Editorial: Uncle Billy

I’m ashamed to say it, but I was a drug addict for 10 years. My drug was the deadliest drug known to man. It is responsible for the death of millions of people throughout the world. Many of my friends were using this drug. I started out innocently enough. I started using it occasionally when I was with friends. At first, there was no problem, I could take it or leave it. Pretty soon, my body started demanding more and more of the drug and I realized I was hooked. I was a drug addict and couldn’t stop.

Years later, I would give talks to young people about this horrible drug. I would ask them if anyone could guess what my drug was. The kids would guess every drug imaginable: cocaine, heroin, crystal meth and most of the other drugs that are addictive. No one ever guessed the correct drug. I would ask, “Would you like to see my drug? I have a sample here.” There was always a resounding “YES.” I would then pull out my cigarette and light it.

Cigarettes contain nicotine, the deadliest drug on earth. Anyone who smokes, chews or dips tobacco IS A DRUG ADDICT.

When I began smoking, a pack of cigarettes would last a week or more. Within a year’s time, I was up to a pack a day. Two years later, I was up to a pack and a half a day. Then two packs a day. My last two years of smoking, I was up to three packs a day. I had a cigarette cough, my teeth and my fingers had brown stains from the cigarette smoke. My drug addiction was so bad that I smoked in class; I couldn’t go more than 30 minutes without a cigarette. The last thing I did each night was sit in bed and have a last cigarette. The first thing I did each day was to sit up in bed and have my first cigarette of the day. In 1963, the Surgeon General came out with the warning that nicotine causes cancer and other diseases. This was the major reason I quit smoking; I didn’t want to die of cancer. Another reason I quit was when the tobacco companies raised the price of a pack of cigarettes to $.35. I said, “I will not pay $.35 for a pack of cigarettes.”

I couldn’t smoke in today’s world. Society has made smokers second-class citizens. You can’t smoke inside most buildings. You can’t smoke in restaurants. You can’t smoke in most bars. You can’t smoke in most public places.

In the winter, I see you standing out in the freezing cold, sucking on your “ciggie.” In the heat of summer, I see you standing out sucking on your “ciggie.” Why don’t you just stop? I know all of your excuses, I used every one of them myself. How can a smoking parent warn their children about drug use when they are DRUG ADDICTS THEMSELVES?

This reminds me of a song by Phil Harris in the 1940’s. It’s called “Smoke that Cigarette.” You can Google it. The chorus has these words:

“Smoke smoke smoke that cigarette,

Puff, puff, puff,

And if you smoke yourself to death,

Tell St. Peter at the Golden Gate that you hate to make him wait,

But you just gotta have another cigarette.”