The Sun News

Confessions of tobacco users

•We know smoking is dangerous, but we can’t quit

By Rebecca Opaluwa

Standing beside a red car, a couple of metres from the bus stop, a lady had a stick of cigarette held between her fingers. She seemed absolutely unfazed with the goings on around her as she took one long drag and then, turning her face skywards, she puffed out a cloud of smoke that soon disappeared in the air.
“I smoke to forget my worries,” Blessing David (not real name) said. “I started smoking at 18. Now I’m 30.”
She admitted that it had been difficult to get rid of her smoking habit, even when she was fed up with tobacco consumption, which she said often helped to calm her nerves.
Another smoker, Moshood Idris, said he started smoking as a teenager. He told Daily Sun that he was led into it because he didn’t live with his parents but with a cigarette seller, and from there he picked up the habit.
Idris saw no reason to regret his long-time near-addiction to tobacco, which he said sometimes gave him peace.
“I used to have anger issues before, but when I smoke I’m always at peace. I’m calm,” he said, praying to God to help him overcome the habit. He further admitted that he knew the consequences of smoking, explaining that he was already experiencing some health challenges, like unexplained weakness and fatigue while at work.
“I love to play football. But now if I play for a while, I easily grow weak and tired,” he said, opining that cigarette smoking had reduced his energy considerably and wished he could quit.
Because of the dangers of smoking, the federal government, at some point, mandated manufacturers of cigarettes sold in the country to print the warning “Smokers are liable to die young” on their products’ packs. Even the United Nations has introduced the World No-Tobacco Day, to encourage abstinence from tobacco consumption around the globe. The day is celebrated every May 31.
The move, it was learnt, was to further draw attention to the wide-spread health effects, which the UN body believes cause nearly six million deaths each year. On World No-Tobacco Day, the UN urges tobacco users worldwide to abstain from using tobacco products for 24 hours, a move aimed at providing assistance for those trying to quit.
But not many have accepted the call to quit. One of them is Abel Richard.
“I smoke for the fun of it,” he said, disclosing that he started smoking at 18 as a youth residing in Ajegunle, Lagos. He explained that he got into the habit because his uncle always sent him to buy cigarettes. Each time he purchased cigarettes for his uncle, he grew more curious and wanted to know what the man was gaining from smoking and why he loved the act. He recalled that with the little money his uncle gave him, one day, he bought a stick of cigarette and, very late at night, he hid somewhere to try it out.
“Gradually, whenever I didn’t smoke it, it was like I was starving,” he said. He explained that he was not happy that he was smoking and at some point prayed for help to stop but it did not work out. He would just smoke as many sticks as he could lay his hands upon. But he has now reduced the rate at which he smoked.
Richard said, although he saw the warning on the cigarette packs that smokers were liable to die young, it has not deterred him. He also admitted that even when he was aware that smoking had bad effects on the lungs, he had no fear, as he had never experienced any health issues. He told the reporter that he always well-fed.
Another youth, Ike, an upcoming artiste, said smoking gave him inspiration.
He said whenever he smoked, he would be able to think straight, forget his worries and receive the inspiration he needed to write songs. He told the correspondent that, as a teenager, he was led into smoking by his friends, who encouraged him to join them in the trend since he wanted to be an artiste.
“They all smoked and told me to try it and see how much it would help me focus well. One day, I tried it and felt different. I wasn’t thinking about anything that was bothering me again. That was how I got hooked.”
He admitted that he was aware that smoking could kill, but he couldn’t consider quitting. Moreover, not smoking made him feel incomplete; at times, he felt it was the devil telling him to go on and get his fill. And each time he smoked, he felt his hunger satiated.
According to Ike, his mother was unhappy as he progressed with his smoking habit. He said that, initially, he wanted to stop but quitting has not been as easy as he had imagined.
A medical doctor, Benjamin Okereke, said although people who smoked cigarettes knew what they gained from the indulgence, tobacco smoking, in the form of addiction, occasional indulgence, “social” smoking or second-hand smoking, had lasting consequences.
Okereke explained that tobacco contained nicotine and tar. And while some people might be aware of the nicotine content of cigarettes, they might also not know that the tar is by far more dangerous to health. It causes congestion and complications in the lungs.
He explained that what could cause addiction in smokers was the nicotine, which goes straight into the blood stream and causes the heart to pump faster than normal.
“The individual becomes high,” he said, “the nicotine makes the heart to pump blood faster and can enable the person do more strenuous work. Once the person takes a drag, he experiences that feeling; it becomes hard for him or her to stop.”
Okereke advised smokers who find it difficult to quit to first decide to quit, because the individual can never just stop if he or she does not decide  and remains determined to stop. He said, to make it easier to quit, the person should use a nicotine patch that could be attached to the skin or inserted in the body. The patch would release little amounts of nicotine into the body to give the person the little “high” he or she craves and help them get used to not getting high through cigarette smoking.
He noted that with nicotine paich control, prayers and determination, the individual would quit eventually.

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