Let cigarettes go up in smoke this Ramadan

Let cigarettes go up in smoke this Ramadan

If you can manage over 12 hours without smoking, you have a good chance of kicking the habit, says expert.

By Olivia Olarte-ulherr/senior Reporter

Published: Mon 22 Jun 2015, 1:09 AM

Last updated: Wed 8 Jul 2015, 3:10 PM

Abu Dhabi - Ramadan is the best time to quit smoking, an expert has opined.

“... Smokers are not smoking from more than 12 hours (when fasting). So if you are not smoking without any assistance or medical aid for the whole day, the chance that you can stop smoking for the next 12 hours is better. So, the best time to quit is during Ramadan,” Dr Sajeev S. Nair, respiratory medicine specialist from LLH Hospital Mussafah, pointed out.

This holy month, the hospital is running a smoking cessation campaign for the residents and workers in the industrial area. The programme will offer free personalised and group counselling with the hospital’s pulmonologists, carbon monoxide analysis and post-evaluation, where smokers willing to quit will be offered alternative options.  

“We will assess them and see how far they are willing to quit, and if medicine is required, that can also be given,” Dr Nair said. There are two forms of treatment: The nicotine replacement therapy through gums and patches; and prescribing Varinecline tablets, a prescription medication that reduces the urge to smoke.

According to Dr Nair, the tablet helps in overcoming the withdrawal symptoms which include some cravings, light-headedness and feelings of aggression. These withdrawal symptoms are what draw them back to smoking, the pulmonologist said.

The cost of kicking the habit could also be a contributing factor, with a packet of nicotine gum (12 pieces) costing around Dh19 as opposed to Dh10-12 for a packet of cigarettes. The full course (two months) of Varinecline tablet taken two times a day ranges between Dh800-900. However, Dr Nair said serious quitters are not deterred by the cost. “For those smoking in the past 10-20 years, spending for another four to eight weeks is a negligible amount.”

Don’t compensate

Nicotine intake by smokers usually doubles during Ramadan, said Dr Nair. “Since people don’t (smoke) ... during daytime, they compensate after fasting is over. Once fasting is over, they will have the urge to smoke more than they usually do.”

He said moderate to heavy smokers are more likely to consume double the amount of tobacco “because they tend to compensate” for the hours they haven’t smoked.

Salman Hijazi, a smoker, agreed. He said he smokes a full packet of cigarettes — 20 sticks — on non-fasting days. However, during Ramadan, he smokes 10 cigarettes between 7.30pm to 10pm. “So comparatively, you smoke a lot in those few hours because you don’t smoke during the day.”

Going cold turkey

This is where counselling helps. There’s a tendency for people to smoke after eating, which can be avoided. During counselling, it is important to device an enforcement plan advising patients how to get rid of smoking or how they can adjust their environment to get rid of the vice, said Dr Nair.

“If you want to stop smoking, you have to pick a date and stop suddenly. This is also called going ‘cold turkey’. The success is more if you do that,” he advised. “Without the help of medicine, the quitting rate is only five per cent ... but with medicine, you can sustain smoking cessation to about 20-25 per cent over a period of six months.”

But in order to make this work, all smoking paraphernalia such as lighters, ashtrays, anything that would remind one to smoke should be thrown out and the bin emptied.

“But most importantly, even if you fail don’t be disheartened because success does not come in one shot; you have to try again ... If you are not successful after many attempts, doctors are here to help you,” he stated.

He warned that increased nicotine intake could result in gastric problems such as increased acidity in the stomach, blood pressure and palpitations. -olivia@khaleejtimes.com

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