I quit smoking about eighteen years ago.

        It used to be that very morning when my alarm clock went off, I'd fix some sort of breakfast to go with my coffee, and then I'd spend a half hour watching one of the morning TV shows ("Today" or "Good Morning America").

        That particular morning, their guest was a "fitness expert." He knew all about diet and nutrition and exercise and cross-training.

        He did a call-in segment. People were calling the toll-free number, and the expert answered their questions right there on television. One caller was asking a long-winded question about running shoes when, in the middle of his sentence, he coughed.

        The expert interrupted him. "Do you smoke?" he asked the caller.


        "Then I'm going to stop you right there. I'm not going to answer your question about running shoes; that doesn't matter. The only advice that I'm going to give you is to stop smoking, right now. There is NOTHING that you can do that's as bad for your health as smoking. Nothing. If you're a smoker, don't worry about diet or exercise or sunscreens. Until you quit smoking, those things don't matter."

        I paid attention. I drove to my office, threw away my last pack of Marlboros, and I haven't smoked since.