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Anita O., HI

Smoking is the bane of my life. The destruction it has caused in my own personal life has been devastating. Every whiff of the toxic fumes reminds me how much I hate it; and how much damage it has caused my loved ones.

Sadly, my beautiful Mum died from Lung Cancer in May of 2014. She smoked right up until she was practically unconscious. Her addiction was so bad, even on her death bed, literally, she craved the poison and repetitive soothe of this murderous habit. We had to disconnect all plugs from the wall of her hospice room; and wheel her down a lift and into a courtyard, as she lay supine and immobile from cancerous tumors paralyzing her spine and most movements. Except her arms and hands, she could move them, and quite inconveniently still suck back up another cigarette. She would continue to chain smoke, what did it matter any more? As she sunk into her deflating unplugged hospital bed, she would puff away her dying days. At the young and premature age of 59, my mum succumb to the noxious and cruel demise of Lung Cancer; I believe smoking was a large contributing factor to her demise.

From a young age I always hated smoking. My Dad gave up smoking when I was about 4, and his reformed smoker obnoxiousness, gave me every indication that smoking was a vile habit. Sadly and ironically, my Dad also died of Lung cancer. He was 79, and went from being a fit active, golf playing, cruise going, lawn mowing, tanned and fit older man, to suffering the same fate as my Mum. He had given up over 30 years ago, but perhaps the damage was already done? He was the fittest and sportiest and tannest of his social group, comparably he stood out as the healthiest and fittest amongst his age group. He was playing golf three times a week, walking lots, had lots of energy, and kept a healthy looking physique. After a cruise one year, a bad chest infection was cause for concern. Following a chest X-ray by pure chance, a cancerous tumor was found in his lung. Even after having it cut out, he died a short 6 months later. I struggle to accept it was his time. I loved him very dearly and miss him constantly. He taught me so much in life, and daily his words of wisdom echo through my mind.

"You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink".

This was one of his favourite sayings; and even if you know a certain way of life is good, you can't convince other people if they are stubborn and refuse to accept the facts. This is how I feel about smoking. Everyone has to come to their own conclusions on this addictive and destructive behaviour, but the truth is out there, the facts are plain as day; smoking kills.

According to the Australian Government Health Department, each year smoking kills an estimated 15,000 Australians and costs Australia $31.5 billion in social health and economic costs. Now that's a lot of people dying, and a lot of money spent for an addictive behaviour that could be avoided.

As a child I was subjected to passive smoking. Now as an adult I get real narky if anyone lights up around me, I consider it the height of bad manners and the most inconsiderate of actions. I remember complaining to my mum to whine down the window in the car as I couldn't breathe through the plumes of smoke perilously clogging up the small enclosure. Her response: "I don't want to ruin my hairdo". Needless to say as I became a teenager with a louder voice and a more defiant attitude, we clashed and would fight frequently over her smoking. It was just so gross, it stunk, everything smelled because of it, and there seemed to me absolutely no point in this senseless activity.

The walls would stain brown, overflowing disgusting ash trays would litter the place, and the struggle to breath was constant. Arguments were rife, and tensions high every time another cigarette was lit. I was one frustrated kid. Going to my Dads place was bliss, he hated smoking as much as me, we couldn't even stand sitting in a cafe near it, and would be those annoying people to make a big scene and flash death stares towards the culprits who caused such bad fumes.

I still get into arguments with people over smoking. You see smokers think it's their right to smoke, to breathe toxic fumes, get some stress release from killing themselves. The problem with smoking, unlike other activities is that it's not private or singular, it does affect other people around you. So this is the modern day stalemate. Sure it's your right to smoke toxic fumes, but hey it's my right to breath fresh air and not inhale that stinking poisonous muck.

