443,000 die as a result of tobacco use every year and we hear not even a whimper from thought leaders, politicians or even the public. And…we just accept the fact that our government makes billions of dollars in tax revenue on products that do not offer a single benefit but can kill or seriously injure those who use it
We almost totally ignore the fact that nearly 20 million (18,800,000) Americans have died as a result of tobacco products since the first warnings were put on cigarette packs in 1966. That is equivalent to wiping out the entire New York City metropolitan area and then some.
Let me take the scenario a step farther. The Airbus A380-800 is the biggest airplane in the sky. It can carry 555 people, maybe more depending on how the seats are configured. What would you think, how would you react if two of these monstrous planes crashed every day, year after year after year? I imagine the public outrage would be monumental. Certainly the planes would be grounded wouldn’t they?
“But wait,” as the commercial says, “There’s more.” What if these disasters were totally preventable? What if the planes were crashing because of a faulty switch that everyone knew about but ignored — and the planes just kept on crashing killing 438,000 Americans a year — year after year. Would there be outrage? Would congress act? Would there be demonstrations in the streets? Count on it!
Why then is there no public outrage, no congressional investigation, and no mass media attention to that same number of people dying from totally preventable diseases caused by Cigarette smoke or other uses of tobacco products?
Are football players, cheerleaders and boxers lives important? Of course they are but how can we ignore nearly a half million deaths a year? How? Someone you know is going to die from the use of tobacco, it may have already happened. We must, out of concern for one another rise up in protest and do whatever is possible to get people to quit smoking.
I refuse to accept the “I’ve tried to quit smoking but I can’t” response because I tried and I did quit. It took a lot of tries but I kept on quitting until I quit and that was 23 years ago. Yes there is some discomfort hell there’s a whole lot of discomfort, but it pales in comparison to the discomfort of cancer, emphysema, and a host of other diseases.
I can give you a gazillion facts about cigarette smoke and how it can harm you, I can provide you with tons of scientific research that proves how deadly tobacco products can be and I can show you what it costs in terms of dollars and none of those things will convince a smoker to quit. So I’m going to tell you about me.
I am almost 75 years old. I have already had a heart transplant, gastric surgery for ulcers; I have osteoporosis, osteoarthritis and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). Tobacco is likely the primary contributor to all of them.
Now you might ask, “What are you complaining about, you are 75?” Well, let me put my health in perspective. My father in law is 88 and in better shape than I am. He has never had a cigarette.
Yes, I’m glad I’m alive but had I never smoked my quality of life would be a whole lot better. My personal experience with the perils of smoking could fill several medical books but I’ll spare you that and give you the executive summary.
I smoked for 37 years and often consumed up to four packs a day. I quit smoking in 1991 after watching my father die of coronary artery disease and chronic bronchitis. He had been a heavy smoker. He was 76 when he passed and so debilitated by lung and coronary artery disease he could not walk 50 feet without almost turning blue from lack of air. He died gasping for air and nothing could be done for him. I was there, I saw it first-hand.
I was there, too, when In November of 1998 I lost my wife of 35 years to lung cancer. She, too, had been a heavy smoker. She was diagnosed with the disease in 1996 when they found it in her legs. It had already spread. She went through both chemotherapy and radiation therapy — treatments that leave patients wishing they were dead. So toxic are these treatments they nearly destroy the will to live but for a short time perhaps 14 months she got better and then in October of 1998 the cancer returned in a massive assault on her entire body from limbs to brain.
She died a horrible death and I watched every second of it. I was holding her hand when I felt her body shudder for the last time and while saddened it was also a great relief that she had to suffer no more. I could go on but suffice it to say that if you smoke, you could experience the same terrible ending. Smoking will kill you. The only questions to be answered are when and how.
Now let me tell you about me and what cigarettes have done to the quality of my life and to my psyche.
When I quit smoking in 1991 I had already been diagnosed with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) a progressive lung affliction that slowly takes away your ability to function normally because you cannot breathe like a normal person. I’m not going to give you a medical explanation of COPD I’m going to let you experience it.
I could tell you about difficult breathing till the cows come home and you’ll say, “Yeah that sounds tough,” as you light another smoke — so try this. Read the following instructions then bookmark this page and do what they say.
Find a spring loaded clothespin if you can and pinch your nostrils shut. Then find a drinking straw and place it between your lips as you would to drink a soda or a shake but instead of drinking anything breathe through the straw.
With it still in your mouth run around the room and continue to breathe through the little tube. It’s a bit of a struggle isn’t it? Now crimp it somewhere so that it is only about half its normal size and continue to breathe through it. Get used to that feeling because if you are a smoker that’s what you are headed for.
With normal lungs when you exert yourself you can open your mouth and breathe more deeply to get more air. With COPD the crimped straw is all the capacity you have and as time goes on that very narrow passageway closes even more until you suffocate. Fun way to die, huh?
Here’s what COPD has done to me. And please, I do not want expressions of sympathy or of concern or support. I got myself into this mess and I’m dealing with it. I am telling this story because I want people to know what smoking will do to them.
When I emerge from the shower I have to sit to catch my breath, showering is too strenuous an activity. The same is true when I get dressed — pulling my pants on and putting on a shirt leave me breathless. If I have to bend over for any reason I am in major trouble because the action affects my diaphragm and further restricts my breathing so when I straighten up I am gasping for air. There have been days when Robin has to put my socks on and tie my tennis shoes.
My COPD limits me to very little activity. I have a disability parking permit but often the few spaces assigned are full (sometimes occupied by people who don’t belong there…”I just needed to go to the ATM”). But tobacco has done other things to my body as well. Just getting out of the car is sometimes an exhausting experience.
