Last Thursday, the American Cancer Society held a "Smokeout" on the Washington Monument grounds. It was designed to give aid and comfort to smokers who are trying to kick the habit.
Carleton K. Smith offered the comment that there are two ways to quit: 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 asked Carleton whether there is a feminine equivalent of "act like a man" that might persuade my wife to quit. Of the responses that have come in, you might be interested in these:
Mrs. Harry J. Blutstein of Takoma Park wrote, "Yes, there is a feminine equivalent of 'act like a man,' and I am the living proof of that. After smoking for more than 40 years, I was told by my doctor on April 6, 1971, that I had to stop smoking. I was hospitalized on that day for an angina attack.
"Stopping wasn't easy. Many times I gritted my teeth and clenched my fists. I wanted oh, so badly, to smoke.
"But I didn't. I haven't smoked a cigarette since, and now have no desire to smoke. In fact, even the odor of smoke bothers me now.
"I stopped, and in retrospect it seems like such a simple deed. Please tell your wife it is worth the effort. I wish her good luck."
Thank you. I hope your encouraging words will help her.
A woman who wants her name withheld wrote: "This isn't really for publication, but you can use it if you want to. Just keep my name out of it.
"I think you do your wife a great disservice when you publish letters like the one from the man who disparaged the SmokEnders program. For those who are not badly addicted to cigarettes, it may be a small matter to 'act like a man and just quit.' But for many of us that is simply impossible, and your wife may be in this category.
"There are several programs available that use enlightened modern techniques for easing the transition from smoking to nonsmoking. Instead of being understanding and supportive of your wife's problem, you are endorsing know-nothing viewpoints that seem to say to her, 'I quit cold turkey; what's the matter with you that you can't do the same thing?' Shame on you for being so callous."
For the record: I publish all sorts of viewpoints in this space, some with expressed agreement or disagreement, and some with no comment whatever. In the present case, Carleton didn't mention SmokEnders, and I merely asked Carleton whether there is a feminine equivalent of "act like a man and just quit." I did not say that may wife ought to be able to quit without external help. That is a decision each person must make for himself or herself.
I was a thoroughly addicted tobaccoholic, yet my liberation from the tobacco habit required only modest amount of will power. I am therefore of the opinion that most men and women could also quit cold turkey if they really wanted to. But I would certainly not undertake to judge who needs outside help and who doesn't.
In this context, a letter from John V. may be enlightening. He writes: "I am an alcoholic. As such, I object to the phrase 'reformed drunkard' that you used in your column about smoking.
"Alcoholism is not a mral weakness but a disease. It is physical, emotional and spiritual in nature. It is also progressive, incurable and terminal.
"Fortunately, it can be arrested. This is the case with me and more than a million people like me. I may be an ex-drunk, but I will always be an alcoholic. I will never be able to safely use alcohol in any form. The correct term for people like me is 'recovered' or 'recovering' alcoholic."
One who does not suffer from the disease finds it difficult to comprehend the statement that alcoholism stems from a disease rather than from a lack of power. But if that's what doctors and scientists say it is, I am in no position to argue.
For my money, Hap Traub summed it up best when he said "The easiest way to stop is, Don't begin. "