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Gail M.

My first recollection of my mother was with a cigarette in her hand. She smoked over 3 packs a day. Imagine this, being in a car with the windows up and experiencing second hand smoke, one cigarette lit over and over again.

I had chronic respiratory problems and allergy shots during my formative years, I was always coughing. Nevertheless, I started smoking myself.

I can still hear my mother telling me not to smoke, "It wasn't good for me." Then I would sneak outside to have a cigarette without her knowing. The old adage applies here, "Actions speak louder than words."

Deciding one day to quit, I did, cold turkey. Having severe bronchitis wasn't the kind of fun I was looking for.

Begging my mother over and over again to quit, she told me "It won't be the cigarettes that will kill me, it will be the stress of you badgering me." How wrong that proved to be.

When cigarettes were first introduced, they were described as stylish, healthful and glamorous. There was nothing glamorous about hearing the doctor read my mother's death sentence, "You have stage 4 lung cancer, and you have less than a year to live."

Tears welled up in my eyes as the words were coming out of his mouth, my beloved mother would die shortly.

Witnessing my mother's small frame dwindle down to literally skin and bones, she would yell out in terrible, severe pain. I could barely go on.

My mother had heart disease and I always thought this would be what she would die from, I never thought she would have tumors in her lungs, heart, and kidneys.

I can still recall how she gasped for breath as the end was drawing near. It was a horrendous death at 67 and I will be forever changed by it.

Did I mention the unthinkable? My mother-in-law at 62 died of lung cancer just 6 months prior to my mother. The agony of this will forever haunt me.

Having never had a grandmother when I was growing up, I had such high hopes for my children to experience loving moments with their grandmothers. These so called stylish and glamorous sticks viciously robbed us of that time.

All of this happened while smoking is the most preventable risk factor for heart disease and lung cancer. We must increase the smoking age to 21 and raise taxes on cigarettes and related products that will fund much needed quit lines and education to prevent smoking from ever occurring.

Until my last breath I will work tirelessly and endlessly to be sure that tobacco never takes another life.

First published: November 8, 2016

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