I wish I had never lit a cigarette

2010-06-23 00:00

UNTIL a few years ago, Ken Newman was a heavy smoker. But then doctors diagnosed him with throat cancer, which nearly killed him.

“Just the word ‘cancer’ alone. You become suicidal. I didn’t want to live, and I mean how do you go through life without speaking?”

Newman started smoking when he was 14 years old and continued for 50 years.

“I wanted to be one of the boys, all my friends smoked. I started smoking, you know, when you have a few drinks then you have an extra smoke. And I ended up smoking, I’d say, between about 40 or 50 a day. I never thought this would happen to me, a lot of people don’t think it will happen to you and then eight years ago I got a bad throat and I went to the doctor.”

Newman’s throat was riddled with cancer. He was given radiation treatment to try to burn out the tumours.

“The radiation is worse than the operation. You don’t eat, I lost all my teeth, you lose all your hair, you don’t shave, and you lose your sense of smell, your sense of taste … But the radiation did clear me up. But only for a period of four years and then it came back.

“And then there was only one option, a total laryngectomy, and then they cut out my voice box.

“I’m talking with a hole in my throat. There has been an [increase] in woman smokers, and I’m sure no young attractive woman would like to walk around like this. That’s what you will look like. And it’s not a nice sight to see.”

He breathes and speaks through a hole in his throat. Smoking can do this to anyone, at any time.

“And it’s not because of my age and because I was smoking 40 to 50 cigs a day. Going through to the hospitals, I’ve seen youngsters there of 19 or 20, smokers who have got this and we don’t hear about it.”

He is not the first person in his family to suffer from smoking-related diseases, but even as he reflects on the short- sightedness of his decision to smoke, it’s too late and the damage has been done.

“My father and mother were heavy smokers, both smokers, yes, and I lost my mother through cancer, but not throat cancer, other cancer, and my father a heart attack, and heart attacks are also tobacco related.”

Like many smokers, Newman ignored warnings about the dangers of tobacco. Once a sportsman, today he can only watch from the sidelines. His condition couldn’t be more different from that of a boxer whom he sponsors.

“In the old days they used to say every smoke you have is a nail in your coffin. We used to laugh and look at me sitting here today.

“No one is to blame except yourself, except myself. I wanted to smoke, I did smoke.

“When I look at myself in the mirror, I actually get disgusted. This could have all been prevented.

“If I had to go back I would never have touched a cigarette in my life.”

— Health-e News.

Five million people worldwide die of tobacco-related diseases every year, which is one death every 10 seconds. Despite the crackdown on smokers in South Africa through an increased tax on cigarettes and restrictions on where people can smoke, few people take heed of the warnings that tobacco kills. In this radio transcript, Ken Newman, who was a smoker for over 50 years, explains why he wishes he had never lit a cigarette in his life.

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