I once heard a geneticist claim that the changes to genes induced by smoking have been traced forward for three generations.
So as I approach 60, an auspicious age at which many loved ones have died, this NY Times article came as a reminder that some things are simply more powerful than what we eat.
In North Carolina, where I grew up, tobacco was king. Pall Malls in every pocket; ladies with Jackie Kennedy dos riding in their convertibles, ashes blowing in the wind.
My mom started smoking in adolescence, one of those time periods when genes are particularly susceptible, and died of lung cancer at age 60. Her parents, also smokers at a time when its dangers weren’t revealed to the public, died of cancer around that same magic age.
In my late 30s, I was diagnosed with, fortunately, a slow-growing form of cancer–and a year later, gave birth to a daughter with a broken chromosome. She spent her entire second day of life in open heart surgery, her first two months on a respirator.
As I shuffled back and from the hospital room in which my mother was dying and the intensive care bed where my infant daughter was struggling to survive, I shuddered every time I passed the sign on ICU’s door: funded by RJ Reynolds.
So should I thank you, Reynolds Tobacco? 12 years a slave, 3 generations and counting a victim…