/ 14 September 2018

Want to quit smoking? Breathe

(Graphic: John McCann/M&G)
(Graphic: John McCann/M&G)


Many smokers reading this article must have contemplated the idea of wanting to give up smoking several times but failed because it was such a struggle.

Smoking does not give the same high as drugs such as amphetamine, cannabis, cocaine, Mandrax and heroin, but it is difficult to give up for some of the following reasons:

  • One gets addicted to the nicotine in the cigarettes;
  • Nicotine does not give people a high, but when the nicotine withdraws from the body in about an hour, one starts feeling irritable and on edge. Drug addicts in recovery smoke cigarettes as a replacement for hard drugs, but they end up becoming addicted to the nicotine; and 
  • Cigarettes are easy to obtain and do not have the same stigma as illegal drugs do.

The garage is the quickest place to get cigarettes.

At the garage, smokers buy other tempting treats like sweets, chips and energy drinks, which are also highly addictive.

Suddenly, a packet of cigarettes can force one to spend R100.

Why is it so difficult to give up? You have to give up smoking while your colleagues are still smoking. The mere smell of a cigarette kindles the craving.

When faced with such a situation, the first line to come out is: “I am going to smoke just one.” That one cigarette is enough to send you back to full-blown smoking again.

Then there’s the myth that smoking relieves stress.

The only thing a cigarette does is to quell the craving for nicotine and the irritable behaviour associated with the withdrawal of nicotine.

Nicotine lasts in the body for about an hour, which is why people smoke every hour.

How do you stop?

You need to be convinced that smoking is harmful, is costly and makes you look like a pariah standing on your own outside your workplace or home as you puff on your cigarette. You can’t wait to get done because everyone is staring at you, labelling you a polluter in their minds as they walk past you.

Once you accept that you must give it up, you must follow through and stop making excuses to delay or prolong the process.

One of the best and most successful ways to help people give up smoking is through education and a breathing technique.

What is the breathing technique? When you get the urge or craving to light up a cigarette, start breathing loudly by taking deep breaths.

Keep your breath in to a count of four, then exhale slowly. Do this about four to six times.

Repeat this process with a smile on your face about 20 times a day.

When you breathe consciously, count and smile at the same time, you are forcing your body to release endorphins, which relaxes you and combats the craving for nicotine.

This is a simple relaxation technique that everyone can use —so even non-smokers can benefit from it.

Make it a routine to practise this exercise every day of your life as often as you can.

Try it now, while you are reading this article. Start with a smile and slowly breathe gently and see the effect it has on you.

Through regular practice, you will reach a point when the smell of smoke will become most irritating and repugnant to you.

When you reach this stage,you are well on your way to ending your addiction to smoking.

You will sleep better because, at night when the nicotine withdraws while you are asleep, you become sweaty, your heart beats fast and your sleep is disturbed, so you wake up feeling tired because of the disturbed sleep pattern.

Patients have given up smoking 40 cigarettes a day within two weeks of using this method.

Not everyone, though, has succeeded with this method, not because it does not work — it’s because they were not committed enough to give it up.

E-cigarettes do not work because they too have varying amounts of nicotine to keep you hooked. They’re costly and if you run out of e-liquid in the middle of the night, you are going to go headlong back to your cigarettes.

Once you have stopped smoking, stop indulging in food because food is another addiction for someone who gets easily bored.

It’s your life, your health and your money, so take good care of it.

Before you throw your hands up in despair, give this method a try. Use it even if you are still smoking. If it doesn’t stop you from smoking, it will make you a more relaxed person, which is a bonus and might help you to reduce the number of cigarettes you smoke a day.

Happy quitting.

Dr Ellapen Rapiti is a family physician, specialising in child and mental health and addiction counselling