CNN: Nine powerful stories of smokers’ last cigarettes

Awesome, poignant article by


For the Great American Smokeout last week, interviewed 9 former smokers about their final cigarette. Most every ex-smoker can remember their last cigarette, when they finally had had enough and quashed one out for the final time. Most smokers can remember their last cigarette because it usually takes three, four or even more tries to quit, and when the day comes that quitting finally works is a big event in their lives.

So, CNN collected some awesome quotes from these nine people, citing everything from existentialism to their families as reasons for quitting. Let me share some of them:

A fellow workmate made a profound statement to me: ‘You know, Bob, there is never a good day to quit smoking, is there?’ That hit me like a ton of bricks.

— Bob Miller, last cigarette: April 1, 2006


Now, when I feel that urge, I think about two small faces, and how I’d answer them if they asked me why I was sick or why I was dying. I’d have no one to blame but myself.

— Beth Woods, last cigarette, Aug. 5, 2008


I remember a trip to the ER with a bad case of bronchitis. This was the first time that my husband had seen me that sick. The look of panic and helplessness convinced me that I had to stop.

— Lisa Gonsalves, last cigarette 2005

Gonsalves’ bronchitis was so severe, she had to have tubes inserted into her lungs to drain the fluid and her chest “cracked open” to clean out her lungs.

“I can’t say that I don’t crave it – especially when I am stressed out,” Gonsalves told “I do have to constantly remind myself of the pain and the feeling of drowning because I couldn’t breathe to keep me from running out and getting a pack. It is a very mental game I play every day but I get stronger and stronger every day without a cigarette.”


When I smoked my last one, it was more of a release, rather than freaking out about how I was going to deal with it.


— John Turner, last cigarette 2011


My wife got the news she was finally pregnant. The very moment she told me I crushed my pack of cigarettes up and threw them away.

— Martin C. Grube, last cigarette 1983.


Then the story of Kara Wethington, who quit after her 66-year-old grandmother died.

“I loved smoking. The social aspect of it, the taste of it, the way it made me feel — everything about it was romantic to me.”

But the death of her grandmother was the “straw that broke the camel’s back” soon after Wethington herself was diagnosed with an aggressive form of strep throat, and she hasn’t looked back for 13 years.

“I’ve had smoking dreams that felt so intimately real that the line of reality and fantasy blurred out my memory. I know I didn’t smoke but sometimes those dreams feel really good and sometimes with real regret.”

(Interesting, I never heard of this dreaming of smoking before, but another ex-smoker said the same thing.

“It took me years to stop dreaming about having a cigarette and sometimes I would wake up and not be sure if I had smoked.”

— Linda Parker

Disney smoking ban means no smoking for Walt Disney


Here’s quite a weird story. Because Disney has banned smoking in its movies (Ironically, lots of smoking in Pinocchio and 101 Dalmatians), in a new about Disney founder Walt Disney, smoking cannot be shown, even though Walt Disney was a four- to five-pack-a-day smoker who always had a cigarette in his hand.

(Walt Disney also died of lung cancer at 65. Not passing judgement, just passing on the facts.)

The Walt Disney movie, called “Saving Mr. Banks,” stars Tom Hanks as Walt Disney. It takes place in the early 60s, at the height of the Cigarette Empire, during the making of “Mary Poppins.” Supposedly, the one scene where they got away with showing Walt smoking is when someone walks into his office and he is seen putting a cigarette out in an ashtray.


Smoking has been all but removed from PG-13 movies because of pressure put on the MPAA a few years ago to crack down on all the smoking in kid and teen movies (I wrote a few emails myself). There was actually MORE smoking in PG-13 movies in 2008 than in 1998, when the Master Settlement Agreement supposedly abolished tobacco payouts to studios for product placement of cigarettes in teen movies. In my opinion, it was Hollywood simply stuck in a rut with the idea that smoking was cool and smoking made its characters more cool — never mind the fact that Humphrey Bogart died of throat cancer in his 50s, Hollywood still considered smoking cool. The reason this was such an important issue is many studies and surveys showed that where teens got the idea that smoking is cool came from smoking looking cool in Hollywood movies.