Fortunately, in Australia, the laws are only improving for the avid smoking despisers like myself. I remember years ago, you could smoke on airplanes, with a little metal flip up ash tray in your arm rest. You could choose to sit in a smoking or non smoking section, which is completely ridiculous for a confined internally air circulating space. I remember my Doctor smoked, with an ashtray on his big important desk, he would puff away as he gave you his "educated" advice. Mmm, not so smart if you ask me. You could even smoke in shopping centres. Pretty much everywhere smoking was acceptable, at the movies, in restaurants, in cars, even on a bus. Fortunately, laws have changed since, and it is really quite hard to light up in a lot of public places, that is if you want to abide by the law. Interestingly you can not even smoke directly outside and in the surrounds of hospitals now. Not that my Mum paid much attention to those rules. It is hard to deny a dying persons wishes. Cigarette butts would litter the ground around the front bench outside the hospital entrance, right near the sign that reads "No smoking". Fat lot of good that sign made.

The cyclic misery and issues smoking causes, makes smokers want to smoke even more, seemingly nicotine eases the nerves. Financially smoking is a very expensive habit. If you add up the cost of cigarettes alone, on average smoking 5 packs a week, this works out approximately $100 a week. That equates to $5200 a year. Now that's a world trip right there, or a good some of cash to put to far better use then lighting up to smoke.

The fateful day I went with my Mum to the Doctors to hear her Cancer diagnosis, do you know the first thing she did when we got outside? You guessed it, she lit up a ciggie. With a shell shocked expression and stunned stare, she puffed away, squinting dumbfounded, through the puffs of smoke as she waited for me to pull the car up, as she couldn't walk that far anymore. See this is the devastating result of a lifetime of a poor habit. Cancer, then death. It really does happen. We all make our own choices in life, but smoking is one of those really bad ones. Like standing in the middle of a highway at peak hour and wondering if you will be hit by a car? Like swimming off the coast of Australia at dawn, deep in the ocean with lots of hungry sharks, and wondering if you will get munched? Like eating crap fatty food and wondering why you get fat? All behaviour has consequences, smoking not only affects your own health, it affects your loved ones.

Smoking killed my Mum and I am affected by this everyday. I wonder if she didn't smoke would she still be alive? To see me live my life and be there by my side physically like most Mums at 59 should be.

Some people have a huge extended family around them, perhaps this is why I am more sensitive about losing my parents so young. My very small family of three has been decimated by Cancer, leaving only me behind to live my life as best as I can. I have never smoked, but have suffered the personal consequences of this devastating habit. I will continue to encourage people around me to give up smoking, and I hope my seething and slaying article has made you think twice about smoking. I vehemently hate smoking, and sorry if I have offended anyone by my article, but this is my perspective; I aim to live my truth and encourage you to think about your habits and addictions to improve and become a better human.

I have one more final story to share, and it's ugly, very ugly. It can be described as the pinnacle of years of frustration reaching an ultimate peak. Only weeks before my Mum died this sad but highly frustrated altercation happened.

She sat quiet and pensive in a wheelchair at a plastic outdoor table in the garden at the Hospice. We would go to get "fresh air" and sunshine as often as she physically could; always I would push her down in the wheel chair. This one morning, I was feeling particularly edgy. I was tired, stressed, sad, emotional and frantic that my amazing Mum was dying and withering before my eyes and there was nothing I could do about it. As she sit there and lit yet another cigarette, from deep inside me a raging monster emerged. I screamed at the top of my lungs, picked up one of the sun damaged plastic chairs and threw it violently against the wall, watching it crack and shatter and break, like I was about to. I spewed out rage and wicked words on the lines of:

"How can you sit there and smoke another f*^%* cigarette? Don't you know it's killing you!! You don't care?! You are dying and you still smoke those f*^%* things?"

I was like a raging bull, like a demon, a woman possessed by anger. I cried and cried and cried, sobbing I hugged my bony remorseful Mum and apologized for being so horrible. It wasn't her I hated it, it was the smoking. It was killing her. A few short weeks later she was dead.

Call me sensitive but I have every reason to be, I hate smoking, it killed my loved ones and I will forever more try to encourage others to stop this filthy and destructive habit.

Thanks for reading. Writing helps me to purge what is in my soul, and what hurts me. I am crying as I write but it is a release, and I do so with the best of intentions, to encourage you to stop smoking.

"Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Willing is not enough; we must do." - Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.

First Published: September 21, 2015

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