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Unprompted: The Case For Doing All the Bad Stuff Now


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CVS stopped selling cigarettes a year ago, which is OK because it shouldn’t have been selling them in the first place.

CVS is what we used to call a drug store, more recently a pharmacy, where one goes to get magic pills to restore health. Tobacco products didn’t belong. Oh well, that’s over, so if you want cigarettes you’ll have to cross the street to the Snak@Whack where you can get your favorite brand for about five bucks.

Heavy smokers, at two or three packs a day, will pay upwards of $5,000 a year, or about $7,000 to $8,000 out of their gross income. Gross. Sooner or later they’ll get cancer, or emphysema, or worse yet, restless leg syndrome or perhaps dry mouth. Then they’ll end up at the drug store again, buying pills to hang on a while longer.

It is said that breaking the nicotine habit is about as difficult as quitting heroin. I don’t know about that, having never done heroin, but I have taken a drag or two in my life. Tobacco is a big part of Virginia’s history and many of our really smart forefathers loved to smoke. They didn’t know what was going on in their lungs, and by the time they found out it was too late. But in those days people didn’t live that long anyway and no one knew what was killing them. It was just one of those things.

I’ve seen people get really irate when encountering a whiff of cigarette smoke. Indeed, most public buildings are not only smoke-free — their entire property is smoke-free. We don’t want to force anyone else to inhale our deadly smoke, even those who are at that building looking for the vending machine. An overweight person who smokes is really rolling the dice, but an overweight person who doesn’t smoke needs a reality check as well. Their heart is screaming as only a heart can: Hey! What the hell are you doing?

Most of us do something that isn’t good for us, such as driving a car badly. Even if we are good drivers, some idiots will find a way to hit us and bring an end to whatever illusions we foster. Few will live to be 90 and die quietly in their sleep. Before that blissful time, there are all sorts of goblins out there ready to reel us in.

This brings me to another thought. Because I spent years as a television personality I had many occasions to speak to groups, most of which didn’t care what I said — they were just bored and wanted someone to talk to them. Some of these groups were retired, senior citizens, old people, often warehoused in one of those retirement communities pictured so wonderfully in television commercials. I was the high point of their week, if that gives you an idea of what kind of week they had. I always gave my best to these dear people, but remained eager to leave. I was there an hour or so, and tried to imagine what it would be like to spend every day there. In truth, no one volunteers to live in one of these places. They have to, usually because their children want to get rid of them.

So if there’s a thought here, it is this: Unless you are really sharp in your old age, what is the purpose? Are you trying to break a record? The average age of death in America is 78.8. Some go far beyond that, but many never come close. But no matter how old you get, everybody wants to hang around at least one more day. Miserable old people prefer to stay that way. They don’t want to die because they’re afraid of it.

So if you want to avoid this end of life pitfall it is a good idea to plan ahead. Smoke. Eat bad stuff. Don’t exercise. Go for long walks in dark alleys in a crime-infested part of town. There are all kinds of ways to avoid nursing homes without really trying.

Perhaps CVS was doing us a favor after all. S

Gene Cox is an author and inventor who recently retired from a 35-year career as a television anchor in Richmond. Connect with him at letters@styleweekly.com, or on Twitter at @genecoxrva.



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