On World No Tobacco day, smokers and doctors share the best way to quit the harmful habit.
The first five to ten minutes before a film begins can be agonizing moments for some moviegoers, especially if they happen to be smokers. Gruesome images of persons suffering from mouth and throat cancer splash across the big screen and are coupled with the warning: Smoking kills. This is a cautionary tale we’re all familiar with and yet, many among us still smoke. In a bid to renew awareness about the evils of smoking, this year the World Health Organization has chosen tobacco and cardiovascular disease as a theme for World No Tobacco Day. Talking about the significance of this theme, Dr. Hasmukh Ravat, Senior Interventional Cardiologist at Fortis Hospital says, “The risk of developing coronary blockages and heart diseases is seven — 10 times higher for a chronic smoker than it is for a non-smoker. Smoking is a major risk factor for coronary heart problems, especially in urban areas.” While this threat is ominous, it has also motivated many to quit smoking. We speak to ex-smokers and doctors to find out how to make the quitting journey successful.
The Will to Quit
Twenty-four-year-old Fahim Shaikh started smoking four years back as a social obligation. Talking about his smoking days he says, “Overtime, I ended up smoking a pack a day and two to three packs a night on weekends.” Fahim realised it was time to quit when he started facing difficulties in performing routine tasks like climbing stairs. He relied on will power to quit smoking in January this year. Fahim believes that will power is extremely important and that without it, quitting is impossible. “Anybody who wants to quit can only do it if they decide to and are headstrong about quitting. Otherwise, no matter what you try, you will keep going back to smoking,” he asserts.
Dr Amit Gawande, Consultant Chest Physician at Sujay Hospital and Apollo Clinic emphasises on the importance of will power. “No matter how much I counsel a patient, the primary factor has to be will power. If the patient is not willing, no matter how much therapy or medications a doctor gives, it’s not going to work.” says Amit.
The Way to Quit
Kriti Bajpai, a PR professional who had been smoking for almost 10 years, quit smoking as a New Year resolution this year. She says she stopped the decade-long habit overnight. “I went cold turkey. A conversation with my friend made me realise that I had spent 10 years of my life on an activity that didn’t do me any good. The thought about quitting was there for a while and one day, I just did it,” says the 27-year -old.
Dr. Amit, however says that going cold turkey isn’t the best way to quit. “I believe that quitting gradually works the best. Smoking is a habit and when you stop abruptly, you have not dealt with the habit. Smoking is a habit because of certain reasons. For example, some people smoke when they’re bored, some smoke after a meal, some like a cigarette first thing in the morning. These are micro habits that need to be broken. The moment you don’t have a reason to smoke, you stop smoking. So, don’t go from 10 to zero in a day. Aim to stop one micro habit after another. Let the process be gradual,” says Amit.
Better To Not Start At All
Most people get introduced to smoking while in college. The desire to experiment drives the action. As Fahim says, “Youngsters smoke because everyone is doing it. We need to rid them of this notion as smoking does not help in the long run.”
Dr. Yusuf Matcheswalla, a psychiatrist, is of the same opinion and feels that the desire to smoke should be nipped in the bud. “Youngsters smoke because of peer pressure, because they want to be ‘cool’. This is because they have low self-esteem. To prevent youngsters from smoking, colleges should conduct awareness drives to inform about the ill effects of smoking. Also, for students facing peer pressure issues, there should be counselling cells to help them cope with problems. That way, we can reduce their susceptibility to smoking,” lists Yusuf.