Everybody knows smoking is dangerous and addictive, yet 5 million Malaysians are still hooked onto this habit. With the implementation of high tobacco taxes, increase in cigarette prices, advertising bans, graphic health warnings, and most recently, a smoking ban in eateries, the government is exerting serious efforts to get smokers to quit. In Malaysia, about 23 % of the population smoke and annually, about 20,000 deaths are linked to smoking.
Scientifically, nicotine is addictive but it is not the primary cause of smoking-related diseases. Instead, it’s the tar and chemicals produced from burning cigarettes are the culprits here. Therefore, the moment a smoker stops burning tobacco, the reduction in exposure to dangerous chemicals is substantial.
There are now alternative products to cigarettes that produce significantly fewer harmful chemicals than those found in a cigarette’s smoke. However, since these products are still relatively new in the market, more scientific studies need to be conducted to validate their safety and to raise awareness among adult smokers.
Meanwhile, here are some tips on how to quit smoking through the START system:
S = Set a quit date.
Choose a date when you want to quit this unhealthy habit, so you have enough time to prepare without losing your motivation to quit. If you mainly smoke at work, quit on the weekend. This way you have a few days to adjust to the change.
T = Tell family, friends, and co-workers that you plan to quit.
Tell them of your plan to quit smoking and tell them that you need their support and encouragement to stop.
A = Anticipate and plan for the challenges you will face while quitting.
Most people who begin smoking again do so within the first three months. This could be due to stress or even peer pressure. You can help yourself to make it through this by preparing ahead for common challenges.
R = Remove cigarettes and other tobacco products from your home, car, and workplace.
Throw away all your cigarettes, lighters, ashtrays, and matches. Wash your clothes and freshen up anything that smells like smoke. Put air freshener in your car, clean your drapes and carpet, and steam your furniture.
T = Talk to your doctor about getting help to quit.
Your doctor can prescribe medication to help you with withdrawal symptoms. You may also purchase many products over the counter at your local pharmacy, including nicotine patches, lozenges, and gum. Medical support may be sought at Columbia Asia Hospital – Iskandar Puteri on smoking cessation by booking an appointment with Dr Gobinath Palani Gondi at 07-233 9938.
Don’t ponder too much and start living a smoke-free life and adopt a healthy lifestyle.