Thursday, April 06, 2006

Not Mea Culpa!



"THE Supreme Court has cleared the way for an 80-year-old lifetime smoker to sue two tobacco companies for damages.

Margaret Delahunty, who began smoking when she was 12 years old - at one stage smoking up to 30 cigarettes a day - is suing two of the country's leading tobacco manufacturers for personal injuries allegedly caused by the cigarettes she has smoked.

The octogenarian from Ballinahowen, Furbo, Co Galway, who was diagnosed with cancer ten years ago, can now continue with her action for damages following yesterday's key judgment by the court."

Oh my, I read this one with something akin to tittering. But then I got irritated, and finally - it takes a while to care on one coffee - I got annoyed.
This woman has made it to eighty years of age, despite having puffed fags her whole life, she has had cancer for ten years and yet is still going strong, she has lived a full life.
And yet here it is, the blame game, the shirking, the finger pointing, the absolute certainty people seem to have that their every action can be blamed on someone or something else.
'Not my fault, do you see, it/they made me do it.'
I don't buy it.
Did the big bad tobacco company come along, drag Margaret Delahunty down a lane when she was a kid and force a fag into her mouth? Was it there every morning when Margaret had her cup tea, waving the fags at her, demanding she light one up? Did it go with her to the pub and insist she have one with her G&T or sherry or whatever she drank?
Of course not.
It is no secret that tobacco is harmful, it's on the bloody packets for a start. So if you choose to smoke then by all means smoke away, enjoy them make that face smokers make when they light a cigarette up after a heavy meal. Puff away to your heart's contentment. It is you choice. Like that word? Choice? Keep saying it with me, choice.
Oh people will say, 'But we didn't know back then.'
To which I must say. 'So what? You've know since the seventies haven't you? Fags bad, might cause cancer?'
I started smoking when I was fourteen, I quit when I was thirty. I decided both actions. Me, Fatmammycat, me.
I lit my first cigarette, I inhaled, I coughed and spluttered, I persevered until I mastered smoking with sufficient cool.
I stopped pretty much the same way. I closed the pack-with five or six cigarettes left in it, left the pack on the landing, ignored it, ate mints, grouched around for a few days and then, voila, I didn't smoke anymore. Too cool for school baby.
Margaret Dealhunty could have quit anytime she wanted. She didn't. She kept smoking her whole life and has still racked up eighty years of living.
Man I hope I live that long not smoking and drinking copious amounts of white wine. Now, who can I sue for my addiction to expensive shoes. Because clearly it is not my fault, is it?

14 Comments:

Blogger KnackeredKaz said...

I see what you're saying FMC and to a certain extent I agree. Yes, way back when in the 40s and 50s people genuinely didn't know how harmful tobacco was, but then it all started to come out, and people could have given up when they realised how harmful they were. Some did, some didn't.

However, I will say this. Not everybody has the same will power or the same strength as you FMC to give them up. For some yes, it is a case of throwing them away and finding something else to occupy you and being a bit miserable for a week or two...but for others it's a real struggle. So while I see where you're coming from, I personally don't believe everyone finds it as easy as you 'voila' to give them up.

The second thing you talk about is choice. And again, yes, you're right we all choose what to do with our lives and what to put or not put into our bodies. But some of us simply make better choices than others in life - some of us are afforded better choices. Maybe I'm not being clear, so let me explain a little (if you're bored by now, feel free to switch off!)

I used to be of the opinion that drug addicts could simply choose to stop taking drugs and that they chose to inject themselves with heroin or snort cocaine and ergo, the results were their own fault and they should shut up whining and had no one to blame for their problems but themselves.

But then I began reporting on the drug issue in Dublin talking to the anti-drug organisations, the drug task forces, the individuals trying to do the best for their communities and yes even the addicts themselves. And I started to understand. They made a choice, albeit a bad one, to start taking drugs and that one bad choice pulled them into the cycle of addiction which is incredibly difficult to get out of. I spoke with these men and women and saw the desperation in their eyes, heard them swear that they wanted to get off drugs and that if they had their time over, they would never have taken that first hit. And behind the addiction, behind the lying and the stealing that goes hand in hand with being an addict, I saw a spark of the truth in their eyes. I saw that they were being penalised, most dreadfully, for that one bad choice. So I started to have a little compassion. I was so very lucky as a child that my parents steered and guided me away from the bad choices and towards the good.

