Health + Fitness

Smoking makes your life go up in smoke

‘Every couple weeks I drop by the barber shop to get my beard trimmed on Detroit’s west side.

The other day a heavyset man stood up after getting a trim and began coughing. It wasn’t a small cough. It was a bend over and gasping cough. It was deep and raspy. It was so nasty I can’t even describe it.

“Excuse me,” he said before leaving.

The two barbers looked at one another and smiled.

“You know where he’s going,” one said.

He was leaving to have a smoke outside.

“The dude is killing himself,” one barber said.

My question is why?

Why do people continue to smoke when they’ve got obvious physical ailments? This man is sick. He knows it although he appears to be in denial. The people who are in contact with him know it, but he does nothing about it.

Cigarette smoking is the most preventable cause of death, according to the American Lung Association. About 440,000 of the 2.5 million annual deaths are caused by the harmful effects of cigarette smoking.

It leads to coronary disease, stroke, high blood pressure and some doctors have told me that it can could make your veins inelastic and brittle. That does not sound good.

We’ve done a lot with diet and exercise in these columns, but it really does you no good to work out three times a week, watch what you eat and then relax on the porch with a pack of smokes.

I am convinced that the guy in the barber shop has more than one vice. He was also short and heavy. He had that pear-shaped body that is not good for you. I am guessing he is knocking down his share of fried foods also.

He probably reached a point where he does not care, likely feeling he has done irreparable harm to his body and simply saying he is going to enjoy himself until his final days. I don’t know if it is too late for him. But I cannot imagine laying on my death bed thinking if only I had cut down on cigarettes, I could have prolonged the arrival of this day.

I do not smoke and I do not understand the addiction. But I got a glimpse of it when my Uncle Zeke lay on his death bed. He smoked and drank a lot and suffered a stroke about three years ago. By the time he landed in the hospital, he could not speak.

But one day he grunted and held two fingers up toward his lips as if there were an imaginary cigarette in them. He wanted one last smoke for the road.

I, of course, did not give him the final smoke.

When we are kids we want to smoke because it is “cool.” Some adults never lose that. I know several people – mostly women – who only smoke when they go to the bar. They are part of the reason why some establishments have lost business during the one year of the smoking ban in Michigan restaurants and bars.

They don’t smoke because of an addiction. They smoke because they believe it makes them cool and it adds to the flavor or socializing and drinking.

During my single days, those women were usually eliminated from my romantic lists. I didn’t do it for health reasons. I was turned off after kissing a the first woman who smoked. It was nasty. But I did like one woman who smoked. I gave it a try.

After a while, I asked if she’d ever consider quitting. She said no. I disappeared.

I cannot stop thinking about that man in the barber shop. Can he make the cough go away? Is he at a point of no return?

What if he’s not?

I hope he wakes up and stops smoking.

And if that cough goes away, maybe it is not too late.

You can reach Terry Foster at or (313) 222-1494. You can follow him on Facebook and