One thousand, four hundred and sixty days adds up to four years. Four years. It has been four years since I smoked a cigarette. I used to listen to people talk about how they quit and how long they had been smoke free. On my first day as a newly committed non-smoker I really didn’t believe my quit would last very long.
I couldn’t see many things as a dedicated cigarette smoker. After the toxic blue smoke cleared I saw how extremely disrespectful and selfish I was. My entire life revolved around cigarettes and where I could smoke them!
But that is the nature of an addict - the fix is always primary. When you are addicted to a substance, legal or illegal, it rules your entire life along with the lives of your loved ones. Life is secondary to getting the fix.
When you are a cigarette smoker you really do not care about the people around you. This is especially true for those of you who smoke indoors and in your vehicles. All the people in your home and vehicle are forced to smoke with you. Let me say that again, when you smoke cigarettes inside your home and vehicle your family is also forced to inhale those poisonous fumes.
Children who live with indoor cigarette smokers visit the hospital more often than those of non-smokers. Children who live in the toxic polluted homes with smokers have more upper respiratory and ear infections than other children. Many of our children already cough like a cigarette smoker!
I believe it should be against tribal law to smoke inside our homes or inside public offices and buildings. Sadly, as tribal nations our Indian Reorganization Act governments are often far behind the rest of the world in terms of creating, approving and enforcing laws promoting good health.
For example, I thought it was a fabulous step forward when the voters of South Dakota overwhelmingly voted to ban indoor cigarette smoking. The casinos in Deadwood are no longer filled with cigarette smoke.
But our tribal casinos are still hazardous to our health because they are filled with cigarette smoke. Don’t let a designated non-smoking corner in the casino fool you. The smoke from cigarettes in an enclosed building floats everywhere.
Rosebud’s Tribal Headquarters is not a smoke-free building. Tribal employees and elected officials smoke their cigarettes inside the tribal building despite a sign on the door which proclaims a smoke free environment.
But until you stop smoking you will vehemently defend whatever right you think to have to force non-smokers to inhale your deadly second hand cigarette smoke. Have you heard about third hand smoke? I knew about third hand smoke long before I quit. It is the residual from your cigarette smoke which is left behind inside your homes, offices and vehicles.
I can see it on the walls and windows of homes where indoor smokers live. It is the yellow film that comes off the inside of your car windows when you clean them. It gets in everything and stays there.
There are those anti-smoking commercials I watch on the television networks now where children are talking about how they need to quit smoking. These are the children who live with cigarette smoking parents. The one that really hits home is where you can see the child breathing in the second hand smoke in the air in his home.
Ninety percent of the cigarette smoke you inhale is trapped inside your lungs. And 90% of the second hand smoke your child is forced to inhale also stays in their lungs. Does this sound like child abuse?
People tell me they need to quit. Others say they want to quit. There are those of you who say you don’t want to quit. You like smoking. I never liked smoking. I never enjoyed being chained to those cigarettes. I was a prisoner in a cloud of blue smoke.
Quitting the cigarettes was one of the hardest things I ever did. Like many reservation children I began smoking at a very young age. There was a time when underage smokers could buy their own cigarettes and they were a whole lot cheaper than they are now.
It’s funny that people on the rez complain about having no money or no job or no this or that. Yet they come up with enough cash to pay for those cigarettes. I know how it is. Some of you will buy cigarettes before you will buy food.
“In South Dakota, 17.5% of the adult population (aged 18+ years)—over 106,000 individuals—are current cigarette smokers. Across all states, the prevalence of cigarette smoking among adults ranges from 9.3% to 26.5%.” www.cdc.gov
American Indians have the highest rate of cigarette smokers in South Dakota. Nearly half (46.4%) of all cigarette smokers in South Dakota are American Indian people. We all lament the poor health conditions of our people living on the rez but not many will quit smoking their cigarettes. Children who grow up in a cloud of smoke have a higher chance of becoming adult nicotine addicts.
I never knew how much cigarette smokers reeked until I quit. Cigarette smokers stink something awful. Yuck! It’s very unattractive to see people smoking cigarettes. And when you smoke in your home or car with your children they will stink just like you do.
The Lakota people once considered tobacco sacred but those days are obviously gone. People talk about elders and children being precious. I hear all the time how we must treasure the oldest and youngest members of our tribe.
But it is highly hypocritical to say the children are sacred while you are blowing smoke at them in their own home. If you must smoke then do it outside. Designate both your home and vehicle as non-smoking areas. Your children deserve to breathe clear air.
Four years. I have saved a total of $7,300 by not smoking 29,200 cigarettes.
Vi Waln is Sicangu Lakota and an enrolled member of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe.
Her columns were awarded first place in the South Dakota Newspaper Association
2010 contest. She is Editor of the Lakota Country Times and can be reached
through email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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