I: Under what circumstances did you smoke for the first time, including where you were and your age?
H: I was 11 years-old when I began to smoke. Wow [Gasp], it’s been 50 years! I smoked for the
first time as a dare. I was hanging out at the baseball field with a couple of my friends and a couple of boys who were a little older. We were told that if we smoked with them, we could play on their team in a pick-up game that was going to occur soon. We all smoked, we all played, and we all kept on smoking after that. [Sigh] All of the kids, 11, 12, and older smoked. Many of the girls didn’t start until 14 or so because they were afraid that they would get into trouble. It was fun to be sneaky and get away with it. [Laughs] I think I enjoyed the excitement of doing it more than anything at first, probably for a while. It took all I had in me not to throw up the first few days when I did it. [Shakes head back and forth, saying ‘no’] The one kid I was with did, and we all teased him for it all summer.
I = When do you smoke, and when do you think that you smoke the most?
H = I smoke first thing in the morning, last thing at night, after every meal, and when I’m in the
car. I also smoke when I need to wait, when I get upset, and when I have a tight deadline at
work. [Shakes head up and down] I smoke whenever I’m not the one who is driving, no matter how short the trip is in the car. If I’m driving from one bank branch to another for work, and they are only 10-15 minutes apart, I might not bother, especially if the weather is bad, because I usually leave the window down when I smoke. Otherwise, I have to wash the windows more often, and that’s a pain. [Sighs]
I = Have any people that are significant in your life influenced your smoking habits?
H = Originally, my siblings all smoked. Now, only one of the five do, but two have died before the age of 50 with heart attacks. [Sighs and shakes head back and forth] My wife also smoked. She stopped 20 years ago and I know she wants me to stop. No one wants me to keep smoking, but I do. My children always complained about me smoking after my wife stopped. I guess they noticed some of the differences. They told me it was smelly, dirty, and gave me bad breath. [Sighs] I used to have a lot of friends at work that I would go outside with to take a smoke break. I work mostly in eight branches now, and in some of them I am the only one that I know of who smokes. Also, I no longer can smoke in the front of the work buildings, it’s always around the back door. I feel sometimes like a second class person or a criminal. I almost enjoy going to a particular branch because the manager smokes so we can complain about the policies. [Laughs and slaps his hand on his knee] At first, we could say we were getting picked on by the bank, but now it’s the law.
I = How do you feel when you smoke?
H = Smoking helps me to relax when I have deadlines at work or I’m upset. It helps me calm down after meals and before bed. It’s the best way I know to relax.[Shakes head up and down, Sighs] Smoking is the best relaxation tool that is always available, inexpensive, to a point, readily available, and you can take cigarettes with you anywhere, [Shakes head up and down] but you might have to go outside to use them. Now that on campuses of all kinds state wide tobacco is banned, how are teachers who smoke supposed to handle a stressful day calm down, relax, and refocus. [Shakes head back and forth] Now hospitals are becoming smoke free too. A nurse or doctor that just had a traumatic situation is supposed to go down the block if they want a cigarette? If you need to relax, there should be a place to do it. When I was in the hospital, I was a hostage. There isn’t even a smoking room anymore. [Shakes head back and forth] Each floor used to have one. I had a heart attack. I get told to relax. I smoke to relax. I get told I can’t smoke, but I’m in the hospital for the longest two days of my life.
I = Why did you initially begin to smoke, 50 years ago?
H = Everyone else seemed to be smoking. [Shakes head up and down] The kids a few years older than me were and I wanted to hang out with them. Back then, no one knew that it could hurt you. It was something we could do and get away with it. My mother would pay me with a pack of cigarettes if I had to watch my youngest brother or sister. [Laughs] I didn’t mind. It was easy to get them after she found out. [Still laughing]
I = How do you feel when you can’t have a cigarette?
H = When malls, food places, and other places like that banned smoking, I stopped going out much for a few years. I don’t like not being able to smoke in my office at work anymore, and that’s been the rule for about 20 years. [Shakes head back and forth] I do not like the public deciding what I can’t do. On the other hand, I stopped smoking in the house after my first grandchild was born. I don’t want my second hand smoke to bother my grandkids. [Shakes head up and down] I’m the only person they know who does smoke. It was awful when I was in the hospital and there is absolutely no-where to go. If you go outside of the hospital to smoke, you are considered to be discharged against medical advice. If that happens, you can’t get treated and your insurance company might refuse to pay for your stay. [Shakes head back and forth] It’s a situation where the smoker can absolutely not win. [Chuckles] There is no justice for the smoker in the medical system. The medical facility treats smoking as a crime even though the legal system says that if you are 18 you can buy cigarettes and as far as I know only New Jersey actually has a law making it illegal for minors to smoke.
I = Have you ever thought about quitting?
H = I’ve thought about quitting every day since my wife did. I think that around 1978. [Sighs, then chuckles] We moved into our current house in 1981 and she had stopped before that. I have tried, but I never last for more than a few hours. I’ve never made it through a day. Wait, [Big smile] I did when I was a hostage in the hospital. [Laughs] I felt miserable. [Still laughing] People told me I was miserable too.
I = How do you think smoking affects your health?
H = I know smoking affects my health. Every morning I listen to myself make that smokers cough noise for 15 to 20 minutes or so. When I get sick, it gets harder to breath. My wife can do so many more physical things than I can, and we’re the same age. I’m afraid to quit because people who do get moody, nasty, and gain weight. I was moody in the hospital. I already need to lose 80 pounds. [Laughs and rubs his belly] But, now that there are products available to help me stop, and after talking to you and having to think about all of this, I should give them a try. My family would be very proud of me. I would be happy too.
I questioned a 61 year-old male who has been smoking for 50 years.