"I heard the announcement this morning about not smoking today and when I heard it I was smoking," Rozina M. Hanson, 43, recalled yesterday. "I said they'll have to excuse me, I'm going to finish my cigarette."
Hanson was one of the nation's 53 million smokers who decided not to observe the American Cancer Society's second annual "Great American Smokeout" by quitting her habit for one day.
But an undetermined number of others did. Mayor Walter E. Washington, who smokes almost a pack a day, didn't light up yesterday morning. Professional golfer Lee A. Elder, a three-pack a day puffer, took his last drag Wednesday night at 10.
"I made a pledge and I will stop for good." Elder told a sparsely attended noon rally at the Washington Monument, staged by the local cancer society chapter to call attention to the nonsmoking day.
"I know it will give me a lot more wind and a lot more stamina." Elder told the gathering of about 50, half of whom were cancer society members or representatives of the media. "After 36 holes and six packs it is hard to get your wind back."
But a majority of area smokers appeared to line up with Hanson. They heard the cancer society ads, but they could not bring themselves to quit even for a day.
"With my job I'd either be smoking of losing my mind," said Ben Carter, 40 a D.C. housing department official explaining why he was continuing his two pack-a-day habit, which he started at 19.
Howard Shaw, 39, of 413 L. St. NW, came down to the monument rally early, and then left - to have a cigarette.
"I was interested in stopping, but standing out in the rain and dying for a cigarette is no way to stop smoking," he said.
"I lasted for about two hours this morning," said Chester Jardine, 49, a computer systems analyst for the Internal Revenue Service. Then he resumed his two-pack-a-day habit.
Carolyn Hairston, a Commerce department secretary saw the nonsmoking flyers in the health office yesterday morning and felt guilty, she said, but "I had a cigarette in my hand."
The American Cancer Society considered last year's first smokeout a success - five million smokers, about 13 percent, stopped for the one day and 30 days later 1.5 million were still off. Twenty-five percent of the nation's population smokes, according to the society.
But Annie Lou Taylor, 58 a health technician with the city's Human Resources Department was trying to leave the ranks of those statistics - after 20 years.
"I never wanted to stop before, but I work in health, teaching people good health habits," she said. "I can see a lot of damage it does." By noon she had smoked nothing. She had 720 more minutes to go.