"I am 68 years old, and until four years ago, I smoked
without thinking twice for 48 years. Over the last four
years I have had to pay a very high price for smoking," says
D.A., a well-known figure from the center of the country, as
the opening words to his chilling account of smoking and of
the damage it caused to his lungs and brain.
The firsthand account, which has been transmitted to
Yated Ne'eman by Rav Yechezkel Escheik, has been
highly instrumental in efforts to educate and inform the
chareidi public about smoking prevention.
"I started smoking at a young age. I took my first puff at
the age of 16 at a Purim party held at my yeshiva. I smoked
filtered cigarettes, believing that the filters protect from
"For years I got by on one pack a day, but there were also a
few years during which I was smoking up to two packs a day.
Four years ago I felt that I was in bad shape. I had chest
pains and prickling in my left hand. I went to the emergency
room and they decided to admit me to conduct some tests.
That was just before Shabbos Hagodol. I held a
seder lying on my back in bed, with my family far
away at home.
"When I was admitted to the Department of Internal Medicine
I was sent for a chest x-ray, a routine procedure which
every patient undergoes. The x-ray revealed a blemish in the
lower lobe of my right lung. A CT scan was performed and the
blemish was diagnosed as a growth that would require further
investigation. During chol hamoed I underwent an
angioscope (tzentur) and by Shevi'i Shel
Pesach I was already home.
"I took the x-rays to get a second opinion from an expert
and he said unequivocally, `Mr. A., you have had it good so
far. You had your kicks without thinking twice. You smoked
and breathed it all in. Now it has to be taken out--your
malignant tumor has to be removed, and it's going to mean
"I was shocked. I couldn't believe this could happen to me.
`But I'm fine,' I said. `My hospitalization had nothing to
do with smoking, it was just chest pains . . . '
"I was sent for a biopsy to verify his diagnosis and after
ten days of horrible suspense, the results came in . . . I
underwent surgery to have the tumor removed, and for three
and a half years I have been undergoing treatment,
examinations and follow-ups. Two and a half months ago I
felt strange sensations in my head. CT and MRI scans were
performed and a large metastasis was found in my cerebellum.
It was clear that this metastasis had ascended from the
lung. One week before Pesach I underwent brain surgery to
remove the tumor. Now I'm back to radiation therapy.
"I have undergone two operations in four years and I still
have a long way to go--follow-ups, examinations, x-rays,
administerial procedures, financial expenses and emotional
strain. Add to this the tension and fear everyone has been
going through and you have a real suspense story that I
would rather do without. My eldest son is 40 years old and
he stopped smoking as soon as my condition became known. My
younger son was a heavy smoker and it took him longer to
quit, but now he hasn't come anywhere near a cigarette for
two years. It's a shame I have had to undergo so much to
convince me to throw cigarettes into the "biur
chometz" fire once and for all. My conclusion is that
just as you have to be careful about what you say, it is
also crucial to be careful about what you put in your