I quit smoking about three years ago. Before I quit, I smoked about a pack of cigarettes a week. Not a lot to some folks, but more than I or my family would have liked. 

When I quit, I didn’t surround myself with smokers. In fact, that was one of the reasons it wasn’t too difficult to quit. I didn’t have anyone to bum cigarettes from, and I didn’t like the idea of paying more than $12 for a pack of cigarettes just to satisfy my craving for, like, one quick drag.

There are a few smoke smells on Whidbey Island. I guess in general, actually. Smoke scents don’t change that drastically from island to mainland. But then again, I never noticed the difference when I was living on the mainland, so perhaps there is something on the island.

The first few smoke scents are pleasant and enticing. Campfires, grills, and cookouts. The smoke is natural smelling, and there is generally food associated with the scent. I found I enjoy walking through the campground in the evening for my walk-through and smelling the campfires around the site. It does make me want to camp out or at least cook over a bonfire or something.

Smelling a grill cooking always makes me hungry.  Actually, talking about cooking on the grill makes me hungry. Thinking about grilling makes me hungry. There is nothing not to like about grill smoke smells.

There is also the scent of marijuana. Funny side story: when I first moved to Whidbey Island, I started an outdoor bootcamp and one day took the group for a run on the nature trail. We passed by a section where someone must have sat and smoked a joint, but my mind was completely naive to pot. I exclaimed “Oh, I didn’t know skunks lived around here!” My entire group looked at each other and finally one said “Well, I guess we should be encouraged that our fitness instructor isn’t fully familiar with marijuana…” I nearly dropped to the ground. Really? I didn’t recognize marijuana? Good grief.

Nowadays, I smell marijuana infrequently, but it doesn’t repulse me. It still smells a little like skunk, but it’s a natural odor. It isn’t enticing me to roll a joint or smoke a doobie, but I don’t want to gag when I smell it.

Cigarettes have become a completely different story.

When I smoked, I never smelled the cigarettes on me or my clothes. I tried to appease my husband, the avid non-smoker, by using breath fresheners, Febreeze, and lotions. I couldn’t smell anything, but he always claimed they didn’t work.

Three years later, now I’m wondering how in the hell my husband lived with me at all. The smell of cigarettes is infrequent, but once in a blue moon, we pass by someone having a smoke break, or walking their dog while having a cigarette. And the smell absolutely disgusts me.

A couple months ago, I attended a writing conference at a Las Vegas casino/hotel. While the entire venue for the conference was in non-smoking rooms, the rooms were right above the casino. It didn’t matter that an entire floor/ceiling was between us and the smokers. I smelled smoke everywhere. I smelled it in my own room. I smelled it in the shower. When I got home, for two weeks, I complained of smelling smoke everywhere.

Last night, I finished my campground rounds and walked through another section of the park. There were a couple of smokers. It was amazing how different the scent was to me. Three years ago I used to complain to my husband that you couldn’t tell the difference between cigarette smoke and campfire smoke. Smoke was smoke was smoke. But now, I smell a distinct difference, and I’m glad I don’t light up anymore.

Smoking is a huge issue for another one of my co-workers. He was telling me about his idea to start a cigarette butt campaign for the local state parks and calling it “Secure Your Butts”. More than the smell of cigarettes, what bothers Bryan more is seeing cigarette butts all over the parks. This annoys me too, but I used to be one of those people who would smash a finished cigarette on the ground and smash it until I thought it was safely extinguished.

But talking to Bryan, and looking online to confirm what he said, I have another reason to never light up again, and to join him in his quest to Secure Our Butts. The filters of cigarettes are not biodegradable pieces of trash. They are filled with plastic, which we all know, never goes away. But these are way worse than plastic straws.

Unlike straws, filters contain carcinogens, like nicotine and toxins found in tobacco. These toxins leach into the water and kill marine life. It is a toxic substance which we are just flinging around endlessly to support a dangerous and addictive habit.

I never thought about that, but it’s true. My nasty habit which was slowly killing me was also killing some of my favorite animals, under the sea. Other animals also eat the filters, unknowing it is toxic and can get sick or die from the carcinogens as well.

I know quitting smoking is one of the hardest endeavors anyone can commit. I also know it’s possible. I will never go back to smoking cigarettes. It’s bad for me, it’s bad for other people around me, and now I’ve realized just how bad it is for the environment.

Conservation Fitness is all about becoming the best version of yourself to meet your fitness goals, and to help promote a healthier planet. So, now my message extends to not just your workout and eating habits, but all life habits, anything that affects your health and well-being.

I like Bryan’s campaign “Secure Your Butts”. He opened the door for Conservation Fitness to progress. I am looking into calling my campaign “Get Off Your Butts” and encouraging people to completely kick the habit once and for all.

Make a difference in your health, and make a difference in the health of the planet. Get off your butts, save the oceans, and promote a cleaner environment. The air will smell a lot nicer too.