoking, the more difficult it becomes.

There was a time when I tried to, excuse my French, "quit" the habit altogether. The plan was to gradually decrease the number of cigarettes I've been smoking in a day until it concludes in smoking zero cigarettes at all. It all went well in the beginning. I mean, I had no problem going from ten sticks a day, to eight sticks in three days. And then six sticks a few days after that. It was going so well that in just two weeks, I was very happy with my five stick a day quota. But then, somebody invited me to get shitfaced over a couple of beers, and then I was back to doing twelve sticks in no time at all.

I know what the possible advantages are if I was to completely refrain from embracing the habit altogether, but it seems that quitting's a welcome change that can always take place after the last stick. A person sentenced to death always has his last wish, but to us smokers, it's the last stick. Ironically enough, the last stick is a symbolism for change that'll never happen anyway, for there's bound to be another one in three hours. And then three hours after that, or maybe after a full meal, or while taking a dump, whichever comes first.

I've grown so used to smoking at any given time that swearing on the last stick becomes swearing on the last pack, until the strength of resolve has conceded into an addiction that kills. In the long run, the promise to refrain from smoking becomes a promise to refrain from smoking "too much."

Honestly, all this talk about smoking is making me much too tense. Has anyone seen my lighter?

1 comment:

  1. syempre, very entertaining and informative pa rin ang post mo. galing-galing, pero syet, may namatay? last time we talked, buhay pa sya diba? what a coincidence, sadly apt para sa post. tsk tsk tsk. anyway, yun lang, naaliw na naman ako. seriously, sana maka-quit ka rin gaya's one of my greatest personal success stories.



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