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No Smoking Day: Give it up for the quitters!

On No Smoking Day (March 13), here are inspirational stories of proud cigarette quitters.

WT24 Desk

Is a cigarette always your first thought? Or, are you trying to get a loved one to kick the butt for good but the efforts vanish in thin air much like the smoke? On No Smoking Day (March 13, 2019), here are inspirational stories of proud quitters.

It’s No Smoking Day today 
The origin of the day lies in the United Kingdom. It was initiated with the purpose of helping smokers kick the butt. The first No Smoking Day was observed in 1984 on an Ash Wednesday— a holy Christian day where people fast and pray. Since then, every second Wednesday of March is observed as No Smoking Day. The Government of India’s National Health Portal, too, also lists the second Wednesday of March as No Smoking Day, which is today — March 13, 2019.

RAVIRAJ KANDE, 38, ACTOR‘I was dictated by cigarettes’ 
(Smoked for 14 years)

At 17, Raviraj Kande started smoking casually with friends. And before he could realise, he had become a chain smoker, finishing 20 cigarettes a day. The actor-photographer’s parents got to know of it after eight years, and pushed him to quit.

In showbiz, smoking is more of a style statement. Raviraj was able to quit in 2012, after smoking for 14 years. He believes one starts to associate emotionally with smoking. “You are stressed, you smoke. You are happy, you want to smoke… I had become a slave; I was dictated by cigarettes. This one time, I almost missed my flight because I was looking for a smoking area at the airport. It struck me then what it was,” he says.

It was a book titled, The Easy Way to Stop Smoking by Allen Carr, that came to his rescue. “The book explains what triggers the urge and why we’re drawn to it. It makes you focus on other things than smoking. A friend gave it to me years ago; I read it much later. Since then, I’ve given it to many friends, and those who read it left smoking,” he shares.

Seven years since quitting, Kande isn’t tempted anymore. “Now, if I enter a room where people have smoked, it suffocates me!”

SANJAY BHATIA, 50, DCP (IGIA): ‘Going cold turkey is the way to quit’
(Smoked for 23 years)

Sanjay Bhatia is a Dabangg cop! Ek baar khud se commitment kardi, and there was no looking back in quitting a smoking addiction of 23 long years. The Deputy Commissioner of Police (IGIA) gets candid about it. “In my college days in 1987, it was a fashion to smoke cigarettes. I, too, fell for it at 19 years of age. From five or six cigarettes a day, the number gradually grew to 16 a day. To anyone who discouraged me, I’d say, ‘I’ll quit the day I have smokers’ cough, but I quit much earlier. The year 2010 was a turning point in my life,” he shares.

What made him quit? His children, Saanvi and Suyash. “I’d smoke in the balcony, not in the house. My kids, 8-9 years old, used to mock me saying ‘Caught you, caught you’ and coax me to quit. In 2010, for Commonwealth Games in Delhi, we were on duty at Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium from early mornings to late evenings. And one can’t smoke on duty. The urge to smoke decreased. My kids would mock me even when I had an occasional cigarette in the night. They had finally persuaded me. It began to pinch me that why was I doing it. I knew I wasn’t crippled by the addiction, and I quit,” he says.

Now 50-years-old, and smoke-free for nine years, the DCP affirms that he can “breathe better, jog better, taste better, think better, and live better.”

Was the withdrawal harsh on him? “Not at all. I never felt the urge again.” His advice to smokers who want to quit is to “go cold turkey than cutting down. That’s the only way.”

As the conversation comes to an end, Bhatia shares plans to frame this article. “I’ll put it in my kids’ room as a reminder of what they did for me, and to not fall prey to the temptation. They’re at that age (17-18) when most do.”

VESNA JACOB, 40, FITNESS PROFESSIONAL: ‘Smoking makes you forget the real you’
(Smoked for 10 years)

The first thought that comes to mind when you meet Vesna Jacob is how amazingly fit and full of life she is. But that wasn’t always the case.

The holistic fitness coach started smoking at the age of 18. “I had moved to Germany as my country (Bosnia and Herzegovina) was torn apart by a civil war, and I had to give up my dream of becoming a professional basketball player after a severe injury. The doctor who treated me botched up the surgery. Ten years of practice went down the drain. Smoking was a part of that angry reaction,” she recalls. “It was part rebellion and part self loathing. It added to my feeling sorry for me. Yet, I knew deep down this wasn’t my true self.”

She smoked for 10 years till one fine day when she kicked the butt for good. “I was on a basketball court and decided to play for a bit, and I got badly out of breath quickly. In that moment I realised that this is not the real me.”

The 40-year-old believes that quitting smoking helped her to rediscover her true self. “Smoking is a crutch for feelings of inadequacy you feel inside of you. It’s unwanted and destructive. Reach out, find your true self,” she says to smokers.

PERVAIZ KHAN, 53, AVIATION PROFESSIONAL:‘You need to fight your demons’
(Smoked for 29 years)

Quitting an addiction is about realising that all it takes is a moment when you decide that enough is enough. And 53-year-old Pervaiz Khan’s story is testimony to this.

Khan took to smoking at the age of 16 because of peer pressure, and to relieve stress, but sooner or later, one realises its ill-effects. He shares, “I craved for my friends’ approval and their company… I’d feel restless without smoking. It was later that I realised that smoking wasn’t a stress buster; it was the cause of the stress. I was into cricket and swimming in school. And due to smoking, I started to lose my stamina. I had a perpetual cold and a sore throat.”

He finally won the battle against his addiction when he was 45 years old. Now 53, he recalls that the tipping point finally came when two things happened. “First, when for one cigarette, I drove around the entire city; that, too, during midnight hours. This made me realise how strong my addiction was. And second, when I saw my son smoking. This was it for me, this was the moment that I decided it was make or break time for me,” says Khan.

“When I decided to quit, I requested my wife to throw my cigarette lighters and hide the ashtrays. I did have some withdrawal symptoms initially but I overcame the craving by sheer will power and by diverting my mind,” adds Khan, proud to have been smoke-free for seven years.

Source: The Hindustan Times

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