Since I was a young boy I had a constant companion situated in my shirt pocket, that being a fresh pack of MARLBORO REDS. The smell, the aroma when you opened a new pack was enticing as was lighting up the first one in the morning. Red was my constant throughout the years, however I did digress a few times to try menthols, low tar, and one with a hollow filter but alas I always came back to Red. My father forbid me permission to smoke in “his house” and to “never smoke in front of your Mother, ever” so his rules were abided by as best I could. So, cigarettes on the front/back stoop were okay.Mom never looked.

   My first year in high school I was caught smoking after dismissal in the side parking area under a tree area where the buses met the students for our ride home. It was a usual safe/ approved spot for “smokers” or so I thought. The next morning in Homeroom I was giving a Saturday detention for “smoking on school grounds”. Faithfully serving my sentence I did what was my personal assigned punishment; to sweep the teacher’s parking lot AND dump the dirt/debris back behind the distant baseball field area. Took me two hours plus. After dumping the dirt I sat on the home team bench and since there wasn’t a soul in sight I lit one up. The sound of my name being said over a bullhorn by the supervising principal informed me that I was to be the guest of the school again next Saturday.Sometimes one never learns, even in school.

   A few futile attempts to quit smoking occurred in my adult life but I always came back, that is until January 2016 when I attended a Rangers game at Madison Square Garden. Rushing to catch a train to the game I left a fresh back in my car, leaving me with only 4 smokes in the opened pack I had. Before dinner I had one, after dinner another one…two to go.  So, I decided to buy a pack at the kiosk on the corner. FIFTEEN DOLLARS. I bought the pack but thought long and hard during the intermissions about quitting for good. Took me three weeks to wind it down with a regiment of no smokes before 10 AM, nothing directly after meals, none after 9PM, got it down to 5 per day…and then I got bronchitis. The doctor prescribed an inhaler for treatment and offered a few “happy” pills to help with the nicotine withdrawals. He directed me to cease smoking immediately. Ultimately,with his help I gave up smoking, a 5 pack a week habit which is a carton every other week or two cartons a month=400 cigarettes.

   Here I am cigarette free for seven years. During that time I saved myself from smoking 260 packs of Marlboro Reds per year/ 1820 packs for 7 years and at the average cost of $11.00 (my estimated cost at the time I quit) I banked over $20,000.00. Now, if I could only stop drinking I’d be a millionaire.