May 31st is World No Tobacco Day – a day which is meant to encourage a 24 hour period of abstinence from consuming all forms of tobacco. And this year, the World Health Organisation (WHO) is calling on all countries to ‘Get ready for plain packaging’ - in other words, bring out standardised packages which are devoid of any branding, logo, colours, corporate logos or imagery – with just the health hazard warning written on it.
According to the Global Adult Tobacco Survey, approximately 5.5 million people die around the world, because of tobacco-related ailments, and one-fifth of these are in India. The average age where people start consuming tobacco has also fallen, and India has the second highest number of women smokers, after the United States.
While quitting tobacco can be a major task – with nicotine addiction being a challenge - staying off the cigarette may be an equally, or an even more daunting task. However, tobacco cravings can get weaker, every time you resist the urge to succumb to it. Here are some tips that you can follow to to permanently chuck the bud:
Drink water and stay hydrated: Water is known to stop nicotine cravings, hence drink a glass of water each time you feel the urge to smoke. Drinking six to eight glasses of water a day will help reduce the desire to consume tobacco, by making the body forget the euphoric feeling it gets after consuming nicotine.
Practice meditation and breathing exercises: Taking a deep breath and count till 10, each time you get nicotine cravings, will help you gain control over the craving. As you breath in, imagine the good air that you are filling your lungs with, and as you breathe out, think of all the bad air that is being expelled. Practicing breathing exercises and meditation will also help you control stress, which is related to nicotine withdrawal, and will help you curb the cravings.
Yoga and exercises: Some people gain weight after they quit smoking. Exercise helps to limit this weight gain, and also helps in dealing with nicotine cravings. Yoga and exercise also has the effect of improving your mood, thereby helping you cope with the stress associated with nicotine withdrawal.
Get support from family/friends/group: Rather than trying to deal with the cravings all by yourself, a good idea would be to call/meet and get support from family/friends. Talking to friends/support groups will help keep your mind off the constant thought of wanting to smoke.
Chew on sugarless gum: Chewing on sugarless gum, candy, or even a healthy stick of carrot, keeps the mouth busy and can help ward off nicotine craving.
Cultivate a hobby: Get a hobby and divert your attention to something else such as music, books, gardening, or anything that helps you relax. This will keep your mind off thoughts of smoking, and will ease the stress of nicotine withdrawal.
Take a shower: Taking a warm shower just as you start getting a craving, will help you get over the feeling, and will leave you feeling fresh, instead.
Eat something nutritious: Take small snack breaks throughout the day and munch on nutritious food – fruits, nuts, vegetables, etc will help regulate your sugar level and preserve your energy, thereby cutting down your urge to smoke. By replacing the nicotine in your body with nutritious food, you will feel healthier, and your mood will also improve, thereby reducing stress.
Spend time in public places: In the initial days, spend as much time as possible, in public places such as gardens, restaurants, cafes, malls and libraries, where smoking is not allowed.
Avoid situations and food that may trigger cravings: If you associate smoking with certain parties, alcohol or spicy food, avoid indulging in them for atleast a month, until you are able to manage your cravings.
Delay: Every time you feel the urge to smoke, delay by 10 minutes, and distract yourself in the meantime. You can keep increasing the intervals until you are able to completely fight off the craving.
Say no: Don’t tell yourself that this would be the last one. Having one often leads to another, and you may never be able to give up completely. Each time you feel like smoking, distract yourself. Be stern with yourself and tell yourself that you will not give in to the urge. Remembering all the good that will happen to your health, and that of your loved ones, if you quit smoking, may help your mind fight nicotine withdrawal symptoms.