The MPAA hem and hawed and obviously was afraid to make a change, and a number of influential Hollywood directors railed against the ruling (James Cameron is one who was annoyed by it), but eventually the MPAA put in a milquetoast ruling that “pervasive” smoking would result in an R rating, unless it was in a historic setting.


As I hoped, that milquetoast ruling was enough to convince most studios to eliminate smoking in PG-13 movies, because they simply don’t want to bang heads with the MPAA over the definition of “pervasive” or “historical.” (Keep in mind how movie ratings work. Ultimately, movie ratings are all about marketing, and studios determine what the rating they want for the movie before production even begins — basically R ratings are avoided at all costs because they limit the audience to adults and parents with kids. Teens unattended by adults are a huge movie market.)

Anyway, I digress (sorry, I find this stuff SO fascinating). Disney likely could have gotten away with showing plenty of smoking in “Saving Mr. Banks,” because Jesus Christ, 1965 was the height of the smoking era, when more than 60 percent of men smoked, and therefore, it would have fit under the “historic” determination. However, this is a studio-wide policy of absolutely no smoking in Disney movies, end of discussion.

As an aside, recently read a story about a study showing that PG-13 movies actually have as much gun violence if not more than R rated movies. I get this a lot when I talk about smoking and movie ratings … “well, why is it OK to show violence in PG-13 movies?” Yeah, yeah, I know, you’re not wrong … there is a shocking amount of violence in PG-13 movies, but that’s got nothing to do with Hollywood’s long and sordid history of pimping cigarettes to the public (and specifically kids.) Totally another extremely valid, yet separate battle to fight, and I can’t fight every battle.

Twelve finalists overlooked for the Baseball Hall of Fame

dave parker

Baseball has three different panels it uses for selecting people to the Hall of Fame — the Baseball Writers of America, the Veterans Committee (which votes in people who played 50+ years ago who were overlooked for the HofF and a new panel I never heard of before called the Expansion Committee, which looks at players overlooked by the writers after 1973.

This year, there are 12 names on the Expansion Committee’s list: Dave Concepcion, Bobby Cox, Steve Garvey, Tommy John, Tony La Russa, Billy Martin, Marvin Miller, Dave Parker, Dan Quisenberry, Ted Simmons, George Steinbrenner and Joe Torre.

Which ones do I think deserve to be in the Hall (and am surprised are not in the Hall?). I love these sorts of debates. They’re so fun:

1) Dave Parker. I think he’s a definite Hall of Famer and I’m surprised he didn’t get more attention from the writers. He was a .290 lifetime hitter, hit 339 home runs in a deadball era, drove in 1,493 runs, won two batting titles, won an MVP and came in second in the MVP race another year (and came in third in the MVP race two others times), had 2,712 total hits and had a solid career OPS of .810. He also made 7 All-Star teams. He also won two championships with Pittsburgh and Oakland. He was simply one of the most feared hitters of the 1970s.


2) Joe Torre. No brainer. A lot of people don’t realise that Torre was a borderline Hall of Famer as a player. He hit .297 for his career with 252 home runs, a batting title and an MVP — and 9 All-Star games. He then went on to win 2,326 games as a manager with 4 World Series titles and 6 AL pennants.


3) Tommy John. Tommy John I believe has the most wins as an eligible pitcher without being in the Hall of Fame — 288 (Ok, some guy in the 1800s has 297 and he isn’t in — can you figure out who, Steve Lardy?). He won 20 games three times, and twice finished second in the Cy Young voting and made the All-Star team four times. If you put Burt Blyleven in with 287 wins (and zero Cy Youngs and two measly All Star appearances), then Tommy John deserves to go in too. And he had a breakthrough surgery named for him.

4) Tony La Russa. Unlike Torre, La Russa was not an outstanding player. But, as a manager, he won 6 pennants and 3 World Series (with Oakland and St. Louis) and won 2,728 games, third all time.

