Oak Creek Violet Shaffer lifted her oxygen tank and set it down, hard, on the table.
"Do you know what this is?" she asked. "It's an oxygen tank. Take a good look at it, kids. I have it with me 24 hours a day. I sleep with it."
Shaffer has gone through several surgeries and suffers from emphysema as a result of 50 years as a cigarette smoker. She quit smoking two years ago.
"I beg you to throw your cigarettes away. It's not worth it," she said. "I can't go camping or shopping. I can't walk to my car without running out of breath."
By the time Shaffer was finished talking, she was in tears, and so was Oak Creek Mayor Cargo Rodeman. A row of middle school and high school kids shifted in their chairs and stared down at their hands.
Friday marked the first day of Rodeman's "Quit Smoking with the Mayor" program. At noon, anyone who wanted to quit smoking, especially teen-agers, were invited to smoke a cigarette on the steps of Town Hall and make a pact then and there that it was their last.
A circle of five teen-agers and two adults, including Rodeman, tore up their last packs and threw them in the trash. Most of the teen-agers decided to smash out their last cigarette after only one drag.
Two hours of listening to adults tell horror stories about the effects of smoking turned them all off to the idea.
For those two hours, Rodeman begged them to stop smoking and promised that she would stop with them.
Rodeman smokes three packs a day and has smoked since the second grade.
"If you think it's going to be hard for you," she said, "it's going to be harder for me."
Rodeman smoked through elementary school, middle school and high school, planning to quit before she was 20.
"I can remember waking up in the mornings to the sounds of my dad's cough," she said. "He smoked Camel Straights and he would cough all morning. I promised myself I would quit long before I got that bad. Now my cough in the morning reminds me of my dad's."
She told those present that if they started getting weak and wanted to smoke, they were welcome to come to her home at 7:30 in the morning.
"That's when I have my coffee," she said. "And you can listen to me cough and see the black (stuff) that I cough up."
She told the listening teen-agers that she has poor circulation in her hands and feet and they are cold all the time, she said.
"I love to sing with my daughter, but my voice is raspy from smoking and there are a lot of notes I can't hit anymore," she said.
Rodeman's mother was a lifelong smoker. She tried to quit once and found herself gaining weight.
"My mom said that she would rather die of a heart attack than die of obesity. So she kept smoking," Rodeman said. "And she died of a heart attack at 56." The last time Rodeman saw her mother was the day her daughter was born.
"I'm not afraid of death, but I have children and I want to see my grandchildren," she said. "My mom died from smoking. My children could have used a grandmother."
The teens listened and then explained why they started smoking in the first place.
"For me it wasn't peer pressure so much as something to distract me from my problems," one middle school girl said.
"I smoke when I get bored," another said.
"You guys are my inspiration to quit," Rodeman said.
Judy Hiester from the Visiting Nurse Association program Tobacco Control Initiative of Routt County gave a presentation about how to quit smoking.
She suggested finding something to replace the hand and mouth habits other than junk food.
Rodeman plans to chew on coffee stir sticks and came to the meeting with a large number of them in her coat pocket.
Hiester made several other suggestions for quitting successfully:
n Get rid of all smoking paraphernalia.
n Clean curtains and bedding to rid your home of the smell of smoke.
n Develop a support system.
n Know the triggers that make you want to have a cigarette.
n Keep yourself hydrated.
n Don't punish yourself if you relapse. Learn from it.