Let’s Raise the Legal Age to Smoke to 21

I just arrived in Austin, Texas, which is the state capitol of Texas. Shortly, other delegates from all across the state and I will learn how we are going to approach asking our state lawmakers to (1) continue funding a cancer research and prevention program and (2) raise the legal age for buying cigarettes to 21.

Interestingly, far more lawmakers have already signed onto the bill that will pour billions of dollars into cancer research over the next 10 years than have agreed to support raising the legal age for smoking. A couple of years ago when I was here to ask for the same change in the law, my Congressperson argued that she could not tell a person who could legally join the military that they can’t smoke.

Isn’t that weird? They can’t legally rent a hotel room or lease a car at age 18. And, they can’t buy alcohol until they are 21. Is smoking less dangerous to a person’s health than drinking alcohol?

I always kind of wondered what difference it really makes whether a kid can legally buy a package of cigarettes at age 18 or when they turn 21. For the most part, teens that are going to smoke start long before they turn 18. I smoked my first cigarette at age 16. So did most of my friends, if they hadn’t started even earlier.

It didn’t occur to me that many 18-year-olds are still in high school. As a 16 or 17-year-old who wants to smoke and needs cigarettes, it would be easy enough to just ask one of the high school seniors to buy cigarettes. Most kids are going to help out a friend, even if they themselves do not smoke, especially if it means they might make a dollar for doing it.

Once I understood that rationale, it made it much easier to make the ask to raise the legal age to 21. It has been well established that most people who start smoking do so before they are 21 years of age. In fact, 95% of smokers start before they are 21.

Wow. Sit and contemplate that for a moment.

Naturally, we’re never going to keep cigarettes out of the hands of all kids under the age of 18 or 21. But, if it is especially difficult for them to get cigarettes, maybe a few will decide it just isn’t worth the hassle.

(I don’t know about you, but I wonder how anyone, but especially kids, can even afford to smoke these days. When I started smoking, a pack of 20 cigarettes cost $0.35. By the time I quit, they were closer to $3 a pack, I think, especially if you bought them by the single pack. These days, in Texas where they are less expensive than in many states, the average price for one pack of cigarettes is $6.70. I just shake my head at that. I used to smoke at least one and a half packs a day. I sure am glad I quit when I did. I would go broke buying cigarettes in today’s world.)

But I digress. The law we’re proposing isn’t about raising the cost of cigarettes. It is about changing how easy they are to get. I can’t be sure of it, but I think I might have been one of those kids who just didn’t want to go through all the trouble it would take to ask someone else to buy my cigarettes. I think that would have been especially true if I had to find someone who was not even a classmate to do it for me.

If the law prevented anyone under the age of 21 from legally buying cigarettes back when I was a kid, I might never have started smoking. And, that would have been the biggest favor legislators and the adult public could have ever done for me. I might not have realized it when I was a rebellious teen, but I sure understand it now.

If you live in a state where it is still legal to buy cigarettes at the young age of 18, please advocate for them to raise the age to 21. There is no good reason to allow 18-year-old teens to legally purchase cigarettes. If you live in Texas, please write to your legislators and ask them to support Tobacco 21 legislation.

Five Things I Learned about Lung Cancer

I’ve been trying to think of different topics that might be of interest to others who have some connection to lung cancer. I started thinking about some of the things I didn’t know when I was first diagnosed. There are just so many misconceptions that surround cancer, especially lung cancer. Here are a few of the things I learned soon after I was diagnosed:

1. Nonsmokers get lung cancer too

I guess I really never thought much about it one way or the other, but if someone had told me I would know more people with lung cancer who have never smoked than who do or did, I would have thought they were crazy.

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Survey Shows the Stigma is Alive and Well

In 2008, the Lung Cancer Alliance conducted a survey on people’s perceptions about lung cancer. Ten years later, they conducted the same survey. The foundation wanted to learn how much perceptions about the disease have changed.

Public perception in 2008

In 2008, most respondents believed that lung cancer was (1) caused by external factors, (2) preventable, and (3) that patients were at least partly responsible for their disease. So, what do you think? Do you think the general public has gotten any smarter over the last ten years?

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The End of Another Lung Cancer Awareness Month Arrives

Well … here it is again … November 30. It is Cotton’s birthday – she’s 10 today … it was my uncle’s birthday – I’m not sure how old he would be now, in his 90s somewhere – and it is the last day of lung cancer awareness month.

I wasn’t as active this month as I am sometimes with getting posts made to Facebook; life intervenes sometimes. I always hope to bring awareness to anyone who will listen – anyone with lungs is susceptible to lung cancer, it is the most deadly cancer by far, it is the most underfunded cancer by far (if you take into consideration how many tens of thousands it kills each year). Something needs to be done.

Loss of another Good One

Yesterday, one of the biggest advocates out there passed away from lung cancer. Matt Ellefson has been a tireless and fearless leader for nine years. He will be greatly missed, but his legacy will continue through the nonprofit he formed, SURVIVEIT. I rest easy that he is in the arms of Jesus. He was a dedicated and devoted Christian.

There’s been a discussion on lungcancer.net about whether the sudden death of a child (albeit a 43-year-old “child”) or a lung cancer diagnosis is worse. I believe losing a child suddenly is worse, but some don’t. Some feel that their diagnosis is absolutely the worst thing that has ever or will ever happen to them.

Not me. Even if my son hadn’t just died, I would not say that lung cancer is the worst thing that ever happened to me. I honestly don’t know what I would say was the worst thing … I am a glass-half-full kind of person and I dwell on the positives of every experience, including a lung cancer diagnosis and including the death of my only child.

