Clara Cowell stopped smoking recently and she chose her birthday to mark the occasion. Her 102nd birthday. The British mother of four, grandmother of nine, great grandmother of 12, and great-great grandmother of four decided that after puffing on tens of thousands of cigarettes over the past 89 years she might be pushing her luck.
Clara’s 72 year-old daughter is concerned that she might be tempting fate. She says the secret to her mom’s longevity has been a lifetime of cigarettes and whiskey. Why stop now?
Everybody knows that smoking is bad for your health, it’s not arguable. But when I read a story like this I have to wonder if our culture-driven fears aren’t more hazardous than the actual risk factors.
Why are we all so scared?
We’re scared of cancer and heart disease and every sort of illness attributable to poor nutrition and lousy lifestyle decisions. We worry about being killed by a wrong-way driver, getting trapped in our homes by fire or being hit by a stray bullet for no reason whatsoever.
And here’s the kicker, the ultimate irony: the health experts warn us that stress will kill us deader than anything else.
Yes, we should be careful when we’re driving and mindful of how much bad stuff we ingest but is a lifetime of worry helpful in any way? Of course it isn’t.
Hand-wringing worrywarts are everywhere. They warn us with no uncertain gravity that sugar and butter are bad for us but artificial sweeteners and butter substitutes may be even worse. They extol the virtues of exercise and then some famous long distance runner drops dead from a heart attack.
Wrong-way drivers and stray bullets are pretty rare but if one of them gets you, your number was up. It’s as simple as that.
Sure, don’t smoke. But, diet drinks? Less red meat? I don’t know.
I think we can be too careful. And when you see a 102 year-old woman giving up cigarettes after 90 years I think there are times when a pound of prevention is a silly concession to cultural prejudice.
My motto is, “Moderation in all things, especially moderation.”