So anyway, to cut a long story short, I believe that we all make choices, some good and some bad but those who make those bad choices deserve a second chance, deserve our compassion and our support and deserve to be steered down the path to the good choices.

I'm not so sure where all that ties in with your smoking post (sorry, went on a mini rant there) but perhaps what I'm trying to say is that if this woman has realised the error of her ways and is ready to make the right choice about smoking, then she should be supported. After all, if she began smoking seventy years ago, then the tobacco company - with its claims that smoking helped to relieve stress and was in fact good for you - did in fact help to steer her down the path to what we now know was the wrong choice. She has been penalised by a life long addiction and now cancer, so it is only right that the tobacco company be held accountable in some way now.

Oh God, I lost the run of myself there and probably waffled on about a totally different subject, but sure someone might find it interesting!

12:38 p.m.  
Blogger fatmammycat said...

'Voila' was a little glib of me, I admit, but the truth of the matter is I didn't struggle as much as I -and everybody else-seemed to think I would.
I was a heavy smoker, thirty a day or more if a night out was included. I liked smoking, right up to the point I said ' I don't want to smoke any longer.'
Once I had decided to quit I read Allen Carr's book and really, that was it. Every word he wrote I read and went , 'why yes, that make a whole lot of sense.' I have never smoked a cigarette since, nor feel the inclination to smoke.
Drugs and fags, big, big difference. The physical withdrawal from nicotine is practically nil. The psychological addiction is much more powerful, so if you can fight that you WILL win. And there are tools to do it. The best one being able to recognise when your mind is trying to trick you and how to combat it.
Heroin withdrawal and cocaine withdrawal create physical problems all of their own, and while I am no expert, I do believe addicts should not try to detox with medical assistance, whereas a smoker can give up, anytime, any place, any age.


One of the favourite things I learned from that experience of quitting was-and I am going to try put it into words here- the value of waiting.
I really really must have a cigarette but what if I don't have it, what happens to me?
I waited. After a few minutes I patted myself down.
Did I stop breathing? Did my heart stop? Do I begin to bleed? No? So what actually happens apart from a persistent voice telling me to have it?
Sure I still wanted it, but nothing happened to me other than that. Just the voice. And the voice I discovered, with glee, I could ignore or tell to shut the hell up. And that -for me- was the key to my success. Not really willpower, Carr claims will power is a load of hooey,(when you use will power you feel you are 'denying' yourself as opposed to doing something benefical) and I am inclined to agree with him.
Basically it was about training myself to think differently.
So I did, and now I find I use that training in almost every aspect of my life to some degree.
Don't feel like going to the gym today voice? Screw you, I'm going!
Think I should cycle 20k in stead of 30k? You better believe we're doing 30k. Not sure you can take on a project that big, voice? Go to hell, of course I can. Want that last piece of cheesecake? Even though you're full?...wait, not I don't.
I'm probably making a hash of explaining it, but that is how I feel about 'doing things' I have- inexplicibly- learned to self motivate, and all because I gave up cigarettes.

And I still think yer woman had a bit of a cheek suing at eighty.

1:24 p.m.  
Blogger SheBah said...

I’m sorry,KnackeredKaz, but I disagree with you – nobody gets addicted to nicotine or drugs after one hit, no matter what it says in the meeja. It takes a bit of persistence. It is never just one choice, it is a choice made several times over. And people keep doing it because they like the effect. It stops them have to face the normal humdrum routine of everyday life. There is always a period between recreational use and addiction. Some people can be recreational users for their whole lifetime without being addicts. I’ve shared apartments with both smokers and recreational drug users and I have never done either myself, not because I judge others choices bad, but because I never started smoking and am too much of a coward about possible after effects of drugs; plus a few glasses of wine give a good buzz without too much damage. Smoking usually starts as a result of trying to look cool as a teenager, and the first few attempts usually make people cough and feel a bit sick. Taking drugs makes people feel invincible, at least in the beginning, and covers up low self-confidence. I do believe upbringing influences choices, but that can be overturned by peer influence. You only have to look at some of the high profile drug addicts from ordinary families with normal siblings. I also believe you can give up both, perhaps with outside help, if you REALLY want to – that’s the crux though, you have to want to. And the 80-year old woman suing? – is it an April Fool’s joke? Maybe the excitement and attention from lawyers, media and the buzz of the court case will keep her alive for another 20 years, more fun than knitting in a corner. If she wins, what will she do with the compo – buy a Ferrari?

3:06 p.m.  
Blogger SheBah said...