The Osteoporosis and osteoarthritis have left me unable to stand straight anymore because of extreme, chronic pain. I now must always use a cane when I walk and when I walk I don’t go very far or very fast. I can hardly turn my head from side to side and nodding it up and down is just as difficult. I cannot bold my head up anymore because of stiffness and pain. It is tilted forward and looking down. My shoulders and neck always hurt and I am on narcotic pain killers because there is no other relief for me, I’ve tried everything.
The worst part of all of this is what it does to your self-respect and self-worth. Call me a chauvinist if you like but when we go to Art Shows, Robin has to set up a tent and everything in it. She has to carry heavy loads from our truck to the tent site and all I can do is watch. I cannot even carry a small box any distance because the walk tires me out. Here I am a big strapping guy sitting in a van while my wife does all the work. I often get looks of disgust from other artists who see Robin doing all the work as I sit in the truck reading. I’ve been asked more than once why I’m not helping her. God knows I would give anything to be able to do so. Cigarettes have taken my health and even my dignity.
You might be asking yourself what all this has to do with organ donation/transplantation and related issues. Well, let me tell you that if it weren’t for tobacco we might not have an organ shortage. Tobacco has done two things to contribute to the ever widening gap between supply and demand. First it destroys organs so people need transplants and secondly it can render your organs unfit for transplantation. So those who smoke are likely to need transplants but may be unsuitable donors (sign a donor card anyway…let the doctors decide).
I started this post by pointing out that tobacco (cigarette smoking and second hand smoke) kills 443,000 Americans a year. Tobacco is the leading cause of preventable death in the world. Economic losses are also staggering. Smoking-caused diseases result in $96 billion in health care costs annually but that’s just the U.S.
The World Health Organization (WHO) takes the issue to another level. Here’s what they say, “Tobacco use kills more than 5 million people per year worldwide. It is responsible for 1 in 10 adult deaths. Among the five greatest risk factors for mortality, it is the single most preventable cause of death.
- Eleven per cent of deaths from ischemic heart disease, the world’s leading killer, are attributable to tobacco use.
- More than 70% of deaths from lung, trachea and bronchus cancers are attributable to tobacco use.
- If current patterns continue, tobacco use will kill more than 8 million people per year by 2030.
- Up to half of the world’s more than 1 billion smokers will die prematurely of a tobacco-related disease
For roughly half of adult smokers it isn’t a question of if smoking will kill them but how — and most smokers erroneously think lung cancer is the biggest threat. It’s a big one but the real threat is circulatory or cardiovascular disease.
It is a well-established fact that damage to normal blood flow is substantially worse than what is happening in your lungs.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, lung cancer is responsible for 28% of smoking related deaths while 43% are attributable to cardiovascular disease – primarily heart disease and strokes.
- It’s easy to appreciate that the 43 cancer causing chemicals in each and every puff are slowly building an internal time bomb. What few comprehend is that it’s far more likely that smoking will cause some portion of their body’s blood piping to completely clog, with downstream oxygen deprived tissues suffocating and dying.
- Picture the inside of once smooth coronary arteries whose job it was to feed our heart muscle oxygen instead gradually becoming narrower and narrower as they slowly fill with fats and cholesterols. Picture the same process occurring in blood pathways to the brain.
- Eventually it happens. Complete blockage occurs. All downstream tissues serviced with oxygen by the blood vessel immediately begin to suffocate and die. By far the most common site of smoker circulatory tissue death is the heart muscle (a heart attack) followed by the brain (a stroke).
If you don’t care about yourself think about what your habit can do to others. Second hand smoke is a killer, that’s no myth it is a fact smokers should consider before they light up near anyone.
A short summary of the effects of second hand smoke
From the Centers for Disease Control (CDC)
In children, secondhand smoke causes the following:
- Ear infections
- More frequent and severe asthma attacks
- Respiratory symptoms (e.g., coughing, sneezing, shortness of breath)
- Respiratory infections (i.e., bronchitis, pneumonia)
- A greater risk for sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)
In children aged 18 months or younger, secondhand smoke exposure is responsible for—
- an estimated 150,000–300,000 new cases of bronchitis and pneumonia annually, and
- approximately 7,500–15,000 hospitalizations annually in the United States.4
Health Effects: Adults
In adults who have never smoked, secondhand smoke can cause heart disease and/or lung cancer.3
- For nonsmokers, breathing secondhand smoke has immediate harmful effects on the cardiovascular system that can increase the risk for heart attack. People who already have heart disease are at especially high risk.3,5
- Nonsmokers who are exposed to secondhand smoke at home or work increase their heart disease risk by 25–30%.3
- Secondhand smoke exposure causes an estimated 46,000 heart disease deaths annually among adult nonsmokers in the United States.6
- Nonsmokers who are exposed to secondhand smoke at home or work increase their lung cancer risk by 20–30%.3
- Secondhand smoke exposure causes an estimated 3,400 lung cancer deaths annually among adult nonsmokers in the United States.6
There is no risk-free level of contact with secondhand smoke; even brief exposure can be harmful to health.
Our furry friends
It is bad enough that we are killing our friends, neighbors and children with smoke but innocent dogs, cats, hamsters and birds are also victims. http://healthypets.mercola.com/sites/healthypets/archive/2009/09/17/how-cigarettes-and-smoking-impact-your-pets-health.aspx
- A 2002 Tufts University study linked second-hand smoke to cancer in cats. The study found that cats living with smokers are twice as likely to develop malignant lymphoma—the most common feline cancer–as those in non-smoking households. Lymphoma kills 3 out of 4 afflicted cats within 12 months.
