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HEALTH MATTERS: Performer wants to kick his cigarette habit in 2018

Shawn “Hazz” McDonald has smoked cigarettes for more than 20 years.

“I am a chain smoker, especially when I drink socially,” McDonald said. “Typically, I will smoke one cigarette after eating a meal.”

According to the American Lung Association, more than 480,000 people die annually in the United States from tobacco use and secondhand smoke exposure. It is the leading cause of preventable death in the nation.

Both of his parents were smokers.

“My first cigarette was my mom’s that was left in the ashtray,” McDonald said. “It gave me a head rush and from that point on, I would sneak a cigarette from my mom’s ashtray or her box every chance I got.”

The surgeon general’s warning, on the pack of cigarettes, states, “Smoking causes lung cancer, heart disease, emphysema and may complicate pregnancy.” What you may not know is that any one of the 600 ingredients in cigarettes that most likely contributes to McDonald’s head rush; can also cause harm to overall well-being.

When burned, the tobacco smoke contains more than 7,000 chemicals, such as arsenic, lead and tar.

When he became of legal age of 21 years old, McDonald would typically buy a pack of cigarettes a month.

“Cigarettes helped me relax or cope with stress,” he said. “I am not a coffee drinker so a morning cigarette is my pick me up to start the day,”

Imagine the stress on your budget and negative impact on your health. The cost of cigarettes and per-pack taxes has increased. The 10 states with the highest per-pack taxes are New York ($4.35), Connecticut ($3.90), Rhode Island ($3.75), Massachusetts ($3.51), Hawaii ($3.20), Vermont ($3.08), Minnesota ($3.07), Washington ($3.025), California ($2.87) and New Jersey ($2.70).

Poisons and toxins found in tobacco smoke can affect your health and stress level. At least 69 chemicals found in tobacco smoke are considered cancer-causing factors. A sampling of the chemicals found in tobacco smoke and its intended use: acetone, found in nail polish remover; acetic acid, an ingredient in hair dye; ammonia, a common household cleaner; arsenic, used in rat poison; benzene, found in rubber cement; butane, used in lighter fluid; cadmium, an active component in battery acid; carbon monoxide, released in car exhaust fumes; formaldehyde, embalming fluid; hexamine, found in barbecue lighter fluid; lead, used in batteries; naphthalene, an ingredient in mothballs; methanol, a main component in rocket fuel; nicotine, used as insecticide; tar, material for paving roads; and toluene, used to manufacture paint.

“I have tried to kick the habit about six times in my life,” McDonald said. “It was difficult to stop because of my environment — nightclub, concert, house party — which triggers me to start up again.”

Medical professionals, such as Dr. Cwanza A. Pinckney, a board certified emergency physician and attending physician at St. Luke’s Hospital in Houston, says, “The key to being successful with any New Year’s resolution is to make a decision and take action. The same is true of quitting smoking. Be intentional. Write an affirmation stating that you are choosing to quit smoking because you are deciding to live a healthier lifestyle in 2018 and repeat that affirmation every day.

“You want to make a statement that is broad and makes you feel good,” Pinckney added. “As you move along your journey to quit smoking cigarettes, your affirmations will become more specific as your focus and commitment deepens in a positive meaningful way.”

Within 20 minutes after quitting smoking, the body begins to repair the damage caused by smoking and as time goes on, more health benefits are achieved, and risk factors from dying from different types of cancer, heart disease, or stroke are lowered. (Source: CDC)

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the benefits from quitting smoking begin to occur as quickly as 20 minutes after you quit as your heart rate drops to a normal level. After 12 hours, the carbon monoxide level in your blood drops to normal. In two weeks to three months after quitting, the risk of having a heart attack drops and lung function begins to improve.

In one to nine months, coughing and shortness of breath should decrease. One year after quitting, the risk of coronary heart disease decreases by 50 percent of a smoker’s risk. After five to 15 years, the risk of a stroke is reduced to that of a nonsmoker’s, as well as the risk of getting cancer of the mouth, throat or esophagus is cut in half of a smoker’s.

Ten years after quitting, the risk of dying from lung cancer is about half that of a smoker’s, getting bladder cancer is half that of a smoker’s, and the risk of getting cervical cancer or cancer of the larynx, kidney or pancreas decreases.

At 15 years of being smoke-free, the risk of coronary heart disease is the same as that of a nonsmoker.

McDonald said, “My mom stopped smoking cigarettes 15 years ago.”

However, his dad, who has been a smoker since 1973, is still a heavy smoker and goes through about two packs a week. There are 20 cigarettes in a pack.

Smoking cessation is one of the top resolutions to strive for in the New Year. Plan, celebrate goals, and stay focused because change may be difficult but can be rewarding.

To achieve New Year’s Eve quit smoking resolutions, medical experts suggest planning ahead and setting goals.

“Plan for temptation because it is inevitable that during your journey to becoming smoke free you will be tempted to fall into old patterns and habits,” Pinckney said. “The key to curbing temptations is writing out what your triggers are for smoking and then creating a solution to ensure you are successful at managing, avoiding, or resisting the temptation to smoke.”

Another tip is to celebrate each goal.

“Set small goals that you can accomplish and celebrate,” Pinckney said. “For example, just cutting back one cigarette a day to ensure you are seeing yourself set a goal, complete it and then celebrate. The better you feel about not smoking the easier it will be to quit.”

Smoking cessation is one of the most in-demand resolutions to achieve in the new year. One of the most effective ways to quit smoking for many is clinical hypnotherapy.

How does it work?

“Through a series of simple guided directions and mental relaxation there are calm relaxed feelings of being sedated while your body calms into a homeostasis state brought on by the theta or hypnagogic state of mind,” said Liana Mendoza, a licensed clinical hypnotherapist.

“The patient is gently guided after a unique tailored evaluation administered by the clinical hypnotherapist that generates the individual’s individual neural pathways and how the client associates pleasure to the vocational/avocational self-improvement and those neural pathways are gently guided and “built” to bypass this pleasure enabling the person to not only dissolve the “payoff” of smoking, thereby decreasing and eventually the eradication of the desire to smoke ever again,” Mendoza said. “It is an effective, safe, clinically approved tool to quit smoking.”

Since the holiday season began, McDonald has considerably cut down on smoking.

“My goal is to leave it behind and start fresh,” he said. “As an entertainer, I want to protect my voice and stay on track with living a healthier lifestyle.”

McDonald also has the sickle cell trait.

“I know I can accomplish my New Year’s resolution with the support of friends and family to tell me no when I ask for a cigarette,” said McDonald, who is also a father. “I don’t want my kids to mimic me and smoke, too.”

McDonald says, “When I have the urge to smoke and I’m in the gym or at home, I do push-ups or if I am out, I eat sunflower seeds to keep the cigarette out of my mouth.”

The most important fact to remember when you have the urge to smoke is that an estimated 88 million non-smoking Americans are exposed to second-hand smoke, which causes an estimated 7,330 lung cancer deaths and more than 33,900 heart disease deaths in non-smoking adults each year.

“Smoking is a major risk factor in cancer of all types, COPD and asthma, heart disease, strokes, kidney failure, vascular disease and death, so quitting smoking is always a great step to improve your overall wellness,” Pinckney said.


American Lung Association –

Centers of Disease Control and Prevention –

CHI St. Luke’s Hospital –

Freedom from Smoking –

Smoke Free Text –

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services –

Marie Y. Lemelle, MBA, a public relations consultant, is the owner of Platinum Star PR and can be reached on Twitter @PlatinumStar or Instagram @PlatinumStarPR. Send “Health Matters” related questions to and look for her column in The Wave.