Sorry FMC that was a bit of a rant. I need a bit of training in short, witty, pithy comments!

3:13 p.m.  
Blogger Andraste said...

I'm gonna sue the fucker that invented macaroni and cheese for making my ass big and fat. Huzzah!

4:06 p.m.  
Blogger fatmammycat said...

Ladies, I am back from the gym, and to prove to myself that I really mean what I say and I'm not just a hectoring fraud, I cycled 30k while listening to new albums on my new iPod. Placebo's new album is very very good, expecially the first song, Meds.
Let me just say...iPods FUCKING ROCK!
Thank you, now I am going off to eat smoked Salmon and goats cheese salad with crispy bacon bits in it. I may even have a glass or two of very chilled white wine, because it is Thursday and that is close enough to Friday for me!

4:31 p.m.  
Blogger plurabella said...

Who can I sue? you ask. start with all those fashion magazines you have ever read, then work your way through the shoe companies, possibly all those who supply the leather for the shoes, and definately the actors, writers and producers of "Sex in the City"?

5:55 p.m.  
Blogger fatmammycat said...

You are right! I reckon between me and Sexy Beauty we could get...why we could get...say, how much do you reckon we could get?

6:06 p.m.  
Blogger Andraste said...

You could get the amount you spent on all those clothes and shoes...

You DID keep the receipts, right?

7:50 p.m.  
Blogger fatmammycat said...

er...

9:19 p.m.  
Blogger Sam, Problem-Child-Bride said...

Great post, good discussion. Your willpower versus rational thought comment was spot on. I've found it useful for loads of things, but one of the biggest of those things was giving up an excessive amount of self-control. For a time, I took rational thought to the extreme and ended up being addicted to it, I guess.

I am bipolar (as is my mother and, probably, my grandpa before me, they reckon, although he was undiagnosed) so for conversational purposes, my input might not be that useful 'cos at times, I'm way out on the far edges of both ridiculous, impulse-led hedonism and ridiculous ascetic self-denial and discipline.

Of the two, the self-discipline and denial thing was, ironically, a kind of addiction for me. For example, I could very easily slip back into eating the same thing every day, if I didn't have to provide varied meals for my family. My rationale, my thoughts, which I considered infinitely reasonable were that a monotonous diet just kept things simple. (i didn't consider monotony to be a negative thing at all - it just left more room to pack other stuff into the day.

For about a year at uni, I would get up at 5am, walk seven miles with big text-books into Glasgow uni, while the bus going there went past and splashed me, just to prove to myself I could. I told myself it was character-building, I was saving money and getting fresh air and exercise besides. I was being 'extremely rational', i thought without examining that phrase, the irony completely failed to register with me.

Then, I went to classes 'til 1pm and from there onto work in the student union kitchens til 9pm. I sometimes walked, sometimes took the bus the same 7 miles home and then studied 'til 1am. I did this for about 9 months or so, eating little else than yoghurt and free salad bowls from the union, and had the most academically successful year I ever had at uni that year.

I had moved out of the city at the beginning of the year, ostensibly, to keep my daddy's old auntie company after her husband died, but then quit answering my friends' calls because they were distracting me from my routine and work. I cut myself off from everybody, which was easy to do, at my auntie's. ("Don't call, my auntie's not well". "I don't have time, I have to go to work' etc)

I was like a machine, a perfectly rational machine and i took pride in the fact that I was getting so much done and had the discipline to keep going.

Of course, it wasn't discipline at all, or anything that one could remotely attach a 'moral worthiness' aspect to. It was just Daffy Duck delusional, and i was indulging myself in excessive self-control which made it, if anything, a weakness. But because I thought I was in control and because it wasn't anything like too much drinking, smoking or eating; because it was too much working and studying and forced exercise (the good stuff to do, right?); because it was too much discipline, I thought other people was crazy for telling me to slow down. I was arrogant enough to believe at some points that they were just jealous of my discipline. I never thought they were weak or anything, but I just thought I had more to do than they did. Wrong of course, and more arrogance. But I thought if i slipped from what i was doing there was some weakness in me, so istead I made everything harder and pushed the envelope like we all do mostly moderatley, but the addicted do it extremely.

It ended up with three weeks in the hospital when I went back to the island at the Easter holidays. My father took one look at me and called in my mother's doctor who put me in hospital. Then, with all the control taken away from me and nothing to do all day, I just shut down to the point of being catatonic, for a bit. My family and uni prof. were against ECT, but it was a narrow squeak. Another of the doctors just wanted to blast me but by then the meds were starting to do their magic.

