A perfect gift for Mother's Day: give up smoking and get her to
If you're like me, you're at a loss for Mother's Day gift ideas. And if your kids are anything like mine they're probably in the same quandary.
But if you're one of the estimated 46 million smokers in this country, you're in an excellent position to give Mom the perfect gift. And it doesn't have to cost you anything.
I'm proposing you give your mother something that would last for, well, a lifetime: the promise that you will quit smoking before next Mother's Day, 2005. And if you don't smoke, make a commitment to help your mother, your spouse, your partner, or anyone else with whom you celebrate Mother's Day, kick the smoking habit.
Mother's Day is a particularly appropriate time to commit to a smoke-free lifestyle, whether you are a mother, have a mother, or want to give a wonderful gift to someone who is a mother. Consider the following:
Smoking accounts for 440,000 deaths - nearly one of every five deaths - each year in the United States. More deaths are caused each year by tobacco use than by all deaths from AIDS, illegal drug use, alcohol use, motor vehicle accidents, suicides and murders combined.
Smoking as a major cause of lung cancer, heart disease and stroke have been widely publicized and are well-known. But smoking also increases the risk of a host of other potentially deadly diseases, including lung diseases like emphysema and cancer of the liver, bladder, pancreas, and kidney. Disfiguring cancers such as cancer of the lips and tongue have also been shown to be higher among smokers.
Men and women who smoke also are at increased risk for blindness caused by cataracts and macular degeneration. The health consequences for women who smoke - and moms in particular - are particularly alarming.
Women who smoke during pregnancy risk complications such as premature birth, low-birth-weight infants, and stillbirth, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. They also have increased risk for infertility.
Infants whose mothers smoked during pregnancy are more than twice as likely to die from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome than infants of nonsmoking pregnant mothers. What better gift to give your mom or a mom in your life on Mother's Day than the promise that, by quitting smoking, you increase the chances of living a full and healthy life?
Mom and others you live with or spend lots of time with also will be healthier if you quit smoking. Research recently published in the prestigious British Medical Journal provides even stronger evidence that people who never smoked tend to die younger if they live with someone who does smoke.
Quitting smoking isn't easy. But it isn't impossible, either. Don't be discouraged if you've already tried and failed - your chances of finally succeeding this time will be good if you're really determined to quit. Smoking support groups really help, and nicotine patches are also effective for many smokers. Your insurance plan or employer may even help cover the cost. If not, then using the money you save from not buying cigarettes can easily pay for effective smoking cessation programs or can be used to indulge yourself by buying yourself things you otherwise would not.
For additional tips and resources to make it easier to quit, check out the CDC Webs site: http://www.cdc.gov/tobacco. The American Legacy Foundation (www.americanlegacy.org) also provides advice on how to quit.
Sure, flowers and candy are nice. But this Mother's Day, why not give Mom something you know she can really use: the gift of your good health - or her's.
Diana Zuckerman is president of the National Center for Policy Research for Women & Families, a Washington research and educational organization. Readers may write to her at: National Center for Policy Research for Women & Families, 1901 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Suite 901, Washington, D.C. 20006; Web site: www.center4policy.org.