I was a smoker for most of my 20 years in the U.S. Army. I frequently sat at the bar area of Applebee’s, chose seats at the rear of airplanes and made many choices to be able to have the right to smoke anywhere I wanted.

As time progressed, society began to kick smokers out of the team rooms, restaurants, hospitals, malls and now just about everywhere. I was reduced to standing by a kitchen window in the dead of winter blowing smoke out of the window or going out to the back porch, fully bundled up. I recall one winter in Ohio when I ran an extension cord to the little shed out back and used a heater to prepare a space just for my smoking.

I recall my father smoked, as did my step-father, my uncles and well, everyone nearly. Kids sat in cars with the windows up, choking on second hand smoke. I always hated smokers. It was a nasty habit; I would not dump my ashes in my car, and always opened a window. I used mints often to “mask” the smell. I became an expert on appearing to be a non-smoker, and to not smell like an ashtray.

Then I quit – yes, I tried several times and I finally did. I was pleased with myself, as it was the first time I realized how controlling cigarettes are. I had adapted my entire life to it. As time went by, I began to be repulsed by my car, my closet, and my clothes. I had to de-fume everything, a lot of throwing away. It was everywhere. One day I came in to work and asked our receptionist if she had noticed I had stopped smoking. She stated, “Oh yeah, I no longer have to spray air freshener every time you come in the door and get back into your office.” I was shocked! I was even more shocked when we started interviewing candidates and I could “smell” them the second they entered the door to our building. I was now on the other side of smokers, but even worse, I was now an “ex” smoker.

While I have compassion for smokers in knowing it is an addicting habit, I now stay as far away as possible from it. No smoke breaks, no smoking sections, no hanging around even the smell of it. I am not a non-smoker, but as an ex-smoker I can tell you it is a challenging thing to get past once you stop.

With that said, it is my belief, whether conscious or not, smokers are discriminated against. It is something that cannot be covered up, cannot be minimized, nor can be ignored. If you are employed and enjoy your group, fine, but if you care to progress, care to get hired at a new position or company in a new circle, you are holding yourself back by smoking. This is America and we are free to do so, but my career advice to any professional, is to never smoke again. Even our President has struggled with this, but is well aware of the harm smoking causes and the examples to avoid.

So this Great American Smoke out day, I celebrate 8 Years smoke free!! I urge you to STOP TODAY!

Resources:

QuitNet.com – Curious how much money you can save by quitting? My stats since my “Quit Day” are below.

American Cancer Society – Learn more about the negative effects of smoking, and find resources to help you quit.

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