Ostomy Memories of Smoking


In 1977 a two-year-old girl, my daughter, saved my life. I was working long hours and smoking about three packs of cigarettes a day. Of course, in those days, it cost 50¢ per pack so it wasn’t like today when, expensive as cigarettes have become, I’d probably stop just because I’m too cheap to spend that much.
Anyway, I was completing a project and, as soon as possible, I made a mad dash for my car. It was dark and near my little girl’s bedtime. I hated that she might miss me telling her a bedtime story, our normal routine. So, despite the fact that I had only one Camel left in the pack, I did not stop for more cigarettes on the way home.
She was still up! I sat her on my lap in the living room and commenced making up a story. Today I find this unfathomably selfish and stupid but, with her on my lap, I lit my last cigarette. Continuing with the story, some of the smoke drifted into her little face.
“Oh Papa, that’s pooey,” she said, waving her tiny hand back and forth in front of her.
Thus did I experience my insight. It was the last cigarette of my life which, thanks to her complaint, has been healthier and, I’m convinced, longer than it would have been had I continued to smoke.
I have had friends who smoked cigarettes. I felt sorry for them. I wished that there was something that I could say or do to get them to stop. Every single one of them knew as well as I did how bad it was for them. Every one of them rationalized away the scientific reality that it was poisoning the organs inside their bodies. The future health problems that they would face that would be directly related to their cigarette smoking were too awful to think about and so, in fact, they refused to think about it.
This is not to mention some of the tangential negatives such as others suffering from their secondhand smoke; the waste of thousands of dollars that could be put to better use; the sour odor of stale cigarette smoke that permeated their clothing and hair and offended co-workers and friends too polite to say anything.
The health care costs of mass cigarette smoking are so huge that I suggest tobacco farming ought to be outlawed. Tobacco industry CEOs, lobbyists, & sellers of tobacco products who flaunt those laws ought to be prosecuted. Politicians who accept Big Tobacco largesse ought to be kicked out of office forever. Finally, for people too weak to stop smoking on their own, there should be mandatory residential treatment facilities funded by money from fines levied against those within and outside the tobacco industry that violate the anti-tobacco laws.
For those of you still smoking, think about the fun-filled cruise that you could take with the money you put in a jar every time that you otherwise would have purchased a pack or a carton of cigarettes. How much are they now?


Hello HenryM.
Sometimes it takes the honesty, naivety, and wisdom of a child to make us realise that most of what we do has an effect upon others.
You make some valid points about smoking, which I would endorse as a matter of principle and preference. However, one of the concepts/values I try to uphold, is that of not ‘telling’ other people what they should or should not do, because I view that as a form of ‘bullying’.
Having been involved with many people who have used all sorts of ‘substances’ as ‘props’ and ‘escape mechanisms’, to soften the frustrations of their lives, I have concluded that the choices they make, may be guided and imposed on them by social circumstances, but are, nonetheless their own choices. Even this view is tempered by the knowledge that some of these substances are physically addictive and therefore make it harder to control the ‘habit’.
On this note, I do feel strongly that tobacco and alcohol should be reclassified as class ‘A’ drugs, which would, of course, criminalise their production, distribution and unofficial use.

From my perspective, the hardest part of dealing with these people is when they have pushed away most, or all of their friends and family, and are left to die alone. Having been at the side of too many of these ‘addicts’ in their last moments, I am deeply moved when someone like yourself, has made that positive decision to take a different route in life.

Obviously, I have tried to document my thoughts on this subject in verse, so thank you once again for creating the opportunity for me to resurrect a dormant rhyme.

Best wishes


I don’t mind if people smoke
so long as they don’t make me choke,
for there are things that I might do
that people may not like me to.

I don’t mind if smoker’s smell
like they’ve been singed by fires of hell,
as long as they don’t pass it on
when they’ve passed on and now are gone.

I don’t mind if a smoker’s lung
is all clogged up with tar and dung.
This is the way they chose to go
and the true price of tobacco.

I don’t mind their emphysema
or their active myxoedema. (disease of thyroid gland)
These illnesses could be predicted
so, these things are self-inflicted.

I don’t mind their brown stained teeth
with sceptic gums that lay beneath,
or their lack of self-respect,
for this is what one would expect.

I don’t mind if they might die
and meet their maker in the sky.
You will not hear me raise my voice,
for surely this is their own choice.

I don’t mind if people smoke,
inject morphine or sniff some coke,
for addicts know the risks they take
as they put their lives at stake.

So, I don’t mind if people smoke
as long as they don’t make me choke,
for there are things that I might do
that people may not like me to.

                                    B. Withers 2013

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So, does this mean that you regard telling people to wear a mask, even if they don't want to, as bullying?  Or, can you make an exception for a public health matter where their refusal to mask up has the potential to harm others?  And are you philosophically opposed to such mandatory govt'l edicts as helmets, seat belts, and such?