One reason cats are so vulnerable to the carcinogens in tobacco smoke is they are meticulous groomers. Daily grooming over a long period of time can expose their delicate oral tissues to hazardous amounts of carcinogens.
- A 2007 University of Minnesota study showed that cats who live with smokers have nicotine and other toxins in their urine.
- A 2007 Tufts School of Veterinary Medicine study linked second-hand smoke to oral cancer in cats (squamous cell carcinoma.) Cats living with more than one smoker and cats exposed to environmental tobacco smoke for longer than five years had even higher rates of this cancer.
- A 1998 Colorado State University study, published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, found a higher incidence of nasal tumors and cancer of the sinus in dogs living in a home with smokers, compared to those living in a smoke-free environment. The nasal/sinus tumors were specifically found among the long-nosed breeds such as retrievers and German shepherds. Unfortunately, dogs with nasal cancer do not usually survive more than one year.
- The same study showed higher lung cancer rates in short to medium nosed dogs who live with smokers, such as boxers and bulldogs. Their shorter nasal passages made it easier for cancer-causing particles to reach the lungs.
- Another study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology found that dogs in smoking households have a 60 percent greater risk of lung cancer.
How to Quit Smoking
For most tobacco users, tobacco cravings or urges to smoke can be powerful. But you’re not at the mercy of these tobacco cravings. When an urge to use tobacco strikes, remember that although it may be intense, it will be short-lived, and it probably will pass within a few minutes whether or not you smoke a cigarette or take a dip of chewing tobacco. Each time you resist a tobacco craving, you’re one step closer to stopping smoking or other tobacco use for good. But it can be difficult.
So here are 10 ways to help you resist the urge to smoke or use tobacco when a tobacco craving strikes, no matter where you are:
- Delay. If you feel like you’re going to give in to your tobacco craving, tell yourself that you must first wait 10 more minutes and then do something to distract yourself for that period of time. This simple trick may be enough to derail your tobacco craving. Repeat as often as needed.
- Don’t have ‘just one.’ You might be tempted to have just one cigarette to satisfy a tobacco craving. But don’t fool yourself into believing that you can stop at just one. More often than not, having just one leads to another, then another — and you may wind up using tobacco again.
- Avoid triggers. Urges for tobacco are likely to be strongest in the situations where you smoked or chewed tobacco most often, such as at parties or bars, in the car or while watching television. Identify your trigger situations and have a plan in place so that you can avoid them entirely or get through them without using tobacco. Don’t set yourself up for a smoking relapse. If you usually smoked while you talked on the phone, for instance, keep a pen and paper nearby to occupy yourself with doodling rather than smoking.
- Get physical. Physical activity can help distract you from tobacco cravings and reduce the intensity of cravings. Just 30 minutes of moderate physical activity can make a tobacco craving go away. Get out for a walk or jog. If you’re stuck at home or the office, try squats, deep knee bends, push-ups, running in place, or walking up and down a set of stairs a few times. If physical activity doesn’t interest you, try prayer, needlework, woodwork or journaling. Or do chores for distraction, such as vacuuming or filing paperwork.
- Practice relaxation techniques. In the past, smoking may have been your way to deal with stress. Trying to resist a tobacco craving can itself be stressful. Take the edge off stress by practicing relaxation techniques. These include deep-breathing exercises, muscle relaxation, yoga, visualization, hypnosis and massage.
- Call reinforcements. Touch base with a family member, friend or support group member for moral support as you struggle to resist a tobacco craving. Chat on the phone, go for a walk together or simply share a few laughs — or get together to commiserate about your cravings.
- Remember the benefits of quitting. Write down or say out loud the reasons you want to stop smoking and resist tobacco cravings. These might include feeling better, getting healthier, sparing your loved ones from secondhand smoke or saving money. And if you’re a closet smoker, you may save hours of time since you no longer have to spend time trying to conceal your habit.
- Go online. Join an online stop-smoking program. Or read a quitter’s blog and post encouraging thoughts for someone else who might be struggling with tobacco cravings. Learn from how others have handled their tobacco cravings.
- Try nicotine replacements. Try a nicotine replacement product instead of a cigarette. Some types of nicotine replacement therapy, including patches, gums and lozenges, are available over-the-counter. Nicotine nasal spray and the nicotine inhaler are available by prescription, as are the stop-smoking medications bupropion (Zyban) and varenicline (Chantix).
- Chew on it. Give your mouth something to do to fight a tobacco craving. Chew on sugarless gum or hard candy. Or munch on raw carrots, celery, nuts or sunflower seeds — something crunchy and satisfying.
Remember, trying something to beat the urge is always better than doing nothing. And each time you resist a tobacco craving, you’re one step closer to being totally tobacco-free.
The jury is out but so far no evidence of harm from them. From what little research I’ve done, though, they may be a good alternative (that’s not smoke…it is a vapor that quickly dissipates). The cost is comparable to real cigarettes if not a little cheaper and those who have tried them say the effect is the same. The difference is that you don’t get the carcinogens and other chemicals that are so deadly. Follow this link for more information. http://health.howstuffworks.com/wellness/smoking-cessation/e-cigarettes-help-stop-smoking.htm
You can quit smoking. You must or it is quite likely you will die from it and your death will be less than pleasant. There is plenty of help available. Talk to your doctor, Google “How to quit smoking” you will find something that works for you. Not every method works for everyone.
When I quit smoking in 1991 it was after several maybe scores of attempts, I lost track of how many. I wish I had the money for every time I threw my cigarette lighter and cigarettes out the window of my car, only to buy more at the next stop. Finally, though, with the help of Nicotine gum I was successful. I chewed that damned gum for two years after I quit and then switched to lemon drops for another two years but I am smoke free and loving it. You can do it but you have to try and try and keep on trying until you quit for good.
