Anti-Tobacco Day People who quit smoking talk about what it takes to stick to the plan and resist temptation

“Ibegan smoking as a way to beat stress. I’d just begun working and had long hours and crazy deadlines. It was way too stressful at the time. That is when a colleague offered me her cigarette to beat the stress. Soon, even I was hooked.” This is probably the most common story a smoker is bound to offer. Most smokers either pick up the habit as a way to beat stress or as a means to cope with peer pressure. The cycle is similar – they begin smoking, go up to a pack a day or limit themselves to five or six, one fine day plan to quit smoking, manage to succeed temporarily only to fall back to their old ways. It takes gumption and an extremely strong will power to actually kick the butt.

Richa Kaur, a former sales executive, has a similar story to share. “The pressure of the job was way too much and I began smoking experimentally. I found that it helped relieve stress and began smoking regularly thereafter. While I wasn’t a chain smoker, even the three or four cigarettes I smoked in a day began to affect my health. My thyroid levels kept fluctuating and I felt it was not worth the trouble. Besides, being a single mum I’ve to care for my daughter and realised I had to stop,” she says.

But was it really easy to give up smoking? “Not really,” says Preeti L., a student, who began smoking when she was working. “I resolved to reduce the number of cigarettes from six to seven a day to two a day. It took some effort, but I had to stick to the plan. I’d begun coughing a lot and also the person I’m seeing is dead against smoking. So every time I felt the urge to smoke, I’d keep myself busy and divert my attention. I know people advocate nicotine patches, but I didn’t try them. It’s been three months since I decided to stop smoking and I can say I’m close to giving it up completely,” she says.

However, not everybody is as lucky when it comes to kicking the butt. If the motivation is not strong enough, most smokers invariably resume smoking after a couple of months of abstinence. “It’s what happened with a friend of mine. He was going to get married and his finacee didn’t like that he smoked. For her sake he tried to give up the habit. Earlier he would step out almost every hour for a smoke break but when he resolved to quit we noticed he reduced these breaks to two or three in a day. He managed to stop entirely by the time he got married, but a couple of months after his wedding he began smoking again,” says Rohit Jain, a call centre employee.

Keeping yourself busy or using things to distract you can help in the quitting process, says Richa. “Every time I felt the urge I would chew on a candy or have a mint. It was not nicotine, but at least it diverted my attention. Also it helped that I submerged myself in work,” she says. Therapists also advise using a nicotine patch or substitute to help wean oneself off cigarettes.

RANJANI RAJENDRA

Withdrawal symptoms

l Tingling in the hands and feet

l Sweating

l Cramps and nausea

l Headaches

l Sore throat and coughs as your lungs begin to clear up.

l Mood swings

l Insomnia

l Depression

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