I remember reading a book by a New York City cardiologist. I don't recollect the name of the book or the author. On his rounds in the evening, he entered a suite (they have them in hospitals over there) where he saw cigarettes and alcoholic drinks. When he asked what was going on, the patient he had operated on said that was his life and he could not give it up. Years later, he got a letter from his wife saying that he had passed away and thanking him for adding years to his life. In those years, he had taken her all over the world and they had a wonderful time. Perhaps if he was more careful, he would have lived longer, but who is to say that his approach to life was right or wrong. After all, there are people who refuse chemotherapy and radiation, the wonderful Jacqueline Kennedy among them, preferring a short time of freedom to a slightly longer time devoted to waiting rooms and unpleasant treatments.


Hello HenryM.
You raise an interesting dilemma, that has been a cause for cognitive dissonance for me for a number of years.
When such issues are a clear and undeniable danger to other people, then there are several alternative potential approaches.
The usual and sometimes 'acceptable' approach is for the political 'system' to deem any such activity as a 'crime' and impose appropriate 'punishments' for those who choose to break the law;
Ordinary citizens may then choose to inform on lawbreakers or even make 'citizen's arrests' if they feel strongly about the laws being broken.

I have, on many occasions, pointed out to 'offenders' (when and if I believe they are breaking the law) that this is what they are doing and, they might have to face the consequences of lawbreaking.
What happens as a result of such interactions has been most interesting and somewhat educational at times.
Quite often, the immediate response is aggressive and, it is wise to be well prepared for this; Sometimes people apologise and immediately stop whatever it is they are doing. Sometimes they simply tell me to mind my own business. There have been one or two occasions when they have misinterpreted what I have said and retort with "you have no right to tell me what to do!"
With the latter response, I immediately explain, that I would not dream of 'telling' people what they should or should not do, but I am simply informing them (in case they did not know), that they are breaking the law. Sometimes I will follow-up with a clarification of precisely which laws they are breaking. In all of these cases, the lawbreakers have paused to consider their position, as there are not many people, outside of the police force, who would be able to quote the precise laws involved.

On one occasion, when a group of rowdy teenagers were causing criminal damage to a recreation centre. I calmly pointed out that they were breaking the law. The leader of the ‘gang’ became verbally aggressive and threatening me with violence. I was younger then, and quite capable of holding my own in any physical confrontation with a group of teenagers. However, an unknown, penetrating voice echoed from behind the centre, giving the ‘leader’ some good advice. It advised the young man not to get involved in a fight with ‘him’ (meaning me) because ‘he’ was the voice’s probation officer!. (Not quite true -but near enough to get the message across) We spent a few more moments discussing what other offences would be committed if the young man attacked me physically, and (for the sake of further clarity) I also guessed at what sentences might be metered out if the case was to be brought before the courts.
After further banter, the group decided that there was no further need to cause anymore damage and we parted on amicable terms.
The point being made above, is that the principles of interaction remained much the same as my original view, that there is no need to ‘tell’ people how to behave. This responsibility remains within the remit of politicians who make the laws.

As an aside, I think that many of them are attracted to that profession because basically they are ‘bullies’ and desire to ‘tell’ people what to do. Also, too many of them are from the privileged classes and make laws to benefit themselves. They also ignore or circumvent laws that they do not like, as well as have the means by which they can avoid punishments for their own lawbreaking activities – but that’s another discussion.

As yet another aside, I do have some ideas on how our laws should be changed to reflect the effects of people’s behaviour on other’s. For example: If someone knowingly acts in such a way that it shortens someone else’s life, then this should be classed as a degree of ‘murder’.
Anyone involved/supporting/conspiring/assisting with, or benefitting from such behaviour, should also be culpable for the end result.

I have written literally hundreds of rhymes about politicians and their institutionalised roles in ‘bullying’, but there are so many ways in which bullying manifests, that I feel it is down to each of us to be on our guard against committing the acts ourselves.

Best wishes




If bullies were to go on trial,
no doubt they would be in denial
of their bullying antics,
nasty techniques and cruel tactics.

But often they’ll express their will
and show that they’re prepared to kill
people and things that cross their path
which leave an unwanted aftermath.

Some of them will kill for fun
and view it as a ‘prize’ that’s won,
yet they don’t see that what they do
seems wrong to folks like me and you.

They believe that it is ‘normal’
for them to kill an animal,
and they can’t see that it is wrong
because they’ve done these things so long.

These are the bullies that we saw
believe in killing and in war,
so, they don’t view it as a sin
when killing starts and wars begin.

Today I saw a bully write
that he believed the law should smite
drug dealers down until they died
as his beliefs he could not hide.

His reasoning was, that those who deal,
killed their victims and don’t heal,
and this became his reason why
he thought to preach- ‘an eye for an eye’.

