For the second time, I quit smoking cigarettes last year, August 2018.
I don’t even remember the exact date because it was one of those moments when I just had to do it. I was left with two cigarettes in my box, and I thought I should leave them as a test for the day – to go through the day and not touch a single one. I had been thinking about quitting for a long time, mostly because of health reasons and ageing; also it was becoming socially challenging.
The first time I quit smoking was in 2008. I thought turning 30 was a good opportunity to stamp out the cigarettes as I knew it couldn’t be a forever habit – also because of health concerns. I had gone cold turkey and it lasted for 6 months. Many of my friends didn’t even recognise me because of the amount of weight I gained during this time. Ten years later, intentionally quitting and being very conscious about it, I can honestly say it’s been a never-ending roller-coaster ride. This is what happened…
1. I had terrible headaches for over a month.
Recorded as one of the side effects of quitting cigarette smoking, headaches are attributed to a blood-sugar drop – not because cigarettes are sweet or have sugar. In fact, it is the very opposite. Stored body sugar and fats are released during smoking and the limited supply of sugar or oxygen in the absence of cigarettes means that the brain gets limited fuel. Hence the headaches.
2. I became overweight.
This is not an exaggeration, it was confirmed when I had my Vitality Health Check done. Compared to food, nicotine works much faster in raising one’s blood-sugar levels. According to some studies, the mechanisms through which smoking decreases body weight are complex and not completely understood. The mechanisms of weight gain after smoking cessation include decreased metabolic rate and increased calorie intake – effects opposite to those produced by nicotine.
3. My sinus problems lessened.
I had developed what is called chronic sinusitis. Over the years my sinuses took strain and got worse every year. I had sinus infections whenever the seasons changed. I started seeing an Ear, Nose and Throat Specialist who was ready with a scalpel after a couple of antibiotics prescriptions failed (I refused to take the second course). In winter my gums and teeth were sore, and my medical aid was exhausted by the dentist’s visits – it was just horrible. One doctor reports: “As soon as you inhale tobacco smoke, it starts to irritate your whole upper airway. Irritating gases like ammonia and formaldehyde cause your nose and sinuses to produce more mucus. You become more susceptible to colds and allergies and, eventually, to cancer of the throat and lungs”. Within a month of quitting cigarettes, my sinuses improved.
4. I became less anxious.
Socially my smoking was starting to be a curse rather than a “stress buster”. The choice of venues when going out was determined by having a smoking area. I became scared my cigarette would cause a big fire, so the disposing of cigarette butts became an issue, and the second-hand smoke guilt was unbearable! Eventually, the whole worrying exercise took longer than lighting up.
5. I made an extra income.
After a week of not smoking, I felt brave enough and told my BF, who was so ecstatic that he bribed/enticed me with a monthly retainer. What a bonus!
Almost 9 months later, every day I have to make the decision whether to smoke or not, and it is hard. Some days are better than others. There are triggers that sometimes get the better of me. Accepting that I have an addiction gives me the power to fight the addiction. Weight gain is no fun, but despite all the challenges I really believe I have made the best decision for my health long term.
As the world observes World No Tobacco Day on the 31st of May, I would like to encourage everyone who struggles with cigarette smoking addiction to be kind to themselves. It is not an easy journey, but it’s well worth it.
World No Tobacco Day
Every year, on 31 May, the World Health Organization (WHO) and global partners celebrate World No Tobacco Day (WNTD). The annual campaign is an opportunity to raise awareness around the harmful and deadly effects of tobacco use and second-hand smoke exposure and to discourage the use of tobacco in any form.
The focus of World No Tobacco Day 2019 is on “tobacco and lung health.” The campaign will increase awareness of:
- The negative impact that tobacco has on people’s lung health, from cancer to chronic respiratory disease.
- The fundamental role lungs play for the health and well-being of all people.
“The campaign also serves as a call to action, advocating for effective policies to reduce tobacco consumption and engaging stakeholders across multiple sectors in the fight for tobacco control.” – WHO
Remember: smokers are at greater risk for diseases that affect the heart and blood vessels (cardiovascular disease).
Disclaimer: External information referenced is for purposes of this article only and does not imply partnership or association with the organisation or its specific viewpoint.