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Barbara Bush Quit Smoking in 1968 After a Nurse Called Her Out

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Barbara Bush Quit Smoking in 1968 After a Nurse Called Her Out

barbara bush

Getty ImagesBrendan Smialowski

Former first lady Barbara Bush is in failing health and has decided to against seeking medical treatment to prolong her life, a family spokesman announced on Sunday.

The wife of President George H.W. Bush and mother of President George W. Bush will instead receive “comfort care” at home in Houston, the statement read.

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The 92-year-old has battled Graves’ disease, a thyroid condition, in the past but CNN reports that Bush is now struggling with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) and congestive heart failure.

COPD is a chronic inflammatory lung disease that causes obstructed airflow from the lungs, according to the Mayo Clinic. Sufferers experience symptoms like shortness of breath, wheezing, chronic coughing, and frequent respiratory infections. The disease stems from long-term exposure to irritating gases or air particles, most often from cigarette smoke. About 20 to 30% of smokers develop COPD.

The strong ties between the habit and the disease have prompted many people to wonder if the first lady smoked, a habit she admitted to in her 2015 autobiography, Barbara Bush: A Memoir

“The year 1968 began with me taking a very important step: I gave up smoking,” she wrote. “I had been a smoker since age 18 and knew I should quit but just never did.”

She goes on to recall a time when she had gone to the hospital for a small surgery, and had woken up in the middle of the night and lit a cigarette while still groggy from medication.

bush family 1967
The Bush family stands in front of the United States Capitol, Washington, D.C. in1 967, the year before Barbara gave up smoking.

Getty ImagesThe George Bush Presidential Library and Museum/Handout/Corbis

“At that very moment a tiny nurse came into the room, got me back into bed, and before charging out of the room, informed me she’d be back to talk to me in the morning,” Bush remembered. “True to her word, after she got off duty, she took the time to come in and read me the riot act. She told me I was addicted and a disgrace. Addicted? Me? I couldn’t forget that nurse and on New Year’s Day I quit.”

While Bush beat her nicotine addiction decades ago, she apparently smoked very heavily for the 25-year period between 1943 and 1968. The mom once “smoked Newports by the pack,” according to a 1992 Vanity Fair profile.

While the Bush family hasn’t confirmed whether Barbara is one of the 15.7 million Americans with COPD, they have revealed she’s in “great spirits.”

In fact, Bush joked about her health troubles recently in the alumnae magazine of her alma mater, Smith College. “I have had great medical care and more operations than you would believe,” she revealed. “I’m not sure God will recognize me; I have so many new body parts!”

Granddaughter Jenna Bush Hager confirmed on Monday that Bush remains strong.

“She’s a fighter. She’s an enforcer,” the TODAY anchor said, referring to the matriarch’s family’s nickname. “We’re grateful for her, for everybody’s prayers and thoughts, and just know the world is better because she’s in it.”

Hager added that her grandpa — Barbara’s husband of over 73 years — remains close by her side. “I think the fact that they’re together and that he still says, ‘I love you Barbie’ every night is pretty remarkable,’” she stated.

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