Two letters that arrived in the same mail may be worth mentioning.
The first was from the American Cancer Society. It said, "The annual Great American Smokeout - a day to quit smoking - will be held on the Washington Monument grounds (Sylvan Theater) from noon to 1 p.m. on Nov. 16." That's tomorrow.
Lee Elder, who has often been seen smoking during TV coverage of golf tournaments, is chairman of this year's Great American smokeout. He will throw his cigarettes into a large kiln and encourage other smokers to do the same thing.
Nobody who attends will be asked to raise his hand to heaven and promise that he will never touch the weed again. The Cancer Society's approach is more realistic than that. It merely suggests that smokers try a one-day vacation from tobacco.
"Control of the cigarette habit comes one day at a time," the Cancer Society notes. Try abstinence for a day. See what happens, and play it by ear thereafter.
Believe me, it's no big deal. I know. There used to be a time when I thhought I could not face a typewriter keyboard without a cigarette or cigar in my face. I simply could not think without my pacifer.
From time to time, common sense told me that I was paying out a lot of money to buy a product that was damaging my health. On many of those occastions, i stopped smoking for a while - sometimes for weeks, sometimes for many months. Fortunately for me, columnists are in a line of work in which inability to think is no great handicap. Hardly anybody noticed any change in me or in what I wrote.
Just before they put a new valve into my heart and connected a new pipe to it, I was smoking heavily. At bedtime on the night before the operation, I finished a lovely 60-cent cigar and was pleased to note that I had four more left for "afterward."
Two weeks later, as they were preparing to let me go home, I asked the cardiologist if it would be all right if I smoked an occasional cigar. The response from that gentle man was an uncharacteristic growl. "That," he said belligerently, "is not even a subject for discussion."
So I still have the four 60-centers, and what's more I am going to keep them I didn't quite voluntarily, I quit because the cardiologist ordered me to. And I found it easy to do.
All that's required is a decision not to smoke today. The rest takes care of itself.
I am a tobaccoholic. I must cope with tobacco in the same way an alcoholic copes with booze: one day at a time. And what helps me cope is the same realization that keeps many a reforemed drunkard straight: One is too many, and a hundred won't be enough.
And that brings me to today's second letter on the subject of smoking. By coincidence, Carleton K. Smith of Annandale picked this day to describe his procedure for quitting cigarettes.
All you need, he said, is a lake, a river or a fire. Just take out a cigarette, look at it, and ask yourself, "Why suck in death?" Throw the cigarette into the water or fire. Take out the rest of the pack and repeat this procedure.
There are two ways to quit, Carleton advises: You can join a group of weak-willed people and spend $250 for a course that drags on for weeks and prolongs your agony. Or you can "act like a man and just quit."
I agree, Carleton. Now tell me whether there is a feminine equivalent of that "act like a man" line. I'd like to use it on wife. She has been quitting cigarettes for decades, but thus far her longest period of abstinence has been 17 minutes and 11 seconds.