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How to kick the butt

When it comes to persuading smokers to quit smoking, health arguments don’t always work. What works better is the sheer convenience of being a non-smoker in a world increasingly refusing to inhale toxins exhaled by smokers, writes Sanchita Sharma. Step by step

health and fitness Updated: Oct 04, 2008 22:57 IST
Sanchita Sharma

When it comes to persuading smokers to quit smoking, health arguments don’t always work. What works better is the sheer convenience of being a non-smoker in a world increasingly refusing to inhale toxins exhaled by smokers.

Growing restrictions and the many diseases — 29 on the World Health Organisation’s last count, including stroke, heart disease, various cancers and emphysema — associated with tobacco use are prompting many like Vikas Goel to stop. A frequent flyer, Goel, 34, decided to quit his decade-old habit because of smoking restrictions on land and in air.

India banned smoking in public places from October 2, including at “Smoking restrictions are an effective deterrent and forces many smokers to give up their deadly habit. Adult smoking rates fell by 21 per cent and teen smoking by 50 per cent in New York City after the city introduced smoke-free workplace policies, including in bars and restaurants, in 2002,” says Dr Srinath Reddy, president of the Public Health Foundation of India.

There are currently 250 million smokers in India, 50 per cent — 125 million — of who will die prematurely of a tobacco-related disease, according to World Health Organisation projections.

Unfortunately, most people in India still need an alarming health report before they think of giving up. “Smoking is one of the leading cause of heart attacks among people in their thirties and forties, but unfortunately, patients only quit on prescription, much after they develop a disease,” says Dr Purshottam Lal, chief cardiologist and director of the Metro Group of Hospitals, Delhi.

Some smokers quit on their own, but those who find it difficult can get help at a tobacco-cessation clinic. Doctors use a combination of counselling, nicotine replacement therapy and prescription drugs such as bupropion hydrochloride to help ex-smokers deal with withdrawal symptoms, that are temporary and disappear within days to a few weeks.

Short walks and exercise also help smokers manage withdrawal symptoms and resist the urge to smoke, report researchers in the scientific journal

Addiction. A British review of 12 studies of quitting smoking showed that a single bout of moderate exercise, lasting for as little as five minutes, was enough to reduce cravings for a smoke. It also reduced withdrawal symptoms such as stress, anxiety and poor concentration.

Since smoking-cessation services have finally moved out of de-addiction centres and psychiatry wards to the less stigmatised environs of private clinics, more people are seeking health. Some hospitals such as All India Institute of Medical Sciences, Ganga Ram Hospital and Apollo Hospitals in Delhi offer tobacco-cessation therapy in their out-patient departments.