Right from the time we can assimilate knowledge, we are told that cigarettes kill. From school curriculas to media publications, health organisations and public campaigns, tobacco intake is a health-hazard.
Yet despite being aware of the perils of smoking, many persist and indulge in this addictive habit.
Barry Karangwa, a freelance writer in Kigali says he started smoking cigarettes 15 years ago—due to peer pressure. As much as he loathes the habit, he has not quit smoking.
“Even as I puff away on a cigarette I warn my teenage nephews against this sordid habit. There are occasions when I squash a recently opened packet of cigarettes and thrust it as far away from me as I can, swearing never to smoke again but every morning I wake up and confidently say I am smoking my last one until the craving creeps up on me,” says a frustrated Karangwa.
Nonetheless, 27-year-old Odette Umutoni’s attitude is interestingly different from Karangwa’s.
“I do not understand the negativity that surrounds smoking. They say it kills but so do so many other things in this big world of ours. Personally, I love my cigarettes, they offer some form of comfort and consolation when I feel so low and stressed out over something. It has never crossed my mind to quit,” she says.
Smoking can also affect those who do not directly engage in the act but are exposed to the harmful ‘secondhand’ smoke. According to www.stopsmoking.com, passive smokers are subjected to both the “side stream” smoke from the burning tip of the cigarette and the “mainstream” smoke that has been inhaled and then is exhaled into their environment by the smoker. Nearly four-fifths of the smoke that builds up in a room containing a smoker is of the more harmful “side stream” type.
Iman Karenzi, a prominent salon owner in Nyamirambo, one of Kigali city’s suburbs said sometimes life’s challenges force people to adopt smoking cigarettes in the hope that they will feel better. In other words, they smoke out of the need to cope—irrespective of the health of those around them.
“My late father was a strong-willed intelligent man who was passionate about his family, especially my mother, ‘Mama Faisal’ as she was commonly referred to. One fateful day when I was five years old, my mother just got up and left him and this is when my father’s self-destructive lifestyle began.
“He took to the bottle heavily and smoked like a chimney. He eventually quit drinking but stuck to smoking and his consumption rate increased to almost three packets a day,” Karenzi said.
Eventually, Karenzi’s father developed bout after bout of chronic coughs and eventually passed away in October 1998.
“I was 15 years old then, had been a passive smoker for most of my childhood and resented anything that had to do with smoking,” he adds.
World Health Organization (WHO) states that tobacco-related diseases kill an estimate of four million people each year. Tobacco use is the major preventable causes of disease worldwide.There are reasons of a various magnitude to explain why people get into the harmful grip of tobacco. The issue at hand is how they can quit this highly addictive habit.
Quitting is undoubtedