The current pandemic might have proved aggravatingly intimidating with its vast outreach and potent infectious rate, but it seems that there might yet be a ‘silver’ lining in the clouds:
Smokers, it seems, have been so deterred by this troubling period that they’re actually quitting.
Well, what do you know? It seems that at the very end…
Fire might really be the only thing that deals with fire.
COVID-19 Has Caused Many People to Quit Smoking Either Through Lack of Supplies or Fear
For many people, COVID-19 represents little more than a menace – a lethal, agonising threat that prohibits life as it should be lived. But to smokers, it might mean more than that:
Whether it’s through a lack of supplies, a conducive period or just pure, unbridled fear, smokers have been expressing increased inclination to throw the sticks out of their pockets and stick to a fresher-air lifestyle.
Arnab Mitra from India is one such example. He claims to have two cartons of cigarettes stored comfortably at home, but professed that he never felt the urge in over 70 days.
“I have two cartons of cigarettes that I had bought at duty-free before the lockdown,” the Delhi-based advertising professional said. “Each has about 20 packets. So clearly, I can smoke whenever I want to, despite the lockdown.
“I decided to quit, and have so far just never felt the urge to smoke.”
It should be noted that prior to the lockdown, Mitra was smoking up to 10 cigarettes a day. Much of it was accredited to social smoking sessions, or simple de-stressing bouts. But the coronavirus has led to some serious self-reflection on his part.
“I have been meaning to quit smoking for quite some time now. It was always one of those stop and start affairs,” he said.
“I had never spent so much time at home. It gave me enough time to think: if not now, then when?”
And Nigeria-based Louv Kumar concurs. Work-related stress had resulted in more frequent smoking sessions, and yet the lockdown period has seemingly done the impossible:
It got Kumar to give up smoking in its entirety.
“On average, I would smoke four-five a day. My job is a high-stress one, and the month-closing is especially stressful. In that last week, 14-15 cigarettes a day was not that uncommon.
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“At first, I tried smoking only when I would drink. But since May, I gave it up entirely.”
It should be noted that this is not his first attempt at quitting. Apparently, he tried during his MBA days as well, but to no avail.
According to Kumar, a dip in supply also helped.
“The lockdown did help in the sense that the brands I like were not available easily, and so I was less likely to buy smokes.”
And with absence, came the recognition of what smoking might truly entail.
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“I am at the other end of my 20s now, and cigarettes do contribute to a lot of things that you would not want to happen to you. Bad skin, hairfall, testosterone (levels fall in the long-term). I wanted to avoid these instant shots of dopamine, and a little control over these impulsive desires will go a long way.”
Over in Australia, thousands of citizens have also utilised the coronavirus shutdown to give up smoking. According to Federal health Minister Greg Hunt, the MyQuitbuddy app was downloaded more than 24,000 times, a whopping 310 per cent increase over the same time last year.
It should be noted that the Australian government has been trying to reduce smoking prevalence for years now: it previously intended to cut down smoking to less than 10 per cent by 2025, through its 10-year National Preventative Health Strategy, and has splashed out $31.6 million over four years from 2019/20 in support.
How thought-provoking, indeed, that a recession-causing pandemic would have sufficed where its money-splashing counterpart ‘failed’.
And if you’re on the lookout for examples a little closer to home, one of my colleagues has his own personal story to share as well.
According to him, the brand he frequents was out of stock in the vicinity, for the entirety of two days.
Or maybe three, since he gave up and bought another brand instead.
That would certainly have made a very good case for kicking the habit.
However, where others would decide to quit smoking once and for all, my colleague decided that he would buy at least 3 packs per visit from then on.
Which leads to the next point:
You’ll Only Quit If You Have The Intent To
According to psychiatrist Dr Venkatesh Babu, the Coronavirus period will not magically make smokers quit in a natural manner. To kick the habit, he said, the intent has to be there.
“The reason you quit is very important. If it is just because cigarettes are not available at this point of time, or there is a compulsion to be at home, it is never going to last. But if they were meaning to quit before this, and see the lockdown as an opportunity, then giving up will be easier,” he says.
And it’s a sentiment supported by Delhi-based communist Mitali.
“The thing with smoking is that you either have an excuse to smoke or you don’t. That is not really dependent on whether there is a lockdown.”
Dr Babu adds that reasons for relapsing stay the same regardless of the circumstances: relationship issues, lack of a work-life balance and new challenges or fear.
As long as there are factors causing stress, relapsing will always remain an option. A poor option, considering how smoking would become a stressor itself in the long term.
Instead, he advises, try to appreciate the positive changes that have resulted from kicking the habit. And if there are cues linked to smoking relapses, try performing other activities in its place.
For Kumar, it’s working out or conversing and watching movies online with friends. For Mitra, it’s “machine-like snacking”. Though some replacements might not be too healthy in nature themselves, Dr Babu expresses that the biggest motivating factor is the confidence derived from a long abstinence.
And in Arnab’s case, it might just be doable.
“I will tell you a strange thing that happened to me,” says Arnab. “The other day, I was coming back from a grocery run, and somebody was smoking outside the building. The smell of cigarettes actually repulsed me. And I’ve been a smoker for 15 years.”
I hope my colleague is reading this.
Other Factors Induced By The Pandemic Lockdown Period
As supplies dwindle amidst the Coronavirus period, smokers have slowly gone into withdrawal. In many families, people would not smoke at home out of a sense of respect for their elders, or because of the absence of social smoking sessions.
In these aspects, kicking the habit has become substantially easier.
Though it probably also helps that the Coronavirus hits smokers harder than non-smokers. And as far as I know;
I doubt anyone would take a few puffs over additional vulnerability to a virus that has killed hundreds of thousands around the globe.
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