Bob Aronson is a 2007 heart transplant recipient. He is the founder of Facebook’s 3000 plus member Organ Transplant Initiative (OTI) and the author of most of these Bob’s Newheart Blogs. All that’s required to join OTI is that you support our mission and follow the rules for the group. You can read about both in the “About” section on the right side of the OTI group page.
Bob’s Newheart and our Facebook group Organ Transplant Initiative (OTI) support and encourage organ donation and potential biological and mechanical alternatives we also believe that the best solution for the organ shortage is to reduce the demand.
Tobacco products along with alcohol are two of the greatest contributors to organ damage and the need for transplants. If we could get people to stop using those substances the demand for transplants would diminish significantly and that could mean that the supply of organs just might catch up to the reduced demand.
The affect of tobacco products on human organs is devastating. There is almost no part of our bodies that the thousands of chemicals in tobacco and cigarette smoke can’t invade and ultimately destroy. If you smoke, it likely will kill you! If you quit your body will begin to recover and the cancers and other diseases will have to find a different host.
Our governments (city, county, state and federal) all tax tobacco often with the intention of using the revenue to finance stop smoking campaigns and most often some of the money collected is used for that purpose but not always. As is usually the case when there is a pot of money available, lots of good causes want some of it, sometimes not so good causes get it so less than 3% of tobacco tax dollars go into anti smoking or smoking cessation programs. Furthermore, settlements in and out of court in the 1990s mean that the tobacco industry is paying states nearly $250 billion over 25 years. Under the agreement, those payments to states will continue flowing even beyond 25 years as long as the tobacco industry is healthy. But the payments would phase out as cigarette company profits decline and would ultimately disappear if people stop smoking. So while government must try to get people to quit smoking, they really don’t want to try too hard.
So, having given you some critical information about smoking I’m hoping you will do two things, 1) if you smoke…quit. 2) tell your elected officials to get really serious about helping people who use tobacco products to quit using them, I submit this post for your consideration and comment.
There’s an adage that goes, ”If you borrow a hundred dollars from the bank, you owe the bank. If you borrow a million you own the bank.” That simply means the bank can’t be too hard on you if they want to get their money back. That’s the situation governments find themselves in with tobacco. In a strange twist, tobacco companies own the government. Let me explain.
Tobacco Kills. Cigarettes alone kill nearly a half million Americans every year. That’s just a cold hard fact. You probably don’t need reminding but I will anyway via the enters for Disease Control in Atlanta, Georgia. They list these facts: http://tinyurl.com/lblldw
- The adverse health effects from cigarette smoking account for an estimated 443,000 deaths, or nearly one of every five deaths, each year in the United States.
- More deaths are caused each year by tobacco use than by all deaths from human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), illegal drug use, alcohol use, motor vehicle injuries, suicides, and murders combined.
- Smoking causes an estimated 90% of all lung cancer deaths in men and 80% of all lung cancer deaths in women.
- An estimated 90% of all deaths from chronic obstructive lung disease are caused by smoking.
Smoking and Increased Health Risks
Compared with nonsmokers, smoking is estimated to increase the risk of—
- coronary heart disease by 2 to 4 times,
- stroke by 2 to 4 times,
- men developing lung cancer by 23 times,
- women developing lung cancer by 13 times, and
- dying from chronic obstructive lung diseases (such as chronic bronchitis and emphysema) by 12 to 13 times.
If trends continue, one billion people will die from tobacco use and exposure during the 21st century – one person every six seconds. Globally, tobacco-related deaths have nearly tripled in the past decade, and tobacco is responsible for more than 15% of all male deaths and 7% of female deaths. Tobacco is also a risk factor for the four leading noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) – cancer, heart disease, diabetes and chronic respiratory diseases – which account for more than 63% of global deaths according to the World Health Organization.
Tobacco use is the number one killer in China, causing 1.2 million deaths annually; this is expected to rise to 3.5 million deaths annually by the year 2030. Tobacco is also responsible for the greatest proportion of male deaths in Turkey (38%) and Kazakhstan (35%), and the greatest proportion of female deaths in the Maldives (25%) and the United States (23%).
Uniquely among cancer-causing agents, however, tobacco is a man-made problem that is completely preventable through proven public policies. Effective measures include tobacco taxes, advertising bans, smoke-free public places, mass media campaigns and effective health warnings. These cost-effective policies are among those included in the World Health Organization’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC), a global treaty endorsed by more than 174 countries, and recommended by the World Health Organization in its MPOWER policy package. http://tinyurl.com/bor7897
Our government knows all of this. All of our elected officials know this and they all publicly support anti-smoking efforts. They go to great extremes to condemn the use of tobacco while explaining the public health consequences. Almost no one is pro smoking and yet everyone is pro smoking because we have come to depend on the billions of tax dollars generated by the sale of tobacco products. It should be pointed out that at least the U.S,. Government no longer subsidizes tobacco farmers. That program ended several years ago.
As usual the poor are hit the hardest by the addictive nature of tobacco. In a study conducted on behalf of the New York State Department of Health, it revealed that low-income smokers (those in households making under $30,000), spent an average of 23.6% of their annual household income on cigarettes, compared to 2.2% for smokers in households making over $60,000.
