Rakesh Patel, (name changed), a 55-year-old businessman, had been chewing tobacco for more than a decade. A year ago his voice changed but he did not visit a doctor. After he became breathless earlier this year he went for a medical check-up and was diagnosed with throat cancer caused by tobacco consumption.
The tumour, located above his vocal chords, was removed last week preserving his voice. Patel has sworn never to chew tobacco again. “In most cases, throat cancer victims end up losing their voice and sense of smell. Along with chemo and radiotherapy, patients also need counselling and de-addiction therapy,” said Dr Rakesh Badhe, onco-surgeon at Kohinoor Hospital who treated Patel.
On the eve of World No Tobacco Day, doctors stress on the need to quit consumption of all forms of tobacco. Mumbai has six million consumers of tobacco substances and of them, two million are expected to die prematurely because of tobacco related ailments, said Dr Pankaj Chaturvedi, surgical oncologist, Tata Memorial Hospital.
Psychiatrists say most smokers are motivated to quit only after a health scare such as cardiac ailments, severe recurrent acidity or sexual dysfunction.
“Smokers have been known to quit because of an emotional promise to a family member during some crisis or if friends manage to quit successfully,” said Dr Harish Shetty, adding that support from friends and family is crucial during the phase of withdrawal. “Every smoker must ask himself or herself why they smoke. Once they have a reason, be it stress, peer pressure or depression, there are ways to address each of them and they can quit successfully.”
‘My favourite actor smoked on screen’
Krishnakant Dhebri, 59
doctor, runs a clinic in Girgaum
At 13, Krishnakant Dhebri smoked his first cigarette at a school picnic. Sitting in his clinic in Girgaum, the 59-year-old doctor regrets the first drag that turned him into a chain smoker. After Dhebri quit smoking five years ago, he tells his story to all his patients to help them kick the habit.
“Most movies during our school days showed actors carrying branded cigarette boxes. My favourite actor, Rajesh Khanna, also smoked on screen, which pushed me into the habit further,” said Dhebri.
After Dhebri shifted to the hostel of Grant Medical College, Grant road, the habit only grew worse. “I used to make lame excuses to get out of my house to smoke. My parents confronted me, but though I tried, I could not stop doing it,” said Dhebri.
Dhebri treated a large number of Arab patients who would come to the city, who would gift him international cigarette boxes, tempting him further.
Around 15 years ago, Dhebri suffered a cardiac arrest and underwent a bypass surgery. “I had no risk factors other than smoking. I decided to quit smoking after that incident, but failed again,” he said.
Then what motivated him to quit? “Smoking led to frequent arguments between me and my wife,” he said. Then one Sunday morning, his wife, Geeta, sat with a calculator and calculated the amount Dhebri had spent on smoking, which ran into lakhs. “I was shocked. I deprived my children from so many things, while I was wasting so much money. When I started smoking, the price of a packet was Rs4. That had risen to Rs65 when I last smoked. After that day, I have never smoked,” said Dhebri.
‘I can breathe better and feel healthier’
Farzana Fazulbhoy, 52
works with a private firm
Three months after Farzana Fazulbhoy, 52, quit smoking, the only time she craves a cigarette is on her way back from work. However, she beats the craving by going for a long walk.
Doctors say that in case of withdrawal symptoms, distracting oneself helps to curb the desire to a considerable extent. “My husband and I had been wanting to quit smoking for a very long time. When he finally quit after suffering from a bad bout of cough, I decided to follow. We threw all the cigarettes out and have not smoked ever since,” said Fazulbhoy, who used to smoke 10 to 20 cigarettes a day for 32 years.
“It is easier to quit when one’s partner is a non-smoker. But since we both smoked, instead of discouraging each other, we used to smoke together,” said the Bandra resident.
What bothered Fazulbhoy was also the weight gain. “I had the habit of smoking only at home so to engage myself at home, I started cooking lots of delicacies. I am told that smokers eat more due to hand-mouth addiction and taste buds becoming more active. I put on seven kilos in two months,” said Fazulbhoy. “I feel more energetic now. As soon as I stopped smoking I could breathe better and feel healthier.”
Fazulboy is determined to be called a former smoker, a term used for those who remain off the habit for at least six months.