It has taken me the longest time to get over the self-control thing and, more, how reasonable i find self-control to be, to the point of no reason at all.

So, I'm just another bozo on the bus, but thought that it was perhaps worthwhile pointing out that, in the faulty mind, really anything can be taken to extreme. Rational thought got me into it; rational thought got me out of it. Just another, not really different, point of view. Just to show how wide human experiences can be and shit. Sorry! I seem to have gone on a bit. Well, i do live in California now. We're into gratuitous personal revelations. I'm a Lewis-gal and was never inclined to it, but, bugger it, i seem to care a lot less now about who knows what. You guys are my surreal pals and I've met some of the most fascinatng people here in Blogland, but we don't really impinge on each other's real lives so it's kinda uninhibiting like that. The internet makes tongues looser. Not that I'm overly inhibited about anything very much anyway.

Now don't go thinking I'm a raving nutter, fmc, will you? I am pretty damned normal now, really and besides, I have great medication. 100 years ago I would be dead; 500, I would have been burned as a witch.

I can't drink worth a damn now because of the meds, but I am, like, most of the other commentators on this post, it looks like, a Celtic female with a good Celtic liver and a great preparatory teenagehood with alcohol, in the Western Isles. So I can still hold my own with most of the Americans I know. My self-control thing does not, and with luck, will never inhibit my love of a good drink or several, and that makes me normal enough in Britain and Ireland, although not Minnesota.

12:49 a.m.  
Blogger fatmammycat said...

Find you nuts? ahah...ahahahaaha...aha. Oh dear Sam- wipes tear from eye-I won't, I absolutely promise.
I'm not bi-polar, and have no idea what that might be like, but everyone in our family suffers slightly from what you describe. I would happily eat the same food day in day out. I prefer not to answer the phone and would leave it plugged out altogether only people have pointed out that is is odd.I must take some kind of sleeping tablet every night to sleep, otherwise I don't sleep, and when I don't sleep things can get a bit manic.I go tot eh gym daily becasue I ike it and becasue I am so desk bound, but on the days I don't go I feel slightly twitchy.
Etheline likes to do things exactly the same way, same journey to work, same cubicle in the gym, same shower, same locker. She folds things in the exact same way and cannot cope at all with a change of schedule. She cannot relax if newspapers lie scattered on a table and would eventually straighten them, even in other people's home.
My mother-I can't even begin to list the things wrong with her.
My brother cannot go into a shop if one else is in there, not even if he desperately needs something from that shop. If there is no one else in there he won't go in, period. Same with restaurants, bars or arcades.
My eldest sister claims she has no kinks and despairs of us all.
Hum, bi-polar seems to be someone who-through no fault of their own- runs with the kinks and intensifies them to such a degree that the kinks take over? Would that be a fair assessment?

10:53 a.m.  
Blogger Sam, Problem-Child-Bride said...

Yep, that's definitely one way it comes out, fmc, and for me, tat time, it came out like that kind of OCD thing you describe. Must. Have. Control!

Bipolarness is the same thing as manic depression and people swing from extreme highs to extreme lows. During that time I was in a 'mixed state' which is basically an anxious high. It can look like OCD which is where all the obsessive stuff comes from, but is really a mood disorder. All the energy, gogogo, agitation of a true high but none of the elation and more of the anxiety. I get severe paranoia and irritability. I can be hell to live with and hard to love at those times.

Highs generally lead to crippling lows and each bipolar bear has their tendency. Mine is to swing low (not so sweet chariot) and get the mixed state thing (bloody typical, I tell you: all of the energy, agitaion and insomnia, none of the elated giddy highs).

I can count on one hand the times in my life that I've had elated highs and they were brilliant, but equally scary in their way. You're out of control. You spend hundreds of dollars on things like multi-coloured golf-shoes on ebay in a house where nobody plays golf. Your libido goes through the roof. You drive way too fast, talk way too fast and never sleep. You set elaborate plans into motion, throw big parties and then crash and burn, leading to disappointment, fear and confusion for others. You can get into all sorts of financial, practical and relationship trouble and not be aware of what you're doing. I remember the feelings I had at those times (fantastic! yeah baby!), but some days are just lost - I couldn't tell you what I was doing and just know from other people's accounts of me then.

It's a mixed bag, i guess.

12:05 p.m.  
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2:45 p.m.  

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