[conspire] A few words about smoking and death

Daniel Gimpelevich daniel at gimpelevich.san-francisco.ca.us
Tue Dec 1 11:31:51 PST 2009

Rick Moen <rick <at> linuxmafia.com> writes:

> There were a number of things I admired about my friend, the late David
> Fox, who most of you will have known as an active CABAL member.  One of
> them is that he had, earlier this year, managed to quit a tobacco
> smoking habit of many decades, something that undoubtedly takes a heroic
> level of determination.
> One of the many reasons to quit smoking, if you've started, is that
> pretty much all of the damage it does to your lungs and
> circulatorysystem heals within not too many months, if you're lucky.
> Unfortunately, in that respect, David wasn't lucky:  I should hasten to
> say that I carefully didn't pry into David's medical problems and have
> no inside knowledge of what caused his death, but I do know that he'd
> been diagnosed by prior doctors with chronic obstructive pulmonary
> disease (COPD).  See:
> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chronic_obstructive_pulmonary_disease
> Are you ready to quit smoking, yet?

I have not really been monitoring this or really any other mailing list for some
time, but I can't stay silent. I strongly commend Rick for writing the previous
post, which said exactly what I personally wanted to say, but in a more
articulate and eloquent manner than my capabilities permit. I had not actually
realized that David was finally successful in quitting because I have been so
self-absorbed this year. I had a sinking feeling about his state of being even
before he entered the hospital, and maybe that might have been a factor in my
repeatedly failing to actively follow his day-to-day condition; I don't know.

I am a lifelong non-smoker, and I have always been paranoid about the health
effects on friends and relatives who do smoke, but the outcasting of smokers in
our society in recent years nevertheless irked me very much. I also did a few
rather shameful things in my life in attempts to encourage my brother, our now
departed friend's namesake, to quit, which he eventually did without my
involvement. He had been a rather heavy smoker from the age of 13 or 14, and
much of that time, a person with little interest in quitting. My mother,
despite her own strong concerns over that, actually took up smoking herself at
approximately David's age, which she had never expected to do, and quit a few
short years later. Her best friend of many years (relatively recently retired
long-time editor of the SFJCC's New Life newsletter Mara Stolina) never did quit
until suffering a stroke earlier this year that left her unable to speak beyond
laboriously making very simple requests.

How conflicted I am on this matter is evidenced by my own distress over being
irked by the very slight preachiness in the tone of Rick's message. You see, the
friend-for-life I thus far unrequitedly love with all my heart (one Brittany Lee
Gallagher of Titusville, FL) happens to be a smoker, and I would never dare wish
for her to attempt to quit prior to developing a substitute for this very
valuable coping mechanism. When used as a drug, tobacco is a health tradeoff,
just like any other drug. That said, I must also emphasize that contributing to
her developing a substitute coping mechanism as quickly as possible is a high
priority for me. It's pretty important to me that she outlive me. She was the
first phone call I made upon learning yesterday of David's death through the
persistence of John Regan, for which he has my gratitude, and Rick was the
second, but I now wish that perhaps those two calls might have been
chronologically reversed, due to my having heard from Rick some of the things he
later wrote in the previous message. The road not taken...

David's smoking habit was a rather extreme one, and none of us can doubt that he
would still be with us if not for the damage it did to his health. The fact that
I can accurately label his habit "extreme" in the modern day should boggle the
mind when one takes into consideration the fact that prior to the 1920's,
smoking more than one or two _individual_ cigarettes a _day_ would have been
considered a very heavy habit. However, the business of tobacco-selling then
went all peanut-butter-in-my-chocolate/chocolate-in-my-peanut-butter about
discovering Madison Avenue, and the rest is history...

/me continues sobbing

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