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Barry Lewis

Smoking: Is it worth it?

Barry Lewis
Posted 1/20/23

It’s tough watching the new anti-smoking commercial. 

You’ve seen it.  

Young boy's voice sings: "Oh my darlin', oh my darlin', oh my darlin' Clementine, you are lost and …

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Barry Lewis

Smoking: Is it worth it?


It’s tough watching the new anti-smoking commercial. 

You’ve seen it.  

Young boy's voice sings: "Oh my darlin', oh my darlin', oh my darlin' Clementine, you are lost and gone forever, dreadful sorry Clementine" showing scenes of mother and son at an arcade, making cookies, and watching TV.  

As the spot progresses his mother is getting progressively sicker, ultimately showing her with an oxygen tank. Finally, the mother is in a hospital bed, her son crying beside her. The spot ends with the mother and son again at the arcade before she got sick but pulling a cigarette from a pack. 

Powerful. Heart-wrenching. 

Our granddaughter was with us this weekend and when the commercial came on Bonnie started to sing the song, getting Catherine’s attention. She’s about the same age as the boy.  

Catherine is pretty smart. Like most kids her age she’s like a sponge, repeating words and actions she sees and hears.   

Bonnie explained that little boy is sad because his mommy got sick from smoking. Never mentioning death. I asked her to take a few breaths and imagine not being able to breathe. That’s what smoking can do to you. We told her that neither of her parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles smoke. She should never smoke. 

We will keep reminding her of that message.

I have little tolerance for smokers. Anger at those who never even attempt to quit and hatred for those who consider the effects of secondhand smoke some urban myth. Sorry, but like so many, I've been burned by cigarettes.  

The sounds of my childhood were filled with my Aunt Barbara and Grandpa Max’s hacking, raspy, irritating smokers’ coughs that had me thinking at any moment they’d bring up one of their blackened lungs. 

My Mom heard her older sister and father choking between puffs, but she kept on lighting up. 

When Mom died my brother Jason and I found shoeboxes full of the trading stamps that came with every pack and carton of cigarettes she bought. 

Mom smoked Raleigh. Dad smoked Kools. Grandpa Max smoked Pall Malls. I couldn’t tell you their favorite food. 

In each box, Mom had stacks of these stamps, each wrapped with a rubber band and a paper noting how many stamps were in the stack with a date. There were several boxes, each full of neat, well-organized stamps. 

If Mom was anything, she was very tidy and well organized, and, for most of her adult life, a very heavy smoker. There were tens of thousands of these stamps. 

The idea was you could trade a certain number of stamps and get a prize. I don’t think Mom ever traded her stamps in for anything. She had enough to get a boat. Instead, her prize for smoking all those cigarettes was asthma, a weakened heart and a tombstone at the cemetery in Liberty. Mom was just 69. 

She hadn’t smoked in the last 15 years of her life. I was proud of her for that. But unfortunately, it couldn’t erase the damage that a half century of inhaling secondhand smoke, and her own nicotine had done to her lungs.  

My Dad never stopped smoking. Even after heart attacks and strokes. He died less than a year before my mom. He was just 73. 

We tried to figure out how many cigarettes she smoked to get all those stamps. How many in a day? In a year? Probably started when she was in her teens. God, what a waste. 

You want to see your children graduate? Dance at their wedding? Sing to your grandchild? Quit smoking today.  

Visit www.waytoquit.org for help. 


Barry Lewis is a longtime journalist and author who lives with his wife Bonnie in the Town of Neversink. He can be reached at      barrylewisscdemocrat@gmail.com.


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