Q1. I find it disturbing that some of my friends, including juniors are into smoking. When I try to advise, I am made fun of and told I am not ‘manly’ enough. How do I handle this situation?
Firstly empower yourself with the right facts about the harm tobacco causes and answers to common misconceptions. Answer the doubts they ask but don’t try to answer each stupid argument/ excuse they make. They also know that they are on the wrong side and so get defensive. Intermittently, keep making a loving request to quit out of concern and not out of criticism; and leave it there. Regarding manhood, you can say that tobacco actually decreases a person’s manliness – it decreases physical stamina, increases chance of impotence, wrinkles face earlier, causes tooth loss & darkening of lips, the mouth stinks and it burns a hole in the pocket. Besides you regard it to be more ‘manly’ to be able to handle the ups & downs of life without having to depend on the crutches of alcohol or tobacco; and hence are learning to do that.
Q2. These friends give me examples of people who have been smoking for ages – but are doing very fine.. I find myself short of facts to convince them. What can I say that would make an impact?
Yes tobacco is a slow poison and a person may not realize for many years that the harm it is doing till he/ she suddenly gets cancer, heart attack or stroke. Also, not everyone who smokes will die early. Everyone who doesn’t wear a helmet is not sure to die; but evidence says that wearing it safeguard’s a person against accidents in a big way and so its smart to wear it. Similarly, evidence says that 50% of long term smokers die a premature death; losing 10 yrs on an average. Infact the evidence is so strong that in 1998 tobacco companies had to agree to pay the US government a fine of $206 billion to compensate for recovery of the tobacco-related health-care costs. Unless evidence was not strong cigarette companies would not agree to print on their own product ‘Smoking Kills’! You can tell your friend that by being in denial of facts, they are just fooling and harming their own-selves.
Q3. What kind of professional help is available for those who want to quit?
Yes, while motivating a person to quit, it is extremely important to give him hope that it is possible and that professional help is available if he finds it difficult to quit by self. He can go to a counsellor, psychotherapist or a psychiatrist, who help by teaching craving management techniques, increasing coping skills, prescribing medicines/ nicotine replacement gums, etc. If someone wants to 1st give a shot to quitting by self, there are many self help books and useful websites which can be of great help. So, one can just google ‘How to quit smoking?’ and begin his journey towards a healthy, happy and successful future…
Dr. Dharav Shah
Author is psychiatrist working in society for awareness about harmful consequences of alcohol and tobacco. He have tried to state scientific evidence in simple language and answer common misconceptions on his YouTube channel “Poisons we love” Do check it out.