Sitting side-by-side on a loading dock outside North Arundel Hospital, Kathy Lynn and Mary Strazza dragged deeply on their cigarettes in complete disregard of the day.
Hooked on nicotine, they just weren't ready to stop smoking, even for 24 hours.
While smokers across the nation ditched their cigarettes yesterday for the American Cancer Society's 15th annual Great American Smokeout, Lynn and Strazza joined a steady stream of medical professionals who kept right on puffing.
"At this point, I don't even like it," said Lynn, assistant director of mental health nursing at the Glen Burnie hospital. "But when I quit, there's the weight gain."
Like most medical offices and businesses in America, North Arundel Hospital has banned smoking throughout its building.
Even the senior vice president, Wyatt Medicus, must slip out onto the loading dock and shiver under an umbrella in the rain to catch a smoke.
Health-care workers know first-hand about the hazards of smoking. Joseph Caplan, thedirector of radiology, treats patients every day whose lungs are scarred and cancer-ridden.
He recognizes that cigarette smoking is the leading cause of 83 percent of lung cancer cases, and that smokers have a much higher death rate than non-smokers.
Still, he stood outside the hospital yesterday and puffed contentedly on a pipe.
"Being in health care, sure, I know all the risks," said the 44-year-oldphysician, who switched from smoking three packs of cigarettes a dayto a pipe after he had a minor stroke seven years ago. "But I chooseto do it."
Other nurses, doctors and administrators said they rely on cigarettes to relieve the stress of their work.
Many chuckleda little guiltily as they puffed in front of the door posted with a red warning sign: "This is a Smoke-Free Hospital. No Smoking Permitted."
The benches outside Anne Arundel Medical Center were also crowded with smokers yesterday. A nurse, who asked not to be named, relaxed with a cigarette and book during her lunch break.
"I tried it once," she said about the Great American Smokeout. "But I just smoked twice as much the next day."
Neither hospital promoted the smokeout this year with freebies and blood-pressure screenings as they did last year. They also did not join area companies in offering adopt-a-smoker programs.
But public schools and other businesses in the area gave away buttons, stickers and smoking-cessation survival kits donated by the American Cancer Society.
The Health Department encouraged its workers to quit smoking by giving out free turkey sandwiches to those who quit "cold turkey," said Leslie Hill, program director for the Cancer Society in Gambrills.
Employees of the state Motor Vehicle Administration in Glen Burnie traded their cigarettes for a brisk walk, she said.
The annual smokeout on the third Thursday of each November usually leads about 37.5 percent of the nation's 50 million smokers to quit for at least one day.
A Gallup poll last year showed that most resumed smoking within a few hours, but 7.4 million,or 14.9 percent, refrained for the entire day, Hill said. About 4.9 million had not reached for a cigarette up to three days later, one million more than in 1989.
Strazza said she quit for a month after the 1985 smokeout. She planned to participate yesterday but broke down and had a cigarette in the morning. Still, she said, there's alwaysnext year.