It’s never too late to quit: Ex-smokers share inspiring stories | Health - Hindustan Times
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It’s never too late to quit: Ex-smokers share inspiring stories

Jun 01, 2023 04:48 PM IST

A growing tobacco smoking crisis is sweeping across India, and according to the latest WHO report, among the estimated 1.1 billion smokers globally, 100 million are from India. This figure will is projected to almost double by 2025. As we observed World No Tobacco Day on 31st May which aimed to raise awareness about alternative crop production for tobacco farmers with the theme “Grow food, not tobacco”, we spoke to former smokers and how battling the addiction changed their life.

A growing tobacco smoking crisis is sweeping across India. According to the latest WHO report, among the estimated 1.1 billion smokers globally, 100 million are from India and this figure is projected to almost double by 2025. As we just observed World No-Tobacco Day on 31st May, we spoke to former smokers about their battle with addiction and how they found a way out.

It’s never too late to quit: Ex-smokers share inspiring stories
It’s never too late to quit: Ex-smokers share inspiring stories

It’s never too late to quit: Ex-smokers share inspiring stories
It’s never too late to quit: Ex-smokers share inspiring stories

Name: Manpreet Singh

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Profession: Holistic healer

Quit after: 14 years

“The swaggy appeal of cigarette smoking was the hook. In the late 80s and early 90s, everybody used to get VCR movies on rent which would frequently feature sophisticatedly designed cigarette ads,” says Singh, explaining how the association of smoking with being ‘cool’ can be a silent killer that reels people into a habit which doesn’t just jeopardise the health of the smoker but also of those who are around. He smoked his first cigarette on his 18th birthday. “I started smoking in recreational settings with just one or two cigarette a week but it continued to increase. Soon, I became dependent on the nicotine to escape the stress of my demanding job which led to chain-smoking. It took me time to realise that my lack of purpose in life steered me towards addiction. “When my ex-wife showed me a pregnancy strip, the purpose and positive responsibility it projected pushed me to quit once for all,” he says. Today, beyond his profession as a healer, he proudly helps other people battle addiction and build a life free from smoking.

It’s never too late to quit: Ex-smokers share inspiring stories
It’s never too late to quit: Ex-smokers share inspiring stories

Name: Isha Gazmer

Profession: 3rd year student

Quit after: 9 years

Gazmer’s first encounter with smoking happened when she was 11, encircled by a community where not only tobacco smoking was prevalent, it was encouraged along with marijuana as part of the leisure culture. “Starting at such a young age, I didn’t realise the impact until a few years when my doctors warned that it was impacting my organs, especially my lungs and kidney. I also got diagnosed with PCOD (Polycystic Ovarian Disease) which for me was like hitting rock bottom,” says Gazmer, a student of English (Hons.) at Selesian College in Siliguri, West Bengal. The compounding stress around Gazmer’s well-being pushed her into severe depression and she realised there’s no way to go up without moving away from her addiction. Saying no after 9 years of smoking didn’t just help heal physically but also gave boost to her career and mental health.

It’s never too late to quit: Ex-smokers share inspiring stories
It’s never too late to quit: Ex-smokers share inspiring stories

Tarun Shekhar Jha, 36

Profession: Yoga trainer

Quit after: 3 years

Curious experimentation with tobacco or cigarette smoking during the teenage years is often followed by abuse and addiction, events which initially seem unrelated but are triggered by the same first step. A yoga instructor based in Japan, Shekha first started smoking when he was 20 and soon got into the habit of chain-smoking. “When I would to go a club with my best friend and others, I would only drink cold drinks or juice which led people to call me a kid,” says Shekhar. “Before I could consciously think about it, I started smoking in an attempt to fit in.” The social pressure led to a time when he would smoke two to three packs a day, until one day he realised the damage this has done to his health. “I would often run and catch last-minute buses for work. When I took to smoking, while I did start to feel physically weak, I didn’t realise the extent of it until one day, when I was trying to get on a bus in a hurry and failed to run . My inability to push through in that moment, compounded by the guilt and embarrassment snapped me out of the habit. Since quitting, I feel rejuvenated, both physically and mentally. ”

It’s never too late to quit: Ex-smokers share inspiring stories
It’s never too late to quit: Ex-smokers share inspiring stories

Name: Shahjahan R.

Profession: Physician

Quit after: 40 years

Born and brought up in Tamil Nadu, 67-year-old Shahjahan started smoking during his teens. “Being a factory labour, I started with cigarette/bidis and continued smoking for about forty years. Though I was not a chain smoker, I did smoke about 10-12 cigars per day,” says Shahjahan. During the time I was helping financially struggling students complete their higher education, and felt disdain about my habit as I was spending so much money on cigarettes. “On 22 September 2016, I made the decision to go ‘cold turkey’ which is American slang for quitting it altogether instead of reducing the quantity. It also inspired me to start posting on social media and writing my blog to help those who are struggling,” he adds. Shahjahan later published a book encapsulating his journey titled “Avasiyamthaana Aaraam Viral?” which loosely translates to “ Why to Have Sixth Finger?”

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