But I know bullies inside out,
so, also know what they’re about,
and I can say without a doubt
that death comes from their own fallout.
                                       (continued --)


Bullies destroy their victim’s will,
they wear them down and make them ill,
and some victims can’t stand the strain,
the cruelty and all that pain.

Some are so desperate to escape
the mental torture and the rape,
that they are pushed to then decide
that a way out is suicide.

A bully’s often quick to speak
about their victims being weak
and mentally unstable too
because this is ‘their’ point of view.

Their bullying, they won’t agree
as causing that which now they see,
for bullying’s a way of life
for those who give others the strife.

They will protest their innocence,
and claim that it does not make sense
for victims to take their own lives
when other victims have survived.

Other victims may find it pays
to escape them in other ways,
and thus, their children turn to drugs,
to get away from parent thugs.

These bullies then deny their role
in ruining their children’s soul.
They blame the dealers for their part,
not themselves and their cruel art.

When once these bullies set the scene,
by being cruel and being mean,
they will then try to lay the blame
on anyone but them by name.

                                          (continued --)


Sometimes another way to go
to escape the bully’s blow,
is, victims may retaliate
with pent-up venom and with hate.

The bully does not realise,
and it may come as a surprise,
they might be teaching their victim
to be a bully- just like him.

Then, when the child becomes a man
he may-well devise a plan,
whereby he then can get revenge
and so, past bullying avenge.

Some bullies realise this plight
and try to stage a counter-fight
by pleading to the police that they
should protect him day to day.

The police don’t know what went before,
so, might uphold the rule of law,
and victimise victims some more
which will exacerbate for sure.

Sometimes these bullies go too far
and push victims beyond the par.
This can lead to who knows what
if victims start to lose the plot.

Sometimes the bully is the one
who eventually gets ‘done’,
but, unfortunately for them
it is the victims police condemn.

The police will look at the ‘last’ act
and treat that as the only fact,
then bullying antecedents’ fade
into history where fate was made.

                                           Be Withers 2020

Getting Support in the Ostomy Community with LeeAnne Hayden | Hollister

Henry and Bill, my two cents worth on the subject of smoking... First of all, kudos to anyone who quits, and any reason for quitting is a good one, whether it be shame and remorse or the increasing cost of supporting the habit. If someone's smoking is bothering me, I don't think it is "bullying" for me to tell them to stop. They do not have the right to negatively impact me with their smoke. I do not believe there is or should be such a thing as "smoker's rights". As Bill pointed out though, common sense will dictate my actions, particularly being a small woman. I'm not likely to challenge anyone on their smoking. This means I have to depend on the law to protect me. It is not possible to be a smoker and not negatively impact the rest of the population. You can abide by all the ordinances in your area, not smoke in enclosed public places, but your smoke is still going to bother me if I'm walking down the street behind you. We recently had a case where the owner/occupant of a condo apartment was being challenged by the strata council for smoking on his balcony, because the smoke was drifting into the apartment next door. Then there is having to run the gauntlet at many public office buildings where the employees gather outside the entrance puffing away, forcing all who enter to walk through their haze. You say you only smoke in your own home, no balcony, windows closed. You are still going to negatively impact me because the taxes I pay contribute to the healthcare system that is burdened with taking care of you through your smoking-related illnesses.

Outlaw smoking? It will go underground, but at least then there could be heavier consequences for those who flout the law. It might be the needed incentive for some to quit, and for the others, at least they would have to be a little more circumspect, saving many of us from breathing in their second-hand smoke.

Mandatory treatment for smokers would work about as well as mandatory treatment for other addictions, not well. You really do have to want to quit. If it were outlawed though, there might be a lot more people who would reach that point.
Is it weakness that causes some to be unable to quit, even when they really want to? I'm not sure about that. We know that genetics play a part in alcoholism for some people. It might be the case that there is a genetic predisposition that makes it much more difficult for some people to quit smoking too. I worked in the field of addictions for years and there is much that is not known, however anecdotally, many will tell you that quitting any substance is just so much harder for some than for others. We don't know why.

I use as an example, a very good friend of mine. She is a very bright, well-educated, professional woman. She smoked heavily from the day I met her when we were in our early twenties. As we got older and most of our friends, including myself, quit smoking, she continued. She wanted to quit and would make attempts often, used the patch, nicotine gum, pills, whatever was available as an aid. She just couldn't kick it. Then she got pregnant, and I thought to myself, "This will be the motivation she needs!". Nope, she just kept on throughout her pregnancy. I was shocked! This was a smart lady, and not someone who would selfishly subject her unborn child to smoke, and yet, she did. I think that was the moment I realized just how much of a beast nicotine is, and how powerful addiction is. She did quit eventually, but many years later, and I have no idea what the final incentive was that allowed her to quit.


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