Health

No smoking, we’re doctors

I had my first smoke when prompted by my friends at the medical college to ‘man up’. And soon enough I was addicted. I puffed at least 20 cigarettes a day — more on stressful days. I made a couple of half-hearted attempts to quit, but obviously, didn’t succeed. So I carried on being a chain smoker for 10 years.

A wake up call

I went on to do my MS (Master of Surgery) and the topic for my dissertation was head and neck malignancies, one of the commonest cancers in South Asia. Looking after these patients, seeing their distress, the facial disfigurement and dysfunction and the morbidity (this was over 25 years ago when the treatment wasn’t as advanced as today) shook me up. My research around the topic made me more aware about the severe health consequences of smoking and filled me with determination to quit.

No smoking, we’re doctors
 

Stubbing it out

I still remember being on a bus one summer afternoon, fiddling with my pack of smokes. I had 4 cigarettes left. I had made up my mind to quit. I had a choice though — to light up and savour the last four and not buy a new pack or test my willpower by not being tempted, even as I had smokes handy. I chose the latter. I kept the unfinished pack of cigarettes with me as a memento for a long time.

Struggles along the way

Giving up smoking isn’t easy because nicotine is highly addictive. When I quit, 25 years ago, nicotine replacement therapy wasn’t available, so I turned to paan masala in order to overcome the craving. I was thankfully able to give those up quickly. I had several cups of black tea to overcome the morning craving, a habit that has stayed with me, though I have now switched to green tea. I also turned to food for comfort and my weight spiralled out of control. But about 10 years ago, I started a diet and exercise regimen to get on track. It was not easy to keep the company of smokers, who were some of my closest friends, and not be tempted — but I was steadfast in my resolve.

Celebrating milestones

My family always wanted me to quit smoking, and when I did, they encouraged me every step of the way. My dad played Santa Clause once again and gave me rewards (like a bar of chocolate, a toy car) to celebrate the milestones in my smoke-free journey. My wife planned surprises — such as a long drive or a date night — to keep me motivated.

Healthier and happier

The biggest motivation, however, came from seeing the immediate physiological changes. Within a few weeks, my breathing improved and my heart rate settled. I was now able to enjoy a game of table tennis without getting out of breath. In the first month or so, the persistent hacking (smoker’s cough) was gone! The brain fog cleared up and I felt fresh even after long hours at work. The impact on my heart health was huge. I had been on BP medication since I joined medical college. My BP came down as soon as I kicked the butt, so much so that I was off all medication within 18 months. It has helped me professionally too. I am now able to tell my patients to quit with conviction and offer them advice — first-hand.

- Dr Kaushik Das, consultant ENT Surgeon, AMRI Hospital, Columbia Asia Hospital and Fortis Hospital, Kolkata

 

‘Willpower is the key to quitting’

No smoking, we’re doctors

I left medical college with a degree and an addiction which was hard to overcome. I smoked for 14 years, about 8 to 10 cigarettes a day. I tried quitting a few times—once using nicotine chewing gums to reduce the craving, but it didn’t work. Then 4 years ago, at 35, I thought enough was enough and decided to kick the butt for good. I was driven by a combination of fear and motivation, fear of the severe health consequences of smoking and the motivation to take charge of my health. I went cold turkey, decided on a date (13 Feb 2014, the day before I was getting married), and mustered up all the willpower I could to battle the nicotine addiction. In order to overcome the craving for the first cigarette, I’d go out for an early-morning walk. At work, when pressure built up, I overcame the stress (and craving) by sipping tea. I also joined a swimming club to divert my mind. The result was almost instantaneous. I felt energetic and fresh—even after an exhausting day at the hospital. Four years on, I think my body thanks me every single day for quitting.

Dr Gopinath Rabha, anaesthetist, Fortis Hospital, Shalimar Bagh, New Delhi

‘If I can, you can too’

No smoking, we’re doctors

I started smoking in 1970, in high school, emulating Navin Nischol in Sawan Bhadon, blowing smoke rings. In the 80s, smoking was considered attractive, and when I worked in Libya, I had greater access to foreign cigarettes, made popular through ads. Back in India, friends coming from abroad would buy them for me, because it was the done thing in those days. At the height of my addiction, I would go even beyond two packs a day. My addiction was so bad I could not take any decision without a cigarette. One day, I was running to catch a bus and I found myself wheezing badly. Being a doctor, I realised that my son was probably asthmatic because of my smoking. So one day in 1996, I simply stopped. My son’s asthma got better, but besides that, and I know this is going to sound funny, my skin simply glowed! I did put on weight initially, but walked it off and regulated my diet too. Till date, when someone smokes, I feel the urge, but I have never picked up a cigarette. I now tell my patients my own story, with the message that if I could, they can too.

— Dr Biswarup Bhaumik, Medical Officer, National Urban Health Mission, Kolkata

‘It’s up to you’

No smoking, we’re doctors

I began smoking in medical college, driven by peer pressure. My father never smoked, but hostel is a great catalyst, and I’d smoke upto 15 a day, even more in stressful periods, especially during exam time. I smoked for about 10 years, through my studies, but towards the end, I realised I couldn’t counsel my patients if I didn’t give up myself. I don’t think there is any gentle or gradual way of doing it. You just develop the will and then keep your motivation for quitting high. Once I’d stopped for the first 15-20 days, I found it easier.

Dr Jagdeep Chugh, internal medicine specialist, Fortis Hospital, Delhi

— Dr Kaushik Das, consultant ENT Surgeon, AMRI Hospital, Columbia Asia Hospital and Fortis Hospital, Kolkata


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Printable version | Jun 13, 2021 4:07:29 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/health/doctors-on-why-they-quit-smoking/article24011142.ece

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