Your Memory Up in Smoke?

By: Erin Tate
By: Erin Tate

"If you have a brain bigger than a pea, you know smoking isn't good for you," says Jim Gallant, a pack-a-day smoker for 40 years.

"I tried 15 years to quit. I tried the patch, the gum, everything but hypnosis," he says.

He's been clean now for more than a year and the track is his place of celebration. He's walked about 575 miles at the Montevideo Middle School as a smoke-free man.

He looks healthy, but inside he's still healing.

Donna Reynolds of the American Lung Association explains, "What will happen over time is you'll have loss of blood flow and that has the ability to impact not only your heart but also your brain."

That could cause a loss of memory in middle age, according to a new study published in the American Journal of Public Health. But another study says the opposite - that nicotine could, in fact, block Alzheimer's.

"That's an absolute contradictory to the majority of health data," Reynolds says.

The Scripps Research Institute is trying to manipulate the drug to delay diseases without being so toxic and addictive.

Despite all the research that says smoking is bad for you, 9,000 Virginians are still dying each year from smoking-related illnesses. Cigarettes are the most preventable cause of death and yet one of the most affordable guilty pleasures. Virginia's tobacco tax is the lowest in the nation, making the drug more affordable to kids.

And kids are what keep Gallant "on track." He's gearing up for a 26-mile marathon to raise money and take his message to elementary schools in the Valley.

"If you don't smoke, be proud of that. Come out and walk with me," he says.

Gallant hopes to raise $10,000 for the American Lung Association this fall.

For more information, call Jim Gallant at (540) 746-1126.


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