Ode to a Smoker

Posted: February 22, 2014 in Drugs/health/life
Tags: , , , , ,

Each inhale; every breath of thickened, sickly air passing through your mouth brings that smile of satisfaction to your pursed lips. Or is it a grimace? Knowing that each breath brings a chemist’s concoction of compounds into your mouth, down your throat and finding a resting place in your lungs. All three regions welcoming whatever carcinogenic particles happen to spin off and wreak havoc on the cells they encounter.

Some cells, of course, will simply die: overwhelmed by the chemical load, deprived of oxygen or by some other way, eliminated. For you, that must be the best-case scenario since these cells will not resurrect as something else, something that will continue its carnage long after it should have expired. When spontaneous apoptosis due to an overwhelming number of toxins is the most favorable outcome of an encounter with your nicotine vice, what is least favored?

There are those cells with an insatiable urge to reproduce: to copy themselves and divide until they are noticed by the body’s defenses. With luck you have a first-rate immune system and the soldiers in your blood defeat this attack, losing ranks with every successive puff. 100 cells, 1000 cells? Whatever sacrifice is needed to keep you alive, only to wrap your lips around that moistened filter and puff on that cigarette again. How many puffs a day? How many cigarettes? How many packs? How much can your defenses take before their numbers are depleted faster than they can reproduce? What if they miss a lesion? What if one cancerous cell in the lungs is all it takes for the intruder to take hold and grow? Nurtured by recruiting your own blood vessels, sending out their alien messengers that tell your body, “It’s fine, normal growth here. Just be a dear and send some more nutrients. I do, after all, share your DNA. For the most part.” But what part? And your body, recognizing a semblance of itself in the bulbous node, accommodates the request.

This relationship, a slowly growing tumor within the pleural tissue of your lung can only last so long. After a short time, the tumor begins its subjugation and your body didn’t realize it would become such an ungracious houseguest. Maybe it starts with a pain in the chest, the ball of alien cells compressing sensitive nerves. Or maybe the cough that lingers just a bit too long produced a speck of blood on that last tissue. Too bad that it’s probably too late. Not much of a warning.

But then there was that one warning. Or several. The surgeon general has become a dull hammering in the background. The gruesome but true effects of smoking printed on the cartons will become something else to look over.  I suspect it will desensitize the consumer even more.

I truly hope you enjoyed that final drag on you cigarette because it may not be your last but it could very well be the beginning of the end.


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