World No Tobacco Day 2020: Five smokers describe what trying to quit after years of smoking feels like

We talked to five people addicted to smoking who have tried to quit for various reasons, to understand just how difficult fighting this addiction can be.

Myupchar May 29, 2020 13:47:45 IST
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World No Tobacco Day 2020: Five smokers describe what trying to quit after years of smoking feels like

Quitting is not easy, and yet it’s something every smoker has to eventually do if he or she wants to live a life that is not burdened by health problems. Tobacco smoking, as a study in Psychology & Health in 2017 indicates, increases the risks of stroke, blindness, back pain, vascular diseases, heart diseases, hormonal imbalance and disorders, skin diseases - all apart from lung diseases and cancer.

World No Tobacco Day 2020 Five smokers describe what trying to quit after years of smoking feels like

Representational image. Image by Aamir Mohd Khan from Pixabay.

We talked to five people addicted to smoking who have tried to quit for various reasons, to understand just how difficult fighting this addiction can be.

What the teacher learned

From bidis to cigarettes and cigars, I smoked like a connoisseur for about 30 years and had no intentions of quitting despite my loved ones urging me to. I’ve studied and taught biology for decades now, I know what tobacco consumption does, and I actively lecture my kids and students to not smoke or they’d end up coughing like me. I managed to go cold turkey about 13 years ago when I contracted pneumonia during the monsoon. I had to quit, and I thought I’d be perfectly fine after that. But smoking is the gift that keeps on giving, and I recently got diagnosed with COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease). So, you might feel like the cool kid now, but know that smoking never lets you go scot-free.  - Debashish, 64, Kolkata

Cigs in the time of COVID-19

I’ve been smoking for more than 25 years now. Got married, had kids - never quit. I fell sick a few months ago though and it was a lung infection that just wouldn’t go away. Many tests later, doctors didn’t have an exact diagnosis but they all agreed on one thing - I needed to quit smoking if I wanted to get better. So, I finally did. But once I started feeling better I resumed smoking. Then came the COVID-19 pandemic - I was put on unpaid leave and I got the same lung infection from before. Having to go to the hospital during the lockdown was a wake-up call. I’ve quit for the second and last time. Knowingly making my chances worse when even healthy people are dying is something I can’t make peace with anymore.  - Ajay, 51, Mumbai

When excuses stop working

I’ve always had smokers around me. Even my dad was one and he used work, stress and even constipation as an excuse for it. I picked up smoking when I was 21, old enough to know what harm it does. I often ended up using the same excuses that my dad did. I quit a couple of times in between - especially whenever I got respiratory infections - but my urge to smoke always won out. That is until I got diagnosed with three different diseases that are exaggerated by smoking. In the last eight months, I’ve spent five not smoking at all. The three that I did smoke for have shamed me because my health should be worth more than an addiction, right?  - Shruti, 32, New Delhi

Things they never ask women

I was diagnosed with PCOD in my teens and I was prescribed birth control pills for three months. That’s also around the time I started smoking. A few years later, I got another prescription for the pill when I became sexually active. But there are so many misconceptions about the pill that many around me were deeply concerned. In an attempt to allay their fears, I read the whole pamphlet that comes with the pill, only to accidentally discover that there’s a serious risk of heart problems if you’re a smoker and on the pill. No doctor warned me about this, probably because they barely ever pause to ask a woman if they also have a tobacco or nicotine addiction. It took almost a year of reducing slowly, doing yoga to control the urges and become healthier, and now it’s one cigarette on special occasions. It’s not perfect but it’s progress, at least.  - Deeksha, 27, Panjim

Anxiety versus cigarettes

There was blood in the sink, and it freaked me out. I have an anxiety disorder and I’ve been smoking for almost 18 years now. Never really tried to quit, because in my head cigarettes helped me cope with my anxiety levels. Smoking made me feel good when the utter chaos around me threatened to explode. But the blood I spit out made me realise that clearly, smoking was doing no good. Then doctors explained how nicotine withdrawal works, and how smoking ultimately increases anxiety levels. The blood was due to a respiratory infection, but I’d had enough and didn’t want to enter that vicious circle again. A year down the line, I still feel the urge when I panic or feel stressed, but now I know smoking is the last thing that’ll help.  - Rahul, 36, Patna

For more information, read our article on How to quit smoking.

Health articles in Firstpost are written by myUpchar.com, India’s first and biggest resource for verified medical information. At myUpchar, researchers and journalists work with doctors to bring you information on all things health.

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