Taxes on tobacco products total billions of dollars a year. An example — in New York state the federal tax on a package of 20 cigarettes is $1.01, the state tax is $4.35. New York City adds a local tax of $1.50 to the state levy. That brings the combined tax rate on a package of 20 cigarettes in New York City to $6.36. Tobacco manufacturers add their profit on top of that so depending on where you buy your cigarettes in the city you could pay as much as $12 a pack…twelve dollars for a pack of cigarettes. By comparison, when I started smoking in 1954 you could buy a pack of “Wings” cigarettes for Ten cents. Major brands like Lucky Strikes or Camels were a quarter (quit smoking in 1991).
Tobacco Industry Profits Greater Than Ever
According to The Tobacco Atlas, estimates of revenues from the global tobacco industry likely approach a half trillion U.S. dollars annually. In 2010, the combined profits of the six leading tobacco companies was U.S. $35.1 billion, equal to the combined profits of Coca-Cola, Microsoft, and McDonald’s in the same year. If Big Tobacco were a country, it would have a gross domestic product (GDP) of countries like Poland, Saudi Arabia, Sweden and Venezuela.
In the meantime, tobacco companies are fighting laws with every weapon in their arsenal because just as their product kills people, restrictive smoking laws can kill the industry, a killing some say, is necessary and justified homicide.
As countries around the world ramp up their campaigns against smoking with tough restrictions on tobacco advertising, the industry is fighting back by invoking international trade agreements to thwart the most stringent rules.
A key battlefront is Australia, which is trying to repel a legal assault on its groundbreaking law requiring cigarettes to be sold in plain packs without distinctive brand logos or colors. Contesting the law, which takes effect Dec. 1, are the top multinational cigarette makers and three countries — Ukraine, Honduras and Dominican Republic — whose legal fees are being paid by the industry. http://tinyurl.com/chypao4
Tobacco use has diminished considerably in most of the developed countries but not all of them. The leafy crop is gaining new popularity among U.S. farmers. Cheaper U.S. tobacco has become competitive as an export, and China, Russia and Mexico, where cigarette sales continue to grow, are eager to buy. Since 2005, U.S. tobacco acreage has risen 20 percent. Fields are now filled with it in places like southern Illinois, which hasn’t grown any substantial amounts since the end of World War I. http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/1899911/posts
While the price of cigarettes has continuously increased since 1965, the percentage of that price going towards taxes is now half of what it was then. ]While tobacco companies complain about the $1.01 cigarette tax, Phillip Morris, Reynolds American, and Lorillard have all increased their prices by almost $1.00 per pack on their own. Phillip Morris currently lists all taxes, including federal, state, local, and sales taxes, as 56.6% of the total cost of a pack of cigarettes.
One of the reasons for the support of increased cigarette taxes among public health officials is that many studies show that this leads to a decrease in smoking rates. The relationship between smoking rates and cigarette taxes is in fact very elastic; the greater the amount of the tax increase, the greater the proportion of smokers who stop smoking. This is especially prevalent amongst teenagers. For every ten percent increase in the price of a pack of cigarettes, youth smoking rates overall drop about seven percent. This rate is also true amongst minorities and low income population smokers. The rates of calls to quitting hot-lines are directly related to cigarette tax hikes. When Wisconsin raised its state cigarette tax to $1.00 per pack, the hot-line received a record of 20,000 calls in a two month time period versus its typical 9,000 calls annually.
According to the New York Times taxes are not the only government revenue from cigarettes. Settlements in the late 1990s to end state lawsuits against tobacco companies mean that the cigarette industry is paying states nearly $250 billion over 25 years. Under the agreement, those payments to states will continue flowing even beyond 25 years as long as the tobacco industry is healthy. But the payments would phase out as cigarette company profits decline and would ultimately disappear if people stop smoking.
So the government has become a financial stakeholder in smoking, some would argue, even as public health officials warn people about its deadly consequences. Smoking declines as cigarette taxes increase, but a core group of smokers hang on to the habit. http://www.nytimes.com/2008/08/31/weekinreview/31saul.html
Will the government or governments ever really crack down on smoking? Doubtful, there is too much money in it for them so the tobacco companies and the politicians who seek to eradicate them have come to be bedfellows. What many politicians fail to see is the savings that could be had if people didn’t smoke. According to the CDC again, “Smoking is also a major contributor to many chronic diseases that are driving up the nation’s health care costs. Each year, diseases caused by cigarette smoking result in $96 billion in health care costs, much of which is paid by taxpayers through publicly-funded health programs.” http://www.cdc.gov/features/TobaccoControlData/ but the savings go beyond that when you consider the costs to employers and employees in higher premiums and lost work time due to tobacco caused illnesses.
If we truly wanted to wipe out smoking, taxes could be raised even higher than they are and the dollars generated could go a long way toward helping to solve our budget problems. Unfortunately if everyone quit smoking, the tax revenue would disappear, too and therein lies the dilemma, but it does prove that you can be both for and against something at the same time.
I wrote this account of my life since receiving a heart transplant in hopes that others will benefit from my experiences. Most of you who will have transplants will have a far easier time of it than I did. You must remember that I was 68 years old when I had mine and that alone can make a huge difference in recovery time and other factors as well. If any of you have any questions after reading this please contact me personally at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Being a transplant recipient is an amazing experience. I simply cannot describe what the feeling is like knowing that one of the parts you were born has been discarded and replaced with one belonging to someone else who in all likelihood died…except for the organ that is keeping you alive.
I don’t know who my donor was. I only know he was about 30 years old when he died and he was from South Carolina. I have written to my donor family but not heard from them so I assume they prefer to remain anonymous and I understand and accept that.
Everyone who has ever had a transplant has had a unique experience that nothing else in life can match. Each day I am struck by the awareness that the heart I was born with, that kept me alive for 68 years no longer beats within my chest. It died. I didn’t. Wow!
