I used to smoke two packs of cigarettes a day. Some days I also indulged in a cigar or one of my pipes. I enjoyed smoking. This was at a time when smoking was permissible everywhere- work, restaurants, even while shopping. I found it calming. I would inhale deeply, especially from my beautiful natural burl pipes, and use those moments to center myself. Smoking was therapeutic. Smoking was a hobby. And, smoking was unhealthy.

We knew. I may have been in my late twenties, but I knew that smoking was a health risk. My father was smoking unfiltered Pell Mell cigarettes. He was addicted. There was no joy, no peace. He had a habit, a cough, and eventually a cancer that would cause great pain and death. I knew that I could end up just like him if I wasn’t careful.

I also knew my triggers, the times or circumstances that caused me to reach for my cigs and a lighter. One of my most consistent triggers, something that would always force me to reflexively light a cigarette, was any commercial from the American Cancer Society. Their anti-smoking commercials drove my smoking.

I haven’t determined whether it was the tone, the content, or simply the point of view, but to this day the American Cancer Society has this hugely negative impact on me. I stopped smoking cigarettes on January 1, 1985. I still avoid their commercials.

We are knee deep in the national health care discussion. As a life long Democrat who has served on numerous campaigns, I am well aware of one side of the debate. As a thirty year plus veteran of the insurance industry, I live the other side. The American public, addicted to open unfettered access to medical care largely paid for by someone else, is interested in the discussion, but not the commercials.

The strident, polarizing messages issued from both camps, parked conveniently on the extremes, do nothing to illuminate the issues. Chrysler didn’t fail because of our health care system. Conversely, Canadians are generally pleased with their access to health care. There is a grain of truth buried within the ads from both the unions and the insurance agents. Will the American public patiently sift through the propaganda to find that truth.

There are people of good will on all sides of the health care debate. There are doctors desperately trying to balance patient and business needs. Insurance agents are intimately aware of our clients’ desire for affordable comprehensive insurance and the competing challenge to finance the care. There are thoughtful government employees and elected officials whose only goal is to help the American public. And there are labor leaders and business owners convinced that one option or the another would be the best for their members or employees.

Where are these people of good will? You won’t find them on the talk shows. Reasoned debate is not good TV. In fact, if television is your primary source for news and information, the only thing you know for sure is that there is a huge conflict and that eventually one side will win and one side will lose. And that’s just not true. We can all lose. That would be easy. We can do nothing and let cost and access spin out of control. Or we can over-reach and ignore our strengths.
Can we all win? That should be our goal and it won’t be easy.

This blog is an invitation to participate in the discussion. When those commercials come on your set, when the talking heads work harder to drown out the opposition than to advance understanding, when you feel like I did when I watched the anti-smoking ads on my television so long ago, don’t shut down. Participate.

Our goals should be common ground and mutual success. What is in the best interest on the American people? How do we get there?


Quick addendum: I got stuck for two hours at a presentation by Stuart Browning, the Michael Moore wanna be from the other side. Full disclosure – I walked out before it was over. Still, I want to expose my readers to as much info as possible. Michael Moore’s website is Stuart Browning can be found at He is known for his 6 minute movie A Short Course On Brain Surgery

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