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Bronchogenic carcinoma: A malignant neoplasm of the lung arising from the epithelium of the bronchus or bronchiole.  Lung cancer accounts for 30 percent of all cancer deaths in the U.S., most of which are directly attributable to cigarette use. – Loyola University Medical Education Network

Today, August 17, I’m observing what would be my dad’s 101st birthday.

He didn’t come close to that, thanks to roll-your-own, Lucky Strikes, and later, filtered Winston cigarettes.

He was lucky to make it to age 61. Lung cancer eventually took him, but I always figured a hard life had something to do with it.

Quitting school after the eighth grade to help provide for a family of eight wasn’t all that unusual. The Dust Bowl gripped South Dakota like a vise and, coupled with the Great Depression, many farm families fled the land for opportunities elsewhere.

Dad’s farm home was spartan, and rheumatoid arthritis forced his mother onto crutches when he was 15. I do not know how his family got through it. But they did, miraculously.

The need to work drove him and his generation just as it did the settlers who struggled to survive in an earlier time in South Dakota.

Dad was the hardest working man I ever knew. He worked all the time. If I happened to get up early, he’d already milked the cow, finished other chores and was settling in for a second cup of coffee after enjoying the inevitable eggs and bacon that Mom had rustled up.

And what would coffee be without a cigarette? Or two.

I grew up in a household of smoke, and took up the habit myself until giving it up when I was 34. It was one of the hardest things I ever did. For days and weeks afterward, the typewriter in the newsroom just didn’t work right. For reporters used to lighting up as they started drafting a story, not having a smoke was like typing with one hand. Blindfolded.

A news story recently said that today, about 15 percent of adults smoke cigarettes. When my dad was young, nearly 50 percent smoked them.

Experts say the heavy tax on cigarettes, driving up the price to $5 a pack or more, can take credit for much of the decline, perhaps as much as the health scare attached to tobacco in any form.

I don’t recall my dad ever talking about quitting smoking. It really wasn’t an issue until the mid-1960s, and even then the labels on the packages were viewed with skepticism.

Although South Dakota has a slightly higher percentage of smokers than the national average, the war on cigarettes has enjoyed significant success. That’s a bit of good news in what often is a dreary news world.

 Aug. 17, 2016