“To cease smoking is the easiest thing I ever did. I ought to know, because I've done it a thousand times.” – Mark Twain, writer

If you are a smoker, or know someone who is, it's important to ask the question, how did the habit get started? Was it to impress peers and feel included? Or was it to de-stress?

Look at the issue logically. None of the above reasons seem to justify what you are doing. You are, knowingly or unknowingly, poisoning your system. The chemicals in cigarettes such as nicotine and cyanide, are so lethal, that in large doses they can kill. In fact, every cigarette takes 10 to 20 minutes of your life.

Someone once said, “Cigarettes are killers that travel in packs.”

Your body is smart. Initially, when you try smoking, you might feel sick, or feel like throwing up. Your throat gets sore. This is your body talking to you, telling you not to start smoking. If you choose not to listen, the consequences are yours to live with. You are making yourself vulnerable to all kinds of diseases associated with smoking such as throat and lung cancer, bronchitis and lowered immunity against infection. In later years, problems such as heart diseases and stroke are common among smokers.

Why smoking is not cool

* dull grey skin Smoking constricts blood vessels so it prevents oxygen and nutrients from reaching the skin. Studies also link smoking to an increased risk of getting a type of skin condition called psoriasis.

* bad breath Cigarettes make your breath smell because it leaves you with a medical condition called halitosis, which means persistent bad breath.

* greater risk of illness and injury Studies show that, if you smoke, you tend to fall ill more often. This is because lung-related infections like bronchitis, colds, flu and pneumonia affect smokers much frequently than non-smokers. There is also the problem of the body losing its ability to produce collagen — this means you will, as a smoker, take more time to heal after an injury.

“Smoking kills my appetite and helps me stay slim and in-shape.”

- Aparna Shah, age 16 years

All girls, who are trying to lose weight to look more attractive, remember, there is nothing very attractive about grey, washed out skin and smoky-smelling hair! Cutting off your body's nutrients is hardly the way to go about trying to lose weight. Even in the short term, it will tell on your health. Not just that, a lack of nutrients can stunt your height and prevent your brain from developing to its maximum potential.

If you are not a smoker, and are reading this on a friend's behalf, pat yourself on the back. Right now. You should take full credit for understanding the perils of smoking and having the courage to stand by your convictions.

10-POINTERS IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION

1. Chew gum or mint breath freshener to keep your mouth occupied.

2. Breathe deep and full, letting in lots of fresh air, it has a calming influence.

3. If the urge to light up gets to you, a quick jog or brisk walk will get your “good mood” hormones activated, helping you to feel great.

4. Avoid hanging outside clubs, where every one is forming groups, chatting and smoking.

5. Find other ways to de-stress, like taking up a sport you like.

6. Get moral support from online quit smoking groups.

7. Enlist the help of your best buddy or spouse – encourage them to ban your cigarettes and hide away your lighters!

8. Don't see smoking is not a means of losing weight. Find other, more effective ways to trim down.

9. Buy yourself something you want with the money you saved from smoking. Think DVDs, a meal out, a pair of jeans, new cell phone plan - go for it.

10. Stay positive – an upbeat attitude is everything.

I suggest you don't go looking for excuses or waiting for some miracle to pull you out. Help yourself now. Do whatever it takes. I'm not saying it's going to be easy to quit. The first few days are the hardest. But start by setting yourself a date. Psych yourself for the moments when you will get desperate for a drag. Call on friends and family to give you a pep talk. Even if you cannot resist an occasional cigarette, keep going back to your no smoking policy.

The best part is, once you quit, your body will repair itself against the damage. You will have more energy, better looks, and a longer life. What more could you ask for?

The writer is a certified Clinical Exercise Specialist, Lifestyle and Weight Management Specialist.