“Smoke, smoke, smoke that cigarette
Puff, puff, puff until you smoke yourself to death.”
-- Lyrics by Merle Travis (1947)
For some reason, those lyrics and the catchy tune as sung by Phil Harris (this version is by Tex Williams) have been running through my mind recently. Perhaps it’s the recent no-smoking laws that recently took effect here in Iowa. Or maybe it’s my own personal history with tobacco that has coaxed the perpetual sound loop from the deep recesses of my memory.
I haven’t smoked in over 35 years but for eight years prior to that, I was a virtual puffing machine. Unlike many of my fellow smokers, I wasn’t raised in a cigarette household. I’ve never known my mother to smoke anything and my dad had a nasty cigar habit that more accurately steered me and my brothers away from tobacco rather than lured us to it.
My paternal grandfather was a dedicated pipe smoker, though. That was a major factor in his premature death from cancer and the likely culprit in the emphysema that plagued his widow, my grandmother, in subsequent years.
I was a relative late convert to the evils of tobacco, taking up the habit after high school. I more than made up for the late start with a smoking frenzy that peaked at more than two packs of cigarette a day just a few years later.
With that danged song spinning through my brain, I’ve given my smoking life some thought lately and will be writing about it this week. I’ll tell you how I got hooked against my better judgment, how it affected my social status and why and how I came to quit.