The tobacco industry took my money to live their dreams and gave me nothing in return.
The tobacco industry uses the money you could have used to live your dreams to live their dreams.
I was 13 years old when a cool, older guy offered me my first, “Cummon Keelan, be a man. It won’t kill y’a,” cigarette. I remember feeling that I should have said, “No thanks,” but I didn’t. I wanted to be cool like that guy and all the others I had seen glorified in movies, TV, magazines and newspapers.
400,000 cigarettes later, I quit… stunned, appalled and outraged by the fact that in order to buy those 400,000 cigarettes I’d had to earn over $100,000, pay the taxes on it and give the rest to the tobacco industry… an industry that had enticed me in to their addicted customer base with the knowledge that if they had not been able to get me addicted to their product before I turned 18 would have never been able to get me. They didn’t give a shit what happened to me, they just wanted my money.
That $100,000 that would be worth millions today if I had invested it instead in the stock of the tobacco companies instead of their inventory. But I would never invest my money in a company whose customers hate them. I would have invested it in Disney, IBM, Xerox, MacDonald’s, Intel, Microsoft or Apple.
Once I had quit smoking forever on June 1, 2000, I had to wait 7 years for all the cells in my body to regenerate themselves before I would be out of the woods with a totally new body; every new cell free from tobacco and all it’s addictive and terrible consequences. My biggest fear was lung cancer because I had no way of knowing whether I had it since I had been too afraid to get a chest X-ray. I figured that if I didn’t know it, it couldn’t be happening. I know that is stupid but I have been known to be stupid about certain things.
Even after quitting, I paid a terrible price by sweating it out for seven years. But if I made it, everything would be fine. Right?
Wrong! In July 2007, I went to my doctor for my annual check-up and he asked me how I was feeling. I said, “Great!”
When he asked me why I was feeling so chipper I told him about being off cigarettes for 7 years and thus I was now the owner of a new body free from tobacco and all the diseases caused by tobacco… especially lung cancer. He brought me down off my cloud when he said, “According to my information, you really need to wait 15 years to consider yourself out of the woods on the lung cancer issue.”
In December of 2015, I have my annual check-up and my doctor tells me that now I am truly out of the woods.
Except that I have had this nagging cough for few months and that while doing some research for my quit smoking website, I had discovered that a nagging cough was a symptom of lung cancer. He told me that I probably didn’t have lung cancer since I had no other symptoms but that he would order up a chest X-ray any way… “Just to be sure.”
Two hours later I am at the hospital getting my chest X-rayed. After the shots I asked the technician if she had noticed anything unusual. She told me that she was not qualified to tell me that and besides she had not seen the X-ray. She just ran the camera. “The radiologist will read the X-ray and get back to you in a few weeks.”
It’s Friday Jan 1, 2016. New Year’s Day. I arrive home from a three day trip to Toronto and find a message on the phone dated December 30th, “This is your doctor’s office calling. Please call us back.”
I can’t call that day… it’s New Years Day. The next day is Saturday and then of course there is Sunday. I am sweating bullets now: “Why didn’t they leave the message, ‘Everything is good?'”
The news must be bad. I thought about all that money I had willingly given to the tobacco industry and the various taxing governments to keep myself supplied with cigarettes for all those years.
What did I have to show for it? Why does the government allow them to portray smoking as a cool thing to do in movies, TV and any other media that will take the money?
It’s 2 pm. on Monday. I am sitting in my car parked on the shores of Lake Huron with my cell phone in my hand. I still haven’t called the doctor because I am afraid I’ll hear, “Mr Keelan, there is a small cloud on your X-ray. We need you to get your ass in here for a biopsy ASAP!”
I realize that this is nuts. “You have to make the call man!” So I do.
I used to think the sweetest words in the world were, “I love you sweetheart,” or “I love you daddy,” or, “I love you grampa,” No doubt about it, they really are sweet words but the four sweetest words at that exact moment in my life were, and still are, “Your chest X-ray is normal.”
Every Christmas Eve I watch “It’s a Wonderful Life.” I used to wonder what the world would be like if I had never been born, but these days I wonder what my life would have been like if I had just told that guy, “No thanks. I don’t smoke.”
What would your life have been like if you had done the same?