Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Clara's a quitter

Clara Cowell stopped smoking last week and 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, after 89 years and tens of thousands of cigarettes, she might be pushing her luck.

Clara’s 72 year-old daughter is more concerned that her mom might be tempting fate. She says the secret to Clara's longevity has been a lifetime of cigarettes and whiskey. Why stop now? She said it cheeky but may have a point.

Everybody knows that smoking is bad for your health, it’s not arguable, but when I read a story like this I wonder if our culture-driven fears aren’t at least as hazardous as the actual risk factors. 

Why are we all so scared? Because we're told we must be. We live our lives surrounded by warning labels and bombarded with real-life horror stories mixed with rumors and urban legends. We’re scared of cancer and heart disease and every sort of illness whether attributable to poor nutrition and lousy lifestyle decisions or just dumb luck and dna.

We live in constant fear of things that will probably never happen.

And here’s the kicker, the ultimate damned-if-you-do-or-don't irony: the same health experts who shake their fingers at us when we eat a Big Mac or don't get enough sleep insist that stress will kill us deader than anything else. 

Yes, of course 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. 

Lynda Fowler and her 102 years old mum, Clara Cowell
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.

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.

Moderation in all things, especially moderation.

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