Too Many Die

Anyway … this post is about Lung Cancer Awareness Month coming to an end. I always hate to see it go. I like seeing everyone’s posts. Some choose to highlight people who have had lung cancer – either who have passed away from it – 433 a day do, you know – or those of us who are fortunate and still alive, fighting every day … or a few lucky ones who are enjoying remission.

Others post facts. That’s usually what I do. I try to make people aware of the gross underfunding the disease gets. And the fact that anyone, smoker or nonsmoker, can get lung cancer. Young women seem to be the most commonly diagnosed these days. That’s not scientific, just an observation. I guess I could look up stats for it, but they’d be old anyway.

Breast Cancer vs Lung Cancer

Breast cancer attacks more women than lung cancer, but most people recover from breast cancer. It isn’t an easy road to recovery, by any means, but there is light at the end of that long tunnel.

Lung cancer kills WAY more women than breast cancer does. Usually within the first year after diagnosis. No matter how often or how loudly we try to shout this information, it apparently falls on deaf ears.

What’s the Answer?

I just don’t know what the answer is. We try going to Congress and mostly we just leave frustrated. We try telling doctors, friends, family and coworkers … well, our friends, family and maybe our coworkers – people close to us – get the picture, understand on some level. But doctors are still grossly misinformed and therein lies much of our problem.

Too many doctors think smoking causes lung cancer. Everyone knows smokers deserve anything they get. So, there is no need to fund research for the world’s most deadly cancer. It is simply taking out those who deserve it anyway. Wow.

Smoking is a nasty habit, but there are other nasty habits. No one is so maligned by theirs. Maybe it is because cigarettes stink so much. They offend those of us who don’t smoke. So, is the attitude that if someone has the audacity to offend me with their smoke then they deserve to die a somewhat horrific death?

What’s this world come to?

November is Lung Cancer Awareness Month

Everyone knows that October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, but we keep the fact that November is Lung Cancer Awareness Month a better secret. Unfortunately, the flood of pink will not be replaced by a flood of white (the color assigned to lung cancer) on November 1.

But, we can all do our small part in helping raise awareness about and funding for lung cancer during November (and throughout the year). It is important that we get the word out about this deadly disease. Lives are depending on it!

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Lung Cancer Awareness Month – it’s here again!

I always look forward to November. I love this month. Temperatures are mainly cooler … and when you live in Texas, that’s a very good thing. We are scorched for way too many months out of the year.

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. I love the food (we go traditional with turkey, cornbread dressing, green bean bundles, sweet potato casserole, mashed potatoes, a family tradition of banana salad, corn, pies, yum!). I love the whole idea of concentrating on what we’re thankful for – purposefully thinking about what’s good in our lives, even things that don’t always seem so good.

Our family is very patriotic and many of my family members have served in the military. I love to celebrate Veteran’s Day and the USMC birthday and the day my son graduated from USMC boot camp.

And, it is Lung Cancer Awareness Month. It probably drives people crazy, but I post every single day something about lung cancer for those who are my friends on Facebook. This year, I’ll be also posting something to the WhatNext pinboard. Everyone there has been touched by cancer of some kind so maybe it is overkill, but I’ll do it anyway.

Six years ago, November was a month full of firsts for me – first PET scan, first visit with an oncologist, first biopsy. I guess those aren’t firsts most people want to experience. Nevertheless, November of 2012 was full of those things for me. Lots of new memories. They seem like so long ago now.

So, I celebrate November and all I love about it. And, I celebrate that I am here another November to enjoy all that I love. I am among the lucky ones. I don’t know why and I am well aware that one of these days my time will run out, but until then, I thank my God and carry forward.

Lung Cancer Drives My Passions

Before I got lung cancer, I was passionate about grant writing for K12 education and running my dogs in agility. As a lung cancer patient, I am very passionate about the following five things…

Advocating for funding to support research

Anyone who knows me or reads much of what I write knows that I am absolutely consumed with trying to get more money for lung cancer research. Not only do I attempt to fundraise for various lung cancer-related organizations, but I also write to my state and federal legislators on a frequent basis. I always request funding in amounts as significant as the death rate from lung cancer demands.

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I admit it. I’m jealous of Pinktober

Are you ready for it? October will be here before we know it. You know what that means. Everything will be covered in pink.

A closer look at the statistics

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), breast cancer killed slightly more than 51,000 people, mostly women, in 2015¹. If one of those who died was your mom, sister, daughter or best friend, it hurt a lot to lose them. Fortunately, the American Cancer Society (ACS) reports that the five-year survival rate for women diagnosed with breast cancer is 90%.²

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Women and Lung Cancer Research and Preventive Services Act of 2018

In today’s political climate, it isn’t often that you hear about a bill that enjoys bipartisan support, but the Women and Lung Cancer Research and Preventive Services Act of 2018 does. The bill has been introduced into the House (HR 4897) and the Senate (S2358). Now, it is up to us to try to get our legislators to show their support of the bills by becoming co-sponsors.

Why is this bill important?

I believe it is critical for this bill to pass through Congress. Essentially, it is asking for the following:

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A tribute to my dad

We got the dreaded and totally unexpected news that my 48-year-old dad had stage IV lung cancer after he underwent a routine physical exam. He’d been having some pain in his knee, but we (and all of the doctors he saw) attributed it to some sort of strain that he got from driving from Texas to Washington, DC and back again in a relatively short period of time. Otherwise, he had no symptoms of any disease, much less lung cancer.

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