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Glazer: Cost of smoking goes beyond the price of a pack
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I grew up among smokers. Both grandfathers were Prince Albert men, rolling their own cigarettes in tissue-thin paper filled with shreds of tobacco. I kept my preschool treasures in one of the empty red tins with its hinged lid and drawing of the portly prince on the front.

My father was a Winston smoker. Almost every dad I knew smoked. Most of the moms did, too.

My grandmother dipped snuff. She used some product with the word "Rose" in the name. Tuber Rose?

Anyway, it came in a jar that could be used as a drinking glass when the snuff was gone. I still have some of them in my cupboard. My grandmother never developed the emphysema that plagued my grandfather, but then again, I never knew her when she had any teeth. One way or another, we all pay to play.

I started smoking in college. I guess it was a natural progression given my family history. It may have also been due in part because I started college when I was 16. I was eager to look mature and sophisticated. I'm sure I failed miserably in both attempts.

I smoked for almost 15 years. I favored the "girly" products that rode in on the heels of the women's movement: Eve cigarettes with flowers printed on the filter, Virginia Slims with their ironic promotion of sporting events. Like any professional tennis player could use their product and still compete effectively. For more formal occasions there was the St. Mortiz brand with the shiny gold band. Classy. Real classy.

I puffed happily along until I was 30. Like many smokers, I blithely ignored the warnings about tobacco use. I watched one grandfather die of lung cancer and still I smoked. Then I decided to have a baby.

That was the deal breaker. I vaguely knew of problems created by smoking during pregnancy. In those pre-Google days, I went to the library and spent an afternoon reading about the dangers to the fetus when expectant mothers smoke: There's a greater risk of stillbirth and premature birth, low birth weight, all sorts of complications. Children whose mothers smoked during pregnancy tended to have lower reading and math scores, more asthma, behavior problems and hyperactivity.

Uh-oh. No way was I going to set my baby up for failure before she was even born.

So on Sept. 14, 1984, at 10:15 a.m., I smoked my last cigarette. I know that because I still have the page from my calendar.

The first few days were awful, punctuated by jitters, insomnia, fatigue and extreme irritability, the kind that can lead to road rage and head-butting people who have more than 10 items in the express lane. Gratefully, within 72 hours the symptoms lessened and within a week, I was well on the way to being a nonsmoker. I've since given birth to two bright, healthy girls.

I've never smoked again, although I still sometimes have vivid dreams of buying a pack of cigarettes (in my dream they still cost 75 cents) and lighting up. I can feel the heat of the match and the smoke filling my lungs. I wake up awash in guilt until I can convince myself that it was only a dream.

Let me reiterate: One way or another, we all pay to play. I spent 20 years as a nonsmoker, thinking I'd dodged the COPD bullet and then it happened. I was suddenly hit with asthma. One day I was fine and the next I was in my doctor's office complaining of an elephant sitting on my chest, playing a whistle in one of my lungs. I left armed with medicines to inhale twice a day and a rescue inhaler for when things got really bad.

And believe me, they can get really bad.

All sorts of things can set off an attack: hot weather, cold weather, certain perfumes (those hawked by Celine Dion and Britney Spears seem to be the worst offenders) and, most of all, cigarette smoke. I can't remember the last time I was around someone when they were actively smoking. It's the secondhand stuff that gets me. Even riding in a car with someone who is a smoker can trigger an attack.

Last week, a woman brought some items to trade in my resale clothing store. As soon as I smelled the smoke, I closed the bag and told her as politely as I could that I couldn't buy her things because they were a "little smoky." She went ballistic, insisting that her clothes didn't smell and how dare I, yada, yada, yada.
I wasn't listening. I was too busy digging in my pocket for an inhaler.

It saddens me to see young people puffing away. It infuriates me to see adults driving down the road, cigarettes hanging out of their mouths as two or three kids hop around in the back seat. And, most of all, it breaks my heart to see a pregnant woman open up her purse to reveal a pack of cigarettes next to her wallet.

Some things in life just can't be justified. Smoking during pregnancy is at the top of the list. It's a nasty game to play and it's unconscionable to make an unborn baby pay.

Teressa Glazer is a Gainesville business-woman. Her column appears every other Friday and on