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Never Too Late to Quit

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“Have you quit smoking?… Smoking kills 1,300 Americans every day....” This headline introduces a recent Forbes report about the “Addiction Stick” habit. Eight times more Americans die per year from smoking-related health issues than died in the Vietnam War. But do you realize that quitting can save more than your life, even if smoking has already damaged you?

Today’s culture seems obsessed with youth, beauty, success and longevity. And yet, disturbingly, the United States’ leading cause of preventable death comes from a habit that destroys those very qualities. Throughout history, people have smoked tobacco or other substances for many reasons. Some include social customs, image enhancement, and even assumed health or spiritual benefits. But today, smoking’s health risks are well known and publicized. Anti-smoking advocates fight to curb tobacco sales, while tobacco companies must print warning labels on all their products!

Many see smoking for the ugly habit it is. Consider all the repulsive nicknames for cigarettes: Coffin Stick, Casket Nail, Widow-Maker. Lip-scorcher, Lung-buster, Cancerette and, somewhat amusingly, Fire-on-one-end, Fool-on-the-other. I’ve heard these labels and more used to describe the deadly, nicotine-packed “commodity” we call cigarettes. And, the statistics speak even louder than the nicknames.

Smoking-related problems burn up over $380 billion in annual medical expenses in America and snuff out roughly 480,000 lives. 40,000 of those lives are nonsmokers suffering from secondhand smoke damage. In some countries, like France, recent anti-smoking campaigns have helped lower these statistics. But sellers continue looking for promising markets, often defying laws protecting potential customers from becoming hooked.

People start smoking for many reasons. In some cases, advertising convinces impressionable young people that smoking is “cool.” Others take it up from social or family influence, and soon become lifelong smokers. Many remain addicted to cigarettes for the same reasons people abuse harder drugs or alcohol. They become convinced of a “need”—that it makes them feel better or “calms their nerves.” It fills a hole, offers an escape.

It becomes a part of them, even though they may know it hurts them. Some are callous about the habit, saying that it’s no big deal or that people should mind their own business. Others smoke, despite the risks, because they don’t think they can quit.

As with any addiction, risks do little to discourage users. According to one recovering heroin addict“I was fully aware of the threat of prison, the potential for overdose and the dangers of sharing needles, but none proved even the slightest deterrent.” Smoking tobacco may not have the exact same health dangers or legal consequences as heroin. But nicotine is still addictive, and people develop strong psychological dependency on it.

And what does it mean when a dependency rules you so much that you find yourself wanting to stop and fighting the urge to continue? It owns a part of your life, doesn’t it? Not only your life and health but your very freedom is in question. Finding a way to escape becomes a character issue. The Apostle Paul warned, “Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves whom you obey…” (Romans 6:16). He declared later, speaking of being pleasing to God, “I will not be brought under the power of any” (1 Corinthians 6:11–13). Smoking damages your body, which God created in His image and which for true Christians is the “temple of the Holy Spirit” (1 Corinthians 6:19–20).

But there is hope.

Some struggle with alcoholism or drug addiction until it almost kills them. Others have the willpower to quit “cold-turkey.” I know some in both categories. Some substances may become so addictive that people can die from quitting them without treatment. But, even in those cases, there will one day come a miracle that promises to free everyone in bondage (Revelation 22:1–5).

Yet, smoking is one habit you can kick—the earlier the better, according to studies. Even if you’ve used cigarettes most of your life, like both of my grandfathers, the relief from finally choosing to live the rest of your life free of them is priceless.

Many foundations offer help and support, but don’t forget the ultimate resources—your Bible, and the faith of Jesus Christ. Also, be sure to watch “Secrets to Happiness” for other ways to find the meaning and incentive to quit.