Quit smoking with the mayor

Rodeman hopes new campaign will help in overcoming addiction

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— When Oak Creek Mayor Cargo Rodeman was 8 years old, smoking was advertised on the radio with singsong jingles and on television with the Marlboro man riding his horse into the sunset after lighting one up.

"It was the cool thing. There was nothing negative about it," she said.

She was in the second grade when her mom started buying her cigarettes.

It was nothing strange at Granby Elementary School.

"Everyone smoked," she said.

"(Then) people started to think (in high school) that smoking might be bad for you," she said.

Rodeman, now 48, and a smoker of 40 years, never thought she would smoke this long. When she started as a little girl, she promised herself that she would quit before she became addicted.

She remembers listening to her father cough in the morning when she was a little girl.

Her father was heavy smoker of Camel Straights.

She said he would cough so hard and for so long that his body would go into spasms as he spit up black.

"I'll quit before it ever gets that bad," she thought at the time, "but now my cough in the morning reminds me of my father."

When her own children started smoking, she was mortified.

Her daughter Myria started bumming smokes from her mother at around age 13.

"She smoked the longest of all my children two years," she said. "It was hard as hell for her to quit. (The addiction) sneaks up on you, and cigarettes are so easy to come by."

Her oldest son, Nekiah, started smoking when he was 20.

He was the last of her children to try it, and nothing could have shocked her more.

"When he was a baby, he hated smoking," she said. "He would walk right up to people in restaurants, before there were non-smoking sections, and tell them to stop. 'That burns my nose,' he'd tell them."

Rodeman did everything she could to get her children to put the cigarettes down.

She showed them the lines on her face that appeared long before their time. She explained to her daughter, a singer, that decades of smoking had lowered her voice an octave.

"When that didn't work," she said, "I showed them the black that I coughed up in the morning."

All the lectures ended her children's smoking, but Rodeman herself continued smoking packs a day.

"I tried everything to quit," she said. "I tried patches and gum and will power, God forbid, but nothing worked."

She tried hypnotism, but it cost $100, she said, and worked for 20 minutes.

She made it as far as the intersection of U.S. 40 and Colorado 131 on her way home from Steamboat Springs before she had to turn back and find the ashtray she threw away behind the Cantina.

She tried using nicotine patches. That lasted for six days.

As her health got worse, Rodeman admitted to herself that her body couldn't handle many more packs of Camel Lights.

She searched her own psyche.

"I've never promised a kid anything that I didn't follow through on," she said.

Though nothing has been finalized, Rodeman has been meeting with a counselor at Soroco High School about the possibility of sharing her story with teen-agers and challenging them to a "Quit with the Mayor" campaign.

"I'll show them the wrinkles and tell them about the lost circulation in my hands and feet, and make them listen to my voice," she said, "And I'll promise them that I'll help them to quit by quitting with them."

Principal James Chamberlain said nothing has been set in stone, but discussions will begin this week.

If the high school decides to partner with the mayor on this project, it will be during Red Ribbon Week, a national week of awareness beginning Oct. 20 that addresses the effects of alcohol and drugs.

Rodeman wants to speak at an assembly explaining the effects of smoking and challenge kids to follow her lead.

"If I have those kids counting on me, I know I won't fail," she said. "And there's no closet dark enough in this town where I could cheat."

The major obstacle between Rodeman and quitting, she said, is breaking the physical hand-to-mouth habit.

Previously when she quit, instead of raising a cigarette to her lips, she ate compulsively.

"I got up to 198 pounds," she said. "I went to the gym and looked at myself. 'Whose butt is this and how long has it been following me?'"

Rodeman's mother had the same problem.

"She said that she would rather die of a heart attack than die of obesity," Rodeman said. "She died of a heart attack."

To save herself and the teens of Oak Creek from her parents' fates, and the fate of so many lifelong smokers, she hopes to end her presentation at the high school with a solidarity walk off campus grounds.

Smokers, who want to quit, will have their last cigarette together.

Put them out, clean up the butts and throw their last packs into the garbage.

"I don't want anyone walking off that property with us who isn't serious," she said.

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