The American Lung Association is excited to announce that Bob Levey, former reporter for the Washington Post, is now a member of our Ambassador Council and will become a frequent writer for the Lung Association. Bob will reprise his Super Stoppers Club as monthly Facebook posts, celebrating those who have quit smoking. Follow us and Bob on @lungusa on Facebook.

I started smoking cigarettes when I was 17—the same year I began to give my heart to the art of writing.

The two loves were inseparable. When I typed, I puffed. I could not imagine crafting great sentences without exhaling mushroom clouds. So, I did both at once, day in and day out—a cigarette crammed into the corner of my mouth as I hammered on a keyboard.

Then I met a woman with dark brown eyes. We started to get serious. She said: “I will not have children with a man who smokes.”

I hemmed and hawed for a while, but in 1977, I smoked my last unfiltered cigarettes and threw away the remaining half a pack. She was all the motivation I needed. Forty-five years later, our two kids are now adults and parents themselves.

In 1981, the legendary editor of The Washington Post, Ben Bradlee, promoted me to write a daily column. It was the assignment of a lifetime. I wrote “Bob Levey’s Washington” every weekday for more than 23 years. I raised money for great causes. I afflicted the comfortable and comforted the afflicted. And I hatched a crusade called the Super Stoppers Club—column after column about people who had quit smoking, just as I had.

I published names, and how-I-quit stories, for more than five years. The idea was to pat them on the back in print, but also to keep them on the straight and narrow. Telling my million readers that you’ve quit—and then backsliding—just wouldn’t do.

Did it work? Did it ever.

Family members would call me regularly to thank me for the additional years that grandpa or mama could now expect. Healthcare workers would praise me to the skies for finding an unusual way to motivate quitters.

Then, in the late 1990s, I was doing an appearance at the Washington Auto Show (the kind of thing columnists are often called upon to do). I was glad-handing passersby at The Post booth when a guy named Bert marched up to me and declared I had saved his life.

“I wouldn’t be alive today if it weren’t for you,” he said.

He was a Super Stopper 15 years earlier. He had kept to his vow to quit. He thanked me up one side and down the other. As I shook Bert’s hand, tears began to form in my eyes. If he was a lucky duck, I was a luckier one.

And now, it’s my pleasure to rejuvenate the Super Stoppers Club, on behalf of the American Lung Association. In regular posts, I will be doing what I used to do in the newspaper—telling the stories of quitters and patting them on the back.

You’ll meet people who never thought they could do it—and have. You’ll meet those who had tried quitting many times before and have finally found the magic path via Lung Association cessation programs. You’ll learn motivational tricks that might sound wacky, but have worked. You’ll meet people who are no longer on a collision course with disease, because they grabbed themselves by the lapels and said, “No more.”

You’ll meet quitters from all walks of life, and all corners of the United States. They will be rich and poor, old and young, male and female. What they share is that magic ingredient that makes so much possible— hope. It’ll be a pleasure to recount their stories, and to applaud them. If their successes foster other successes, well, that’s the whole idea.

From this quitter, to all who have also quit, and all who will quit, thanks for the chance to beat the drum once again. You can do it, smokers. I never thought I could write a column, take a plane trip or play a hand of bridge without a cigarette. I now do all of those quite easily. You can, too.

I started smoking because I thought it was cool. I quit smoking because it was necessary. I’m typing these words today because I found a path. Here’s hoping the Super Stoppers Club can be the path for hundreds of others.

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