Finding a Christmas gift for someone we have been buying for as long as we can remember can be agonizingly difficult. One humorous relative of mine has even taken to sending "belly-button brushes," which consist of pieces of pipe cleaner on a little handl e, to family members with "innies."
Yet, those nearest and dearest to us usually desire a gift that speaks more of undying love than meticulous hygiene.
It is a safe assumption, too, that most of us cannot afford to give expensive gifts, conveyors of affection though they may be. This usually leads us to seek intangibles, the collegiate equivalent of the "coupon books" some of us gave to our parents when we were children.
Perhaps this year might be the time to give those we love the best possible intangible gift - health, ours and theirs. We all have habits that harm ourselves, from "foot-in-the-mouth disease" (a common affliction of the opinionated), to poor time-manageme nt, to not getting enough rest and exercise.
Correcting these personal faults is a gift we should consider giving ourselves.
Yet, there are still more pressing concerns, namely, those habits we have that harm not only ourselves, but those we would never want to hurt, those friends and family who are closest to us.
One of the most serious of these is cigarette smoking. I do not want to drone on about the well-known dangers of smoking, so I will state only three powerful statistics before pointing out two great Internet sites on smoking cessation, and summarizing wha t one has to say about quitting.
Even if you do not smoke, you probably know at least one person you care about who does, so please consider politely sharing this column with that person. Your concern may be the final impetus needed to motivate that person to act.
First, according to the Centers for Disease Control, cigarette smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in the United States.
Second, smoking contributes largely to acute and chronic illnesses, including bronchitis, pneumonia, emphysema, cancer, high blood pressure and impotence.
Third, nonsmokers who live with smokers stand a 10 to 30 percent higher risk of dying from heart disease than nonsmokers who do not, according to the University of California.
In other words, smoking may very well kill smokers, and if it does not, it likely will make what life they do have worse and worse as they age. And, it may do the same to those they live with. This did not sound pleasant when my parents explained the slow and awful lung cancer death of my addicted grandfather, whom I never knew, and it still sounds like hell almost two decades later.
We can only assume that people who began smoking did not have these facts, and that reasons ranging from peer pressure to stress keep them from quitting.
If you do smoke, then, please do yourself and your loved ones a favor and stop at a campus computer lab to visit Northern Arizona University's Fronske Health Centers' smoking cessation homepage, and the "kickbutt.org" homepage.
The Fronske address is http://www.nau.edu/~fronske/smkintro.html, and the kickbutt address is http://kickbutt.org.
The Fronske page explains smoking dangers and smoking cessation. It has a self-test to help smokers who want to quit to understand their reasons, which can be classified as health, setting a good example, aesthetics and self-mastery.
It also details the pros and cons of the different cessation methods, which include quitting cold turkey, patch/gum nicotine substitution, switching brands, reduction and postponement. Finally, the page explains specific steps to take smokers through the process of quitting: think, quit and maintain.
The "kickbutt" page has statistics on just about every smoking-related topic one could think of, as well as links to antismoking interests.
For those who smoke, now is a good time to kick the habit. In addition to improving your health and the health of those around you dramatically, you can look, smell, and feel better, and save quite a bit of cash, which you can then lavish on belly-button brushes and other stuff.
Kristen Roberts is a pre-education sophomore. Her column, 'Life in Balance,' appears every other Thursday. Her homepage can be found at http://www.u.arizona.edu/~knr.