I think these four are all no-brainers. The next few are a little tougher.

5) Bobby Cox. Bobby Cox won 2,504 games as a manager, fourth all-time behind La Russa. However, he didn’t have a lot of postseason success. In 30 years as a manager, he won 15 division titles, but only won 5 pennants and only 1 World Series. He made the postseason 16 times total but managed only one World Series title in those 16 opportunities, in other words. I guess he gets in based on the 2,504 wins, but it appears to me he got outmanaged quite a bit in postseason.

6) Steve Garvey. Garvey is very borderline. He hit .294, won an MVP, hit over .300 seven times and made 10 All-Star teams, hit 272 home runs and had just an OK OPS of .775. He basically had eight really good years from age 24-31, but after the age of 31, his numbers declined and he became a pretty mediocre player and he was done at 37. I don’t think 8 good years and 7 or 8 mediocre years quite gets you in the Hall of Fame. I think he comes up a bit short.

7) Dan Quisenberry. I personally have a bias against relief pitchers in the Hall of Fame. The only eligible relief pitchers I think belong in the Hall are Mariano Rivera and maybe Trevor Hoffman. It’s just such a specialised position, and saves are the most overrated statistic in baseball. Quisenberry led the American League in saves five times and four times finished in the top 3 for the Cy Young award. But, his career was short –12 years, and in only 10 of those years did he appear in more than 32 games or 40 innings. Again, not enough for the Hall of Fame, especially for a relief pitcher.

8) Dave Concepcion. I also have a bias against good players who got a lot of attention because they played on great teams. Concepcion’s offensive numbers are simply too mediocre — .267 batting average, 101 home runs, two full seasons hitting over .300, a horrid career OPS of .679. He did win 5 Gold Gloves and made the All-Star team 9 times. But, he didn’t win 13 Gold Gloves like Ozzie Smith. So, I think he is primarily on the list for playing most of his career on powerful Cincinnati Reds teams.

9) Ted Simmons. I have to be honest, I never heard of him before. I looked up his numbers and they were very solid — .285 lifetime hitter, 248 home runs. He did drive in 90 or more runs 8 times. But, the highest he ever finished in the MVP race was sixth and he never hit more than 26 home runs in a season. Not good enough for the Hall of Fame, IMO.

The rest) The rest of the eligible are non-players, Steinbrenner was a longtime owner of the Yankees, Billy Martin was an average player but is on the list for being a longtime manager and Marvin Miller is a longtime union leader. I don’t have any strong opinions about whether they belong in the Hall, other than Marvin Miller was a big architect of free agency and therefore changed the game dramatically. I don’t think owners should go in, personally.

It will be interesting to see how my picks match up against the Expansion panel, which is mostly made up of former players — so I guess their opinion matters more than mine.

Why I am boycotting “Ender’s Game”

enders-game-tvWhen I was about 12 or 13, one of my favourite books was “Ender’s Game,” written by Orson Scott Card. It won both the Nebula and the Hugo awards for best science fiction novel the year it came out — 1985. It’s a brutal story about kids drafted into a war against aliens called “The Buggers” (oh, the irony) that has very much a surprise twist at the end.

Ender’s Game led to a number of sequels. I think I gave up after the second book, “Speaker for the Dead,” as the books got more obtuse and harder to read (much like those endless “Dune” novels that became more and more unreadable.)

Another one of my favourite books is another Orson Scott Card book, “Pastwatch: The Redemption of Christopher Columbus.” A fascinating story about Christopher Columbus and how his discovery of the Western World led to the ultimate downfall of society.

I won’t be reading or buying any more Orson Scott Card novels, nor will I be going to see Ender’s Game.

ender's gameAbout two years ago, I started reading stories about Card’s rampant homophobia, just ugly, ugly stuff. Apparently, he’s harboured these opinions for many years, but in the past four or five years, has become more outspoken. Card is a Mormon and unfortunately, while his novels appear to be open-minded, he is a hateful, bigoted little man. Such an irony that one of his novels is called “Xenophobia.”

