“I’m so glad we’ll have a smoker in the White House!”

That’s what a nurse exclaimed in my presence at a dinner party last December, a month before President Obama’s inauguration.

I kid you not. A nurse. And obviously a cigarette addict.

It’s a good thing I hadn’t had a glass of wine, or I probably would have lunged across the large table and strangled this woman I had just met. I was shocked, offended, and enraged.

“I had lung cancer,” I said loudly, “and it makes me sick to hear that anyone smokes, but especially our nation’s leader, who’s supposed to set a good example.”

Six months later, the day after new legislation giving the FDA authority to regulate cigarettes, I have to say I now agree with the nurse. Why? Three reasons:

1. President Obama’s commitment to preventing youth from taking up the habit he did as a teen, which helped give him the courage to enact legislation that the tobacco industry lobbied so strongly against. Like 90% of butt addicts, I too started as a teen, and later, as a medical reporter, became a closet smoker after trying quitting many times.

2. People who’ve never smoked may begin to understand how horribly addicting cigarettes are, more addicting than heroin, according to many junkies. Only problem is, the butts still contain nicotine, the substance that is most addicting in cigarettes. But we’ll get on that another time.

3. This provides an opportunity to reveal the crucial truth that 15% of people with lung cancer never smoked at all, and 60% are non-smokers. According to a study published in July 2008, less than 2% of lung cancers can be attributed to second hand smoke “For study participants that were exposed to SHS (second hand smoke) at both activities (work and leisure),” states the summary, “and compared to one or no activity, the adjusted odds ratio for lung cancer was 1.30.”

An article in the “Consults” section of the New York Times yesterday attempted to answer the question, “Why do people who never smoke get lung cancer?” and caused a flurry of controversy, because medical oncologist Derek Raghavan blamed second hand smoke more than any other cause.

“. . .there are actually several answers [to the question],” wrote Raghavan. “Probably the most important issue is that many people who claim not to smoke actually do. . .they breathe in the cigarette smoke that is exhaled by others. For example, consider the very tragic death from lung cancer of Dana Reeve. . .Ms. Reeve had never smoked actively, but she did work as an entertainer, singing in smoke-filled bars and restaurants. That was probably the genesis of her cancer.”

Truth is, we don’t know why so many nonsmokers get lung cancer, because this, the biggest cancer killer, is the least funded of all the major cancers.

Thank you, President Obama, for inspiring almost 6,000 news media entities (according to Google News) to focus on your personal struggle with smoking, as well as signing into law legislation that will hopefully reduce the percentage of youth who are smokers by the time they graduate high school (currently 20%)!

And thank you, Dinner Party Nurse, for inspiring this article, and helping me substitute gratitude for rage!

Always hope,
Author • Speaker • Essayist

NOTE: For any of you in the San Francisco Bay Area, there’s an exciting SF Giants/Oakland A’s game tomorrow night (June 24) to benefit lung cancer. The Bonnie J. Addario Lung Cancer Foundation's “Knock It Out of the Park- Battle of the Bay” to increase lung cancer patients' survival will award 5th grader Emma Olsen, who won the “Dear Mr. President” Essay Contest. She’ll throw the first pitch at the ballgame with Bonnie. A book of essays will be sent to President Barack Obama to help him solve the lung cancer epidemic. Click here for more information.

Also, click here to here to see the Lung Cancer Alliance's public statement about the new legislation.

This post originally appeared on Hope's Everyday Health and CarePages.com blog, "Hope for Cancer: what helps. what hurts. what heals."

Author's Bio: 

Intent.com is a premier wellness site and supportive social network where like-minded individuals can connect and support each others' intentions. Founded by Deepak Chopra's daughter Mallika Chopra, Intent.com aims to be the most trusted and comprehensive wellness destination featuring a supportive community of members, blogs from top wellness experts and curated online content relating to Personal, Social, Global and Spiritual wellness.