Dear Annie: My girlfriend (of a year) and I are both in our mid-20s and are both smokers. In fact, that’s how we met – on the smoking patio of a bar, both out there alone because none of the friends we were there with smoked. We’ve both always talked tentatively about quitting, but in a vague way. So I was surprised when last week my girlfriend announced she was quitting cold turkey. She asked whether I wanted to quit at the same time, so we could offer each other moral support. I’m happy to offer moral support, but I’m not quite ready to quit. Do I have an obligation to her to quit? Is it wrong for me to smoke around her now? I’ve been thinking about purchasing an e-cigarette and just doing that around her, because this seems like a healthier alternative. – Guilty Smoker
Dear Guilty Smoker: No, you don’t have an obligation to your girlfriend to quit smoking. You have an obligation to yourself. Every cigarette you smoke cuts your life expectancy by approximately 10 minutes, and the life of a smoker is, on average, 10 years shorter than that of someone who has never smoked. The great news is that if you quit smoking today, you can undo a good deal of that damage. According to a 2013 study by Dr. Prabhat Jha, director of the Centre for Global Health Research at St. Michael’s Hospital, “quitting smoking before age 40, and preferably well before 40, gives back almost all of the decade of lost life from continued smoking.” That doesn’t mean you should keep lighting up through your 39th year, however. Jha adds: “Former smokers still have a greater risk of dying sooner than people who never smoked. But the risk is small compared to the huge risk for those who continue to smoke.”
As for e-cigarettes, the American Lung Association writes: “We don’t presently know what is in e-cigarettes. However, in initial lab tests conducted in 2009 the FDA found detectable levels of toxic cancer-causing chemicals, including an ingredient used in anti-freeze, in two leading brands of e-cigarettes and 18 various cartridges. … A 2014 study found that aerosol from e-cigarettes … contains … formaldehyde.” In other words, e-cigarettes contain cancer-causing chemicals and addictive nicotine. Why substitute one crummy habit with another?
Now, I know that my haranguing is not great motivation. But look at the long list of benefits of quitting smoking and try to find something that does motivate you. For more information, visit http://www.lung.org/stop-smoking.
Send your questions for Annie Lane to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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