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If you are at all serious about running, you came to terms with smoking a long time ago. Runners don't smoke. It's that simple.

Health professionals are preaching to the choir when we hear them tell of the dangers of smoking. Runners, in fact, are among the biggest thorns in the sides of those who do smoke. If we're not cajoling them to quit, we're complaining about their second-hand smoke fouling the air.

One of the few times you'll ever see a bar or tavern smoke-free is when a post-race party is held there. We're not saints. There's plenty of beer drinking after a race, but thankfully no clouds of blue smoke. That's why a new trend at some local road races is so disturbing.

Mary Roll, a member of the Checker's Nike Athletic Club and a nurse who has seen more than her share of patients die from cancer, is among those angered by seeing booths selling premium cigars after the Great Race in Amherst and last week's Buffalo Subaru 4-Mile Chase.

Not only were the stogie stands out there, they were doing a brisk business. Runners who just went out and did something healthful were standing in line to fire up one of these things.

I know, I know. Cigars are big these days. We've got Arnold Schwarzenegger smoking one as he changes a tire on his Hummer in the pages of Vanity Fair. Fashion models smoke them. Exclusive cigar clubs have sprung up everywhere and it seems you can't go into a good brew pub anymore without smelling cigar smoke.

But do we need cigars fouling the air after races? Isn't it time to tell these people to take their $10 cigars, their cedar-lined humidors, their arsenal of fancy snipping equipment back to their wood-paneled smoking rooms?

If you need ammunition, try a few of these facts:

As far back as 1982, the U.S. Surgeon General warned that cigar smoking causes laryngeal cancer, oral cancer and lung cancer.

The Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta report that overall cancer rates among men who smoke cigars is 34 percent higher than cancer deaths among non-smokers.

An autopsy study cited by CDC showed that 53.5 percent of men who were cigar or pipe smokers but who had never smoked cigarettes had emphysema, compared to 10 percent of men who had not smoked.

Babe Ruth, Sigmund Freud and Ulysses S. Grant are among those who have died from cigar-related disease.

The American Dental Association points out that cigar smokers, many of whom smoke an average of eight cigars a week, often have badly stained teeth and chronic bad breath.

Cigar smokers who don't inhale are still at risk for oral and throat cancers. The smoke comes in contact with the lips, tongue and mouth tissues.

"Even if inhalation doesn't occur," says the Dental Association's Greg Connolly, "the juices from the cigar and the cigar smoke increase the user's risk of oral and (throat) cancer."

Cigar smoke doesn't just stink. It's more unhealthy than cigarette smoke. Second-hand smoke from a cigar has 30 times the carbon monoxide of a cigarette.

If you can read through all that and still want to fire up a big stogie, be my guest. Just don't do it after a road race. If enough people get the message, maybe these cigar vendors will set up shop somewhere else. Good riddance.

The Chase was 'on'

Race director Jim Nowicki is still beaming about last week's Subaru 4-Mile Chase, one of the best in years.

"It was a great race," said Nowicki, who watched it all from the lead truck. "At 2 1/2 miles, there was still a pack of 10 people."

If there were any doubting Subaru's status as a top race, Nowicki even had international winners. L'Houssine Sibaon of Morocco won in 18:44 and Olga Yegorova of Russia was the women's winner in 21:08.

Bernie's back

Bernie Prabucki, the West Seneca native who was one of the top runners here during the early 1980s, is coming back to town next week for his parents' 50th wedding anniversary.

Prabucki, a certified public accountant, holds the course record of 14:21 for a 5K in Durham, N.C., which gave him an honorary "Bernie Prabucki Parkway" sign after this year's race.

"My dad will be very proud to see me carrying on the family name here in Durham," Prabucki told the local paper, "and my old teachers will be in for a shock -- they felt like the only place my name may appear would be on the bulletin board of the Post Office."

Upcoming races

St. Ambrose 5K Renovation Run, South Buffalo, 7 p.m., Wed., 822-5962; National Night Out Race Against Crime, 5K, Getzville Firehall, 6:30 p.m., Thurs., 868-2762; Cheektowaga Youth & Recreational Services Crabapple Run, 5K, Stiglmeier Park, 9 a.m., Sat., 867-2459; Chautauqua Institution Road Race, 2.6 miles, 9 a.m., Sat., 357-6281; Dash n' Splash Family Fun Run, 2.5 miles, Hamburg, 9 a.m., Aug. 3, 646-5145; Mud Run, European X-Country Run, 7K (4.2 miles) Feddick Road, Boston, 6:30 p.m., Aug. 4, 941-1004.

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