Apr 11, 2008

Why doesn’t Bouchard just send confiscated pot to troops?


The arsine move by Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard to send 3,700 cigars confiscated in a drug raid to troops in Iraq got me to thinking about my days in the military and the smoking habit that was so difficult to kick.

I am very proud – some of my opponents say too proud - to say I spent 20 years in the military. I basically grew up in the Navy. I took on more responsibility, saw the world, learned about different cultures and people and became a husband and father. One unpleasant thing I took away from the military was a heavy smoking habit. I have to admit I smoked occasionly in high school, but as boot camp approached I put it aside once and for all. Now, at the expense of giving up my age, other than to say I’m a Baby-Boomer, smoking was very common then, and there were few places you could not smoke.

Once I got into boot camp, the company commander confiscated lighters and cigarettes because he claimed he found a cigarette butt in the head – that’s a restroom fro you non-squids. Now, I don’t know if that was true, but it allowed him to pass out cigarettes when the company was rewarded with a much coveted smoke break.

A smoke break was something that was held over our heads as an incentive; perform well, you get one, perform badly or break a rule, no smoke break. When one was granted, we would all gather in the break room where smokes were passed out and we were allowed to “smoke and Coke.”

It did not take more than one or two of thee smoke breaks for me to realize that I might as well join them. If you can image some 40 guys puffing away in a room the size of a large living room, I was smoking anyway. We all knew the harmful effects of smoking, but that was before we knew second hand smoke is the fourth leading cause of death in the United States, killing more than 50,000 annually. During all that time, I never saw a cigar, and I don’t think it would have been allowed.

Needless to day, I was a smoker, and once out of boot camp when I could smoke when I dam well wanted, I took full advantage of that new freedom. Once I was on a ship, smoking was so common there was no place we could not smoke. It was so common that once a ship went three miles – I believe- from the U.S. coast, the cigarettes were tax free. Now, I may be showing my age again, but with tax free smokes, coupled with a great sale, I can remember buying a pack of smokes for less than a dollar. My first ship was an amphib, meaning, we carried Marines. The C rations – many left over from Korea – contained little packages containing four cigarettes.

Cigars were only smoked on the rare occasion. One was on the mid-watch in the Combat Information Center when we had some rough weather and a new boot on watch, especially an officer. The game would be to fire up a stinky stogie while someone else made a show of eating gross-looking sardines to see how fast we could make him barf.

As my career began to wind down, smoking was not only no longer an accepted, traditional and encouraged activity it was discouraged, and as part of the physical fitness push, we had to take physical fitness tests every three months. No longer was smoking allowed anywhere, and the last ship I was on you had to smoke outside, with the exception of night at sea when you could smoke in the crew’s lounge. That was in 1994. I doubt that's the case anymore.

Now, in 1996 I took the plunge and kicked the habit, and after more than 20 years of smoking it seems like I never smoked.

That brings me to Bouchard’s “grand” gesture. I wonder if the cigar wrapper has a campaign slogan for the political office he is running for next. If I was one of the troops, I would be a little offended. “I was going to throw this away, but I’ll give it you instead.” Then, to further illustrate where his head is, he's asking for money from other people to pay for shipping the cigars over. That’s some generosity. If you haven’t sent them, don’t.

I’ve heard people defend his alleged good deed by saying; it will help troops relieve stress by smoking a cigar. Let’s see, their health is already being endangered by the tremendous stress they are under, and now we want them to partake of something that will cause cancer and heart disease? Why doesn’t Bouchard send then some marijuana from his next bust? They were just going to get rid of it anyway - just like the cigars -, and it’s better for their health than cigars.

Then I’ve heard cigars are harmless. I don’t thing so. According to the American Cancer Society, one cigar may contain as much tobacco as an entire pack of cigarettes. A single cigarette usually contains less than a gram of tobacco, while cigars, which vary in size and shape, can have between 5 and 17 grams of tobacco.

- Cigar smoke is more concentrated and toxic than cigarette smoke.

- Cigars are Addictive. The amount of nicotine in a single cigar is many times greater than what is found in a cigarette. A typical cigarette contains one to two milligrams of nicotine, while the nicotine content of a cigar is 100 to 200 milligrams, with some as high as 400 milligrams.

- Smoking as little as one cigar a day increases the risk for cancer.
Cigar smoking has been linked to several different cancers, most notably those of the oral cavity, which include lip, tongue, mouth, throat and larynx. Cigar smokers are also at an increased risk for lung cancer and cancers of the pancreas and bladder.

1 comment:

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