Author: Susan R. Johnson MD, F.A.A.P.

Published: April 8th, 2000

I don't smoke and I have never tried a cigarette. It is not a moral issue, and I don't consider people bad if they choose to smoke. Rather, I owe my not smoking to an experience I had in my childhood. My father never gave too much verbal advice. He would either tell me a story or show me something. One afternoon, when I was around 14 years old, he took me to the pathology laboratory at the local hospital. There, I was able to observe and touch preserved organs of the human body. I was shown a healthy lung. It was beautiful. It was pink in color, soft and formed. He then showed me another lung. It was all black, inside and out. It was rock hard and stiff. There were large hardened bumps (cysts) over the entire surface of this black, hard lung. I asked him, "what happened to this lung?". My father simply replied, " this is what a lung looks like when a person smokes and that is why I quit smoking a pipe". That was all that was said. I never received lectures from my parents on the merits of not smoking. Instead, I had this picture from an experience. A picture worth a thousand words. Now, every time I see a person smoking a cigarette, I see this picture of a stiff blackened lung covered by hard bumps.

The good news is that our bodies have an amazing capacity to heal. If a teenager or adult already smokes and he or she can stop smoking, then the lung will purify itself over the next couple of years and return to a normal pink color. The easiest thing to do is to never start smoking because smoking is such a hard habit to break. It seems that the longer one smokes the more difficult it is to quit. Our actions also influence our children far more than our words. It will be nearly impossible to convince our children not to smoke if we don't try to quit smoking ourselves.