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Despite Heavy Pressure, Smokers Keep the Home Fires Burning

November 14, 1987|JAN HOFMANN | For The Times

The surgeon general tells them not to do it, and so do an increasing number of "no smoking" signs in shopping malls, offices and public places. But some Orange County smokers say that when their families start making rules about when and where--or even if--they can smoke in their own homes, that's going too far.

Other smokers don't mind being bossed around by their nonsmoking children, siblings or parents. They welcome the intrusion. Someday, you see, they're going to quit, and in the meantime they see all that nagging as encouragement. (Well, maybe not all of it.)

But family influences can work both ways. A few nonsmokers have decided that the quickest route to peace in the family is to light up along with their spouses.

Last Saturday, we heard from the nonsmoking section on the topic of smoking and the family. Today, the smokers have their say.

Verda, 56, who lives in Yorba Linda, says her daughters, now adults, started criticizing her smoking way back when they started school.

"They'd come home from kindergarten and say, 'Mother, you can't smoke.' They (the schools) were brainwashing them even then. I told my daughters, 'This is my choice, and it isn't any of your business.' I told them I didn't want to hear any more about it, and I didn't.

"I'm a good kid," Verda says. "I don't smoke in restricted zones, ever. I'm extremely considerate of others. But give me a break. It was bad enough, no smoking on elevators--I could understand that. And in restaurants, smokers are second-class citizens. They've stopped it on buses, and in stores. When I was a kid you could even smoke in theaters.

"Nobody can say I can't smoke in my own home, not my family, not anybody. If they make a law against it, I'll break it. And I'll resent being forced to break the law. What happened to 'A man's home is his castle'? Do I carry the weight of the world through my front doors? Am I to invite all the stress of the outside world in?"

Verda lives with her husband, also a smoker, a daughter who smokes and a nonsmoking son-in-law, along with a 3-month-old grandchild. "We never smoke around the baby, and we use smokeless ashtrays in the house. We open the windows, and after dinner when I want a cigarette, I push my chair back.

"I've smoked since I was 19. Pall Malls, without the filter. I enjoy it, and I've got to have a crutch. It seems awful to be so hooked, but people do get hooked. You just need that little edge.

"I know it's a health hazard, of course," Verda says. "I feel badly about that. But everything's a health hazard. My cigarettes are doing me more good having them than giving them up would do for me."

Verda says her other daughter, who lives in Diamond Bar, won't let her smoke in her house. "I just don't go there," Verda says. "When we have family get-togethers, it's usually at my house."

Jo Ellen, 23, of Irvine says her daughter, Aaron, now 2, had an influence on her smoking before she was even born.

"When I was pregnant was the only time I made an effort not to smoke," says Jo Ellen, who has been smoking for a decade.

"I knew she'd be a fairly small baby, because my husband and I are both small, and I knew if I smoked, it would make life a little bit harder for her," Jo Ellen says.

"I cut down gradually. I wrote out a little chart and allowed myself a cigarette every hour. The next day, I made it 15 minutes longer, and eventually I got down to just one a day. But that was as far as I could go."

Her husband, also a smoker, helped by going outside for his cigarette breaks. "I didn't have the willpower to sit there and let him smoke a cigarette in front of me," Jo Ellen says.

Jo Ellen couldn't smoke in the hospital after Aaron was born, and "by the time I got home I was really wanting one." Soon she was back up to her usual half-pack a day.

"We both don't like our daughter to be around the smoke," Jo Ellen says. "We go in another room, do it outside or whatever to keep her away from it."

She isn't quite ready to give up smoking just yet, but Jo Ellen says quitting is definitely one of her long-range goals. "We've got to get rid of this while she's still a baby, or otherwise she's going to start smoking, too.

"We want to have another child, too, and I hope I can quit before that happens."

Moyra, who lives in Seal Beach, smoked for 40 years until her grown son asked her for an unusual Christmas present a couple of years ago. "He runs his own successful corporation and is hard to buy gifts for, as he has everything. This time when I asked him what he would like, his quick reply was, 'Mom, I want you to quit smoking. That would be the best present ever.'

Moyra joined an American Cancer Society smoking cessation class, and "this proved to be a complete success. I kept this a secret from my son--he lives in Sacramento--and was able to go to his home for the holidays and spring my 'gift' on him. He was, and is, very proud of my achievement. I just wish I could have the same success in sticking to a diet."

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