Quitting smoking: How die-hard smokers overcame cigarette addictionACTA
Quitting cigarette smoking is never an easy thing to do, but is one of the best decisions to take to have better health as many studies have linked cigarette smoking to serious health conditions amongst which are cancer, heart disease, stroke, lung diseases, and diabetes. In this report, some ex-smokers share experiences of how they overcame addiction to cigarettes, with experts also sharing tips on how die-hard smokers can kick the habit. ANTHONY ADEMILUYI reports
Pa Adefemi Balogun, 80 was a beneficiary of the educational vision of the former Premier of Western Region, Chief Obafemi Awolowo.
After his secondary education in Ibadan and a stint in the then Western Region Civil Service, he headed to England on a Western Region Government Scholarship to study his dream course – Law.
His arrival in England, he said, however, started his difficult journey into cigarette smoking. He eventually had to battle the addiction for several years.
Sharing his experience with our correspondent, he said, “I was excited when I first came to England as I went there for the first time at 21 and was the first in my family both maternal and paternal to leave the shores of the country. I arrived during the winter and the cold was unbearable.
“I had my first cigarette to ward off the cold and I was hooked from then on. I smoked throughout my three-year stay there and I recall vividly smoking three packets in a day on the day I was called to the bar and admitted into Gray’s Inn.
“Coming back to Nigeria, I joined the legal department of the defunct Nigerian National Shipping Line. By now I had become addicted to smoking as I couldn’t blame the cold of England since I was back in the tropics. I smoked all day long and in front of my children. I even used to send some of them to buy cigarettes for me. My wife didn’t find this habit funny and even got confrontational on some occasions asking me to think about the health of my children. I was carefree and didn’t care even though I loved my kids to bits.”
According to Pa Balogun, his addiction to cigarettes was so much that he placed buying cigarettes above any other important items and was not bothered about the health effects.
He, however, noted that he decided to seek help on how to stop cigarette smoking after returning to Nigeria from a trip abroad.
Five-year battle to quit smoking
He said, “The turning point came when I returned from a trip abroad and I didn’t buy chocolates for my darling children because I spent all the estacode on cigarettes.
“I felt so ashamed of myself and discussed this with my wife. We sought help from a doctor who put me through a timetable that eventually helped me to quit smoking. It wasn’t easy at all, to be honest. I relapsed on some occasions, but I eventually overcame it after a grueling five years. I can boast to the world today that I have been tobacco-free since the 1980s and now I even loathe the smell of it. Mercifully, none of my four beloved children followed my initial smoking footsteps and I couldn’t be more grateful to God for sparing me and my family from the agony of tobacco addiction.”
Also speaking with our correspondent, a veteran on-air personality who preferred to speak on the condition of anonymity shared his journey to cigarette addiction before being free from it.
He said that his journey to cigarette addiction started after smoking his first cigarette during a visit to the late Fela’s shrine in Ikeja.
Sharing his experience, he said, “I had always wanted to be a journalist from my secondary school days as I attended the same secondary school as the legendary Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, the Zik of Africa who started his career as a journalist.
“This decision pitted me against my lawyer father who wanted me to study law in England and take over his chambers. He dismissed journalists as the rag-tag and bobtail of society and was apprehensive about the economic precariousness of the profession.
“The heat at home was too much and I took to going to Fela Anikulapo-Kuti’s shrine to watch him perform live. This was where I had my first taste of a cigarette. I never looked back and this habit continued when I secured a scholarship to study journalism at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in the United States.”
Speaking further, he disclosed that he smoked throughout his university education and continued after returning to Nigeria and beginning his broadcasting career.
“I continued smoking there till I returned to the country and started my broadcasting career. While on a vacation abroad, I met my wife and she told me a condition for our dating was that I had to give up smoking.
“Under normal circumstances, I would have rebuffed her request but she had something about her that I couldn’t resist. In the name of love, I complied and I overcame the addiction. Although it took me three years to completely kick the habit with a few relapses. Thankfully, I was tobacco free before our eventual marriage.”
Nicotine in tobacco highly addictive –WHO
According to the World Health Organisation, the nicotine contained in tobacco is highly addictive.
The WHO also stated that tobacco use is a major risk factor for cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, over 20 different types or subtypes of cancer, and many other debilitating health conditions.
The global health agency said that every year, more than eight million people die from tobacco use, adding that most tobacco-related deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries, which are often targets of intensive tobacco industry interference and marketing.
Tobacco, WHO said, can also be deadly for non-smokers, adding that second-hand smoke exposure has been implicated in adverse health outcomes, causing 1.2 million deaths annually.
“Nearly half of all children breathe air polluted by tobacco smoke and 65,000 children die each year due to illnesses related to second-hand smoke. Smoking while pregnant can lead to several life-long health conditions for babies,” WHO stated.
How to quit cigarette Smoking
Experts say many smokers are aware of the dangers of tobacco and want to quit smoking, even though many do not find it easy.
They, however, noted that counseling and medication can more than double a tobacco user’s chance of successfully quitting.