Card also belongs to some right-wing anti-gay marriage organisation called “The National Organization for Marriage.”

Now, I suppose it’s a free country and people have a right to believe what they want, but Card’s comments go beyond the pale, and exhibit just outright bigotry. If he wants the right to be a bigot, then fine, I have the right to not buy his books nor be a patron to his movies.

Here is an example of some of the swill Card has said and has written over the past several years about homosexuals (and frankly, Card has written so extensively over the years about homosexuality that it becomes painfully apparent he is bloody obsessed with homosexuality … to the degree that I believe it’s likely he himself is a closet case.)

Instead they are attempting to strike a death blow against the well-earned protected status of our, and every other, real marriage.

They steal from me what I treasure most, and gain for themselves nothing at all. They won’t be married. They’ll just be playing dress-up in their parents’ clothes.”

The hypocrites of homosexuality are, of course, already preparing to answer these statements by accusing me of homophobia, gay-bashing, bigotry, intolerance; but nothing that I have said here — and nothing that has been said by any of the prophets or any of the Church leaders who have dealt with this issue — can be construed as advocating, encouraging, or even allowing harsh personal treatment of individuals who are unable to resist the temptation to have sexual relations with persons of the same sex. On the contrary, the teachings of the Lord are clear in regard to the way we must deal with sinners. Christ treated them with compassion — as long as they confessed that their sin was a sin. Only when they attempted to pretend that their sin was righteousness did he harshly name them for what they were: fools, hypocrites, sinners. Hypocrites because they were unwilling to change their behavior and instead attempted to change the law to fit it; fools because they thought that deceiving an easily deceivable society would achieve the impossible goal of also deceiving God.

Now, there is a myth that homosexuals are “born that way,” and we are pounded with this idea so thoroughly that many people think that somebody, somewhere, must have proved it.

In fact what evidence there is suggests that if there is a genetic component to homosexuality, an entire range of environmental influences are also involved. While there is no scientific research whatsoever that indicates that there is no such thing as a borderline child who could go either way.

Those who claim that there is “no danger” and that homosexuals are born, not made, are simply stating their faith.

The dark secret of homosexual society — the one that dares not speak its name — is how many homosexuals first entered into that world through a disturbing seduction or rape or molestation or abuse, and how many of them yearn to get out of the homosexual community and live normally.

Please remember that for the mildest of comments critical of the political agenda of homosexual activists, I have been called a “homophobe” for years.

This is a term that was invented to describe people with a pathological fear of homosexuals — the kind of people who engage in acts of violence against gays. But the term was immediately extended to apply to anyone who opposed the homosexual activist agenda in any way.

A term that has mental-health implications (homophobe) is now routinely applied to anyone who deviates from the politically correct line. How long before opposing gay marriage, or refusing to recognize it, gets you officially classified as “mentally ill”?

Ugh, I really can’t read anymore. It’s just stomach-churning. Like I said, this ‘phobe is quite literally obsessed with homosexuality. I’ve yet to meet a sincerely straight person who thinks about homosexuality as much as this guy. And there is also a painfully pathetic whiny streak through much of his writing about gays. Like a typical right-winger nut job, he embraces the victim card with great enthusiasm. Bigots love to wear the mantle of victimhood.


Several gay rights’ groups are organising boycotts of Ender’s Game, which opens in theatres this weekend. I personally can’t stomach watching the movie after reading some of the obsessive garbage this guy has written over the years about gays. Boycotting Ender’s Game will not hurt Card financially; he is an executive producer of the film, but isn’t getting any royalties from ticket sales. Still, a message can be sent that people are sick of this kind of vitriol; no matter how articulately Card writes, hate is hate. I will be checking the box office numbers this weekend and am really hoping Ender’s Game tanks. It’s gotten very mixed review — 54% positive rating on Metacritic, 63% on Rotten Tomatoes (which includes bloggers). Very few movies have made money this year because movies have gotten too stale, too expensive and people have CGI fatigue.

It was so disappointing to find out that the author of these two books I loved as a teenager was such a vile, disgusting person.