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Bruchey butts out

November 21, 1997

By GUY FLETCHER

Staff Writer

Shortly after 5 p.m. Thursday, Hagerstown Mayor Robert E. Bruchey II finished a cigarette before passing through the automatic doors of the Wal-Mart store on Wesel Boulevard.

It was his final smoke in a 11/2-pack-a-day habit that began 20 years ago, he said.

"I'm done," he said, minutes after he dropped an empty pack of Dorals into a cigarette dump box set up at the Great American Smokeout display in the store.

"You've got a rough two weeks ahead, mister," Gene Keller of Hagerstown told Bruchey.

Keller, 67, should know. Nearly three years ago he kicked the habit after smoking for 53 years, he said. But that was only after tried to quit "15 or 20 times" before.

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Keller said he feels better, food tastes better and his family is thrilled that he quit. But he said he still would love to light up a smoke.

"I'm not going to lie, I still crave cigarettes," said Keller, now a Cancer Society volunteer.

Thursday's Great American Smokeout is an annual event held to encourage people to quit for one day, with the hope that they might take it further, said Kristi Mehan, a volunteer with the Cancer Society.

The store display showed the various health risks involved with smoking and tips on how to quit.

"If nothing else it plants the seed in their head," Mehan said.

Bruchey said he has never liked smoking, but it just became a habit. He said the only time he really feels a need to smoke is in the morning, so that will be his largest hurdle in quitting.

He said he and his wife, Susan, who also is quitting, estimated that they spent a combined two hours each day smoking.

"There's two more hours a day we'll have to do things," he said.

As part of Smokeout ceremonies, Bruchey was presented with a basket filled with gum, candy and other goodies intended to curb his craving for nicotine in the days ahead.

"He'll need it, too," Keller said.

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