Kicking the smoking habit

Published: Thursday, June 30, 2016   English | العربية  

One of the most difficult challenges in life is attempting to give up those little white sticks known as cigarettes: this month Calum Clarke-Brown offers advice on quitting – from his own perspective as an ex-smoker…

Calum Clarke-Brown is currently working with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Abu Dhabi as a PR and Media Associate, having recently completed an MA in International Conflict and Cooperation.

Those who smoke regularly - including myself up until recently - know that quitting smoking is tough. Even though we know it’s dangerous for our health, we brush that knowledge aside and light up again.

Research shows that smoking kills nearly six million people each year - that’s about three-quarters of the population of the UAE. Moreover, 600,000 of those deaths each year are non-smokers who die from indirect smoke inhalation… that’s about the entire population of Al Ain.

So before exploring ways to quit, it would be a good idea to identify the negative effects to determine why it’s so important to cut out smoking for good. Moreover, without nagging Oasis Living readers too much about the obvious health problems associated with smoking, I’d also like to explore the more damaging social and financial implications of cigarette addiction.

Health issues and smoking:

Statistically 90 per cent of lung cancers are caused by smoking Smoking can cause the development of other cancers affecting the mouth, lips, voice box, throat, bladder, kidney, stomach, liver and pancreas.

Heart disease and heart attacks are more likely amongst smokers and their chances of having a stroke are also greatly increased.

Social issues and smoking:

Socially, smoking has today become less acceptable within society Smokers generally cannot smoke in restaurants, hotels, at social events, or in offices anymore, due to government legislations in many countries today, so have to go outside for a cigarette which is unsociable.

Friends and family may request you don’t smoke in environments they control such as their homes or in their cars – again, unsociable Smoking can prevent potential employment: research now indicates that employers are less likely to hire smokers as they cost business money.

Smokers are more likely to call in sick and have more short breaks for a cigarette than those who don’t smoke, thus productivity in the workplace is affected Landlords are less likely to take on tenants who smoke because of damage to property such as nicotine stains on walls and ceilings.

Financial issues and smoking:

Smoking is a huge financial burden: if you smoke 40 cigarettes a day you could be spending Dh150 plus a week, and that’s around Dh650 a month, equating to at least Dh7,800 a year! Just imagine what you could do with that extra Dh7,800 income every year.

With this in mind, why is it so difficult to motivate yourself into quitting? Taking aside the fact that nicotine is highly addictive, I believe the art to giving up for good is to develop the right frame of mind. You’ve got to be determined and committed, with the willpower to give up the habit.

It’s a fact that the human body craves nicotine for about three days after the last cigarette, the desire to smoke after this time period is purely psychological - and peer pressure!

Smoking aides such as nicotine patches, which help you to stop are useful tools to have. However, such products still have you hooked on nicotine, thus increasing the chances of a relapse. Use these products as a substitute for a while, then gradually cut them out altogether.

The first step to quitting is identifying why you began smoking in the first place. Was it down to social norms? Were aspects of your life stressful at the time, so smoking relaxed you? Or was it a generational habit which had been passed on?

I began smoking a few years ago but can now happily say five months have passed since I had my last cigarette. I knew that using another substitute wouldn’t work for me. I had tried them in the past and eventually ended up smoking again.

Looking back, I know I began smoking to be sociable. My friends were into it and my work colleagues smoked during breaks so my need to light up was centralised around social acceptance rather than physical need. I had developed a culture of smoking within my social circles. I needed to break this cycle and detach myself from smoking on a social level.

To achieve this, instead of going outside for a smoke, I’d make a cup of tea during work breaks. I stopped smoking around friends and came up with small activities to distract myself from the cravings, continuously reminding myself ‘It’s perfectly acceptable to not smoke socially’.

Identifying why you smoke and cutting out the triggers that cause you to do so will go a long way to improving your chances of quitting for good. For example, if you smoke due to stress, find a solution that lowers your stress levels – yoga for example. If there is a history of smoking in your family, break the cycle, as your children may pick up the habit in the future. And, if you smoke socially, find a strategy where you don’t smoke on these occasions.

The benefits of quitting heavily outweigh continuing. Your sense of wellbeing will improve, you’ll have much more energy and physically will look healthier and dramatically reduce the probability of medical complications later on in life.

And don’t forget, financially, you could be up to Dh7,800 a year better off! Giving up is one of the hardest challenges of the modern era - but, if you can conquer your addiction then you can achieve ANYTHING!
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