Often when I lie in bed I feel the rhythmic thumping that kept someone else alive for 30 years is now doing the same for me. “His” heart is my life. “His” heart pumps my blood, in my body to my brain and allows me to think, to live, love and enjoy life. “His” heart, not mine.
My donor has given me a lot but his greatest gift is allowing me the extra time to be with my wonderful wife Robin.
In 1995 after collapsing in a parking ramp am rushed to a hospital, I was diagnosed with dilated idiopathic cardiomyopathy and was told that someday I might need a heart transplant. As the owner of a communications consulting business I was very active and travelled a great deal both domestically and internationally, but slowly my health began to deteriorate. Always the optimist I adjusted and slowed down a little but not so anyone would really notice.
Then in 1996 my wife was diagnosed with lung cancer and I ignored my condition while we dealt with hers which included many chemotherapy and radiation sessions. After a long and courageous battle with that terrible disease she succumbed in November of 1998. We had been married for 35 years. It was a devastating time and at age 59 I felt lost, alone and without hope as I began to feel the effects of my own condition.
About a year later I met Robin Diffie and as we got to know each other I felt my life just might come back together after all, but my version of the sword of Damocles, cardiomyopathy, continued its swing through my life as my heart function continued to fall with a resultant decrease in my ability to function.
In 2000 Robin and I were married in Eagan, Minnesota but by then the condition which would later require a heart transplant was becoming debilitating, when I travelled I began to ask for wheelchair service in airports and Robin began traveling with me to make sure I got one and to act as my “pusher.”
Cardiomyopathy kind of sneaks up on you and kicks your butt softly at first but then harder and harder. The effect of the disease is measured by ones “Ejection Fraction” (EF). A normal heart will pump out about 60% of the blood it contains every time it beats. As the disease progresses the EF keeps going down and the heart enlarges in order to store the blood that doesn’t’ get ejected. My heart was getting very large and by 2006 my EF was around 10% and decreasing. Clearly I was dying and too sick to work. Sometimes I could barely walk a few feet without having to stop to rest. My heart was just barely pumping enough blood to keep me alive. Reluctantly I made the decision to retire.
It was then that we decided to move to Jacksonville, Florida and we did so for two reasons. 1) Moving there offered the greatest likelihood of getting a heart. My research indicated that the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville had a wonderful record in organ procurement and transplantation. 2) It was an easy decision because Jacksonville is Robin’s home town and her entire family is there. I still question Robin’s sanity in marrying a dying man but no matter I am grateful for whatever bug struck her and caused the instability.
After undergoing the battery of tests that are required to qualify for a transplant, I was finally approved and placed on the national list on August 8th of 2007. I had resigned myself to either a very long wait or, I thought, no heart at all because of my age. It had already been twelve very long years since I was diagnosed with a fatal heart disease. I thought that at age 68 it was unlikely that I would get a heart and if I did it wouldn’t be anytime soon — but I got lucky.
Only 13 days after being listed I got the call from Mayo Clinic Transplant Cardiologist Dr. Jeffrey Hosenpud that he “might” have a heart for me. He did. I got one and August 21st 2007 goes down in history as my “other” birthday.
My recovery from the transplant was difficult to say the least. It took four years before I finally felt good again. I quit smoking in 1991 but the 37 year habit had already taken its toll, I had Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). That’s a disease of the lungs that can best be described as feeling as though you are breathing through a straw…try that some time. COPD is bad enough but when you get pneumonia on top of it you have another life threatening situation. Well, I got pneumonia shortly after my surgery and was hospitalized again but the recovery was very slow and touch and go before I slowly regained my strength. I now know that another bout with pneumonia could kill me so I try to be pretty careful about what I expose myself to.
I no sooner recovered from the pneumonia virus than I was stricken with indescribable absolutely excruciating pain….pain so severe that sometimes I would just sit and cry. Part of the pain, I’m told, was the result of the way I was positioned during my surgery. Apparently your left arm is in a strange position in order to allow the surgeon unobstructed access to the chest cavity, but a transplant takes a long time and it seems that my arm needed different medical attention than was delivered.
The pain in my left arm right down to my wrist and fingers was awful but then just when I thought it couldn’t get worse, it did. The pain spread to both shoulders, my neck and lower back for and went on for months. Torn rotator cuffs were part of the reason but much of the pain came from unknown causes, perhaps it was the way I was sleeping or maybe the lack of proper exercise and maybe because of an old auto accident. We’ll never know the exact cause but it was finally resolved with a combination of physical therapy and Oxycontin the potent, addictive pain killer, and addictive it was.
I’ve been a recovering alcoholic since 1982. I understand addiction and I understood quite well that I had become dependent on the narcotic. I no longer really needed it for the pain for which it was prescribed, I needed it for the pain caused by the withdrawal you experience between “hits.” When you are taking pain killers there’s a simple question you must ask yourself every time you reach for a pill. “Am I taking this because I need it for pain or am I taking it because I want it?” If you are truthful with yourself and the answer is the latter, you have a problem. I had a problem. By addict standards I wasn’t taking much Oxycontin, only about 30-40 milligrams a day, but it was enough for me to know I needed the drug, needed it not to get high…I needed it to feel normal. That’s what happens to every drunk and junkie…they ultimately drink, shoot or take pills just to try to feel normal. Often the first high you have, is the last one.
Having been through chemical dependency treatment in 1982 I knew what I had to do but I also knew I couldn’t do it cold turkey. I found a highly reputable pain clinic that specialized in addiction and started going there. They immediately took me off of Oxycontin and put me on Suboxone another addictive drug but one that is used to slowly help people through the painful withdrawal that comes with quitting. It took several months but it worked and I was Oxycontin free but, sorry, the story doesn’t end there.
You’d think that after having survived cardiomyopathy, getting a heart transplant, beating terrible pain and withdrawing from an addictive drug I would finally feel better. Unfortunately the light at the end of my tunnel was an oncoming train that hit me hard and almost had me down for the count because for no explainable reason I fell into a deep, dark depression that lasted for a couple of years.
Each day I would awaken, head to my favorite recliner in a corner of the den and sit there in the dark drinking coffee and watching TV. I was nearly a zombie. Some days I wouldn’t even shower and I didn’t want to see or talk to anyone. That was my life day after day, week after week for a couple of years. Depression is one of those diseases where you don’t know how bad off you are until you are no longer bad off. The only thing that gave me any hope each day was maintaining my presence on the Facebook group I started, Organ Transplant Initiative and my blog on WordPress, Bob’s Newheart. While I knew I needed professional help I was so depressed I didn’t’ care if I got it so I kept putting it off. Finally with Robin’s gentle prodding I went back to Mayo and began treatment but you don’t beat depression overnight or even in a few months. Sometimes it takes a considerable amount of trial and error before the right treatment is found. That came right around my four year post surgery mark but not until i had lost 75 pounds from lack of appetite. i was left weak but finally energized and optimistic again.
Through all of that Robin, the lunatic who married a dying man, was steady as a rock. She had her hands full running two businesses and our home plus being my caregiver. I’ll never know how she did it and kept her wits about her but she never flinched. She is the most amazing, compassionate and competent human being I have ever encountered. She is an unflappable optimist who doesn’t have a selfish bone in her body. I don’t know why I was so blessed to find this woman but as the man said, “Somebody up there likes me.”
That takes us to today…five plus years later and I feel wonderful but most importantly I get to spend time with Robin. If a physician could have written a prescription for love, happiness and contentment it would simply have said, “Robin.” It is only because of my donor that I am getting to spend time with this wonderful, gracious, smart, talented, funny and super woman. The heart of a stranger has allowed us to really get to know each other. There is no greater gift my donor could have given me and yes, that’s selfish but in this case I think selfish is OK.
Like many recipients my life has changed in other ways as well. Because of a transplant I’m a different person. I hope I’m a better person. I know I appreciate life a great deal more than I ever did before, but it is not only my life I appreciate, it is everyone’s life. When you experience death or near death, “life” takes on a whole new meaning. My reaction to being a transplant recipient is that I owe my donor big time. While I can’t do anything for him directly I can honor his memory by doing everything in my power to help others live. That’s why I am such an outspoken donation/transplantation activist.
While science generally rejects the notion, some recipients feel they have taken on some of the characteristics of their donor. I can’t say what my donor’s characteristics were because I didn’t know him but my life has changed as a result of having his heart. He may well be the influence behind some of the changes I have experienced which include:
- I am much less selfish than I was before and spend as much time as I can trying to help others.
- I am much less concerned with material things than I used to be. “Appearances” aren’t important anymore. I don’t have to have a new car, wear the best clothes or get recognition. I simply don’t care about those things.
- I am far more passionate about causes I believe in like fairness, equality and justice. I particularly feel a need to help the economically disadvantaged, the disabled, the sick, the elderly and, of course — children who suffer so many indignities of which they should not even be aware, never mind being forced to experience them.
- I am more of a peacemaker. In the past I was a warrior, a bulldozer who when advocating for a cause would show my commitment by rolling over those who disagreed and sometimes belittling them in the process. Now I believe in finding common ground and forming friendships despite serious disagreements.
- I am much less self-centered than I used to be. I have come to accept who I am and as a result can concentrate on the needs of others.
- I have always enjoyed learning but it has almost become an obsession since my transplant. My thirst for knowledge about a wide variety of things knows no bounds. I can’t get enough information about the wonders around us like the sun and the stars and the miracles, medical and otherwise that we experience every day.
- Working with my hands has always been enjoyable for me but since my transplant I have become addicted to woodwork. I’m not the Michelangelo of woodworking, hell I’m not even a Barney Fife but I am determined to get better at it. Unfortunately it is my friends and family who must suffer receiving my woodworking “gifts” and then acting as though they like them.
Being a transplant recipient is an amazing experience. It is one of which I am always aware and I mean always that I have someone else’ heart. There is no time in my waking hours that I am not aware that I am alive because a generous stranger give me his heart. I owe him and his family more than I could ever repay no matter what efforts I make for the rest of my life.
If you, the reader, are an organ donor, let me thank you on behalf of the unknown lives you may save as a result of your selfless action. If you are not an organ donor, please consider it carefully. You can save or enhance the lives of up to 60 people just by signing up and you can do that so easily. Just go to www.donatelife.net and follow the directions. Then, tell your family what you’ve done so there is no chance that anyone will object when the time comes to fulfill your commitment.
Earlier in this story I mentioned my Facebook Group and Blog. Let me take just a moment to explain how they came to be. Just a couple of months after my transplant I got a call from Mayo asking if I’d be interested in starting a Facebook Organ donation group and in writing a blog. I knew what neither were but decided I needed something to do during my recuperation and said, “Yes.” With Mayo’s help I got started immediately.
That was the beginning or Facebook’s Organ Transplant Initiative group (OTI) and Bob’s Newheart blog on WordPress www.bobsnewheart.wordpress.com . OTI now has almost 2,500 members and I’ve posted 140 blogs on donation/transplantation issues that have been read by over 100,000 people in at least 20 countries. I believe that I was given my new heart to do this and it has become my new passion.
None of this would be possible without all you wonderful people who helped to make OTI a success and who read my “Stuff” on WordPress. By offering your kind words, thoughts and deeds you are doing a great service to those who suffer while waiting for organs and those who are recovering from receiving them, never mind the caregivers and others who are so critical to the donation/transplantation process. Words cannot express my fondness for all of you and my gratitude for your involvement. All I can say is, thank you from the bottom of my donor’s heart.
Bob Aronson of Bob’s Newheart is a 2007 heart transplant recipient, the founder of Facebook’s nearly 2,500 member Organ Transplant Initiative and the author of most of these donation/transplantation blogs.
You may comment in the space provided or email your thoughts to me at email@example.com. And – please spread the word about the immediate need for more organ donors. There is nothing you can do that is of greater importance. If you convince one person to be an organ and tissue donor you may save or positively affect over 60 lives. Some of those lives may be people you know and love.
Please view our video “Thank You From the Bottom of my Donor’s heart” on http://www.organti.org This video was produced to promote organ donation so it is free and no permission is needed for its use.
If you want to spread the word personally about organ donation, we have another PowerPoint slide show for your use free and without permission. Just go to http://www.organti.org and click on “Life Pass It On” on the left side of the screen and then just follow the directions. This is NOT a stand-alone show; it needs a presenter but is professionally produced and factually sound. If you decide to use the show I will send you a free copy of my e-book, “How to Get a Standing “O” that will help you with presentation skills. Just write to firstname.lastname@example.org and usually you will get a copy the same day.
Also…there is more information on this blog site about other donation/transplantation issues. Additionally we would love to have you join our Facebook group, Organ Transplant Initiative The more members we get the greater our clout with decision makers.
This will be short. I’ve already had a heart transplant and now because of 37 years of smoking I have Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). I can’t breathe very well, especially if I move around. Do you have any idea what that’s like? Do you know what its like to be exhausted and gasping for air after putting on your shoes? Do you know what it’s like to have to drive a little electric cart around the supermarket because you can’t tolerate the walk? Well, if you keep on smoking you are in for that and a hell of a lot more. My case is mild compared to others, I don’t have to do breathing exercises every morning just to get my day started like Cystic Fibrosis patients do. I don’t have to use oxygen yet, I’m not in a wheelchair or confined to a bed or recliner at home but that could easily be my future and yours, too.
When you bend over to pick something off the floor you probably feel nothing. Here’s what happens, though. When you bend you compress your diaphragm which affects your breathing. As your lung condition worsens that one simple move can leave you feeling as though you’ve run a mile at top speed. I cannot bend over to pick up anything without having to sit down immediately to catch my breath. That means I can’t pick up my shoes, I can’t check the air in my tires, I can’t even bend over to pet my dogs.
My transplant docs tell me I’m doing very well, that with the exception of my lungs I am in pretty darn good condition. I know my mind is ok because I am more intellectually curious than I’ve ever been and I love to learn and write (some who have read my writing may think I’m a little loony but it’s a healthy loony :)). When I am sitting down and at my computer I feel better than I have in 25 or 30 years but that bubble bursts as soon as I get up and walk across the room.
Smoking is killing me even after having quit two decades ago. Smoking may also share some of the responsibility for my needing a heart transplant. There isn’t one damn good thing about smoking. People say, “It relaxes me.” Sure it does, it relaxes you because you are addicted to nicotine and you were going into withdrawal. Having a cigarette is a lot like the alcoholic (yes, I’m one of those too 30 years sober now) who has a drink to cure a hangover. There isn’t any difference. There isn’t one excuse (there are no reasons) you can give me for smoking that I cannot destroy in a second.
I have COPD, I lost my father to Chronic Bronchitis and a wife to lung cancer. I know first hand what smoking does and it isn’t as though you are only hurting yourself. Smoking not only will kill you it is killing those around you, your friends, your loved ones, your kids, even your pets. All of them will suffer because of your selfish desire to satisfy a craving. I smoked up to four packs a day for 37 years and quit. It took a lot of tries but with the help of nicotine gum I quit in 1991. If I could do it you can, too. I’m not tolerant like a lot of smoking cessation counselors are, I won’t accept the BS that you can’t quit. You can! You are just to much of a wimp to experience some temporary discomfort.
Get some guts, sure it’s hard to quit smoking but to give up by saying, “I can’t quit.” BS! Do you remember the story about the man who was caught alone in the wilderness with his arm pinned by some debris? He cut off his own arm to avoid death and walked a great distance to get medical attention. That’s experiencing real discomfort and showing a will to live. Allowing yourself to die because of a simple “craving” is wimpish, gutless and suicidal.
If you don’t like my harsh comments that’s too damn bad. I cannot sympathize with anyone who has the power to save their life and the lives around them but refuses to do so because its not “comfortable.” Shame of you!
Oh yeah…one more thing. Don’t count on getting a lung transplant to solve your problem. There’s a long line ahead of you waiting for a new lung or lungs and they won’t all get them. The best way to solve the organ shortage is to take care of yourself so you never need one.
Please view our brand new video “Thank You From the Bottom of my Donor’s heart” on You
Tube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ifyRsh4qKF4 This video was produced to promote organ donation so it is free and no permission is needed for it’s use.
Also…there is more information on this blog site about other donation/transplantation issues.
We would love to have you join our Facebook group, Organ Transplant Initiative The more members we get the greater our clout with decision makers.
Please comment in the space provided or email your thoughts to me at email@example.com. And – please spread the word about the immediate need for more organ donors. There is nothing you can do that is of greater importance. If you convince one person to be an organ and tissue donor you may save or positively affect over 60 lives. Some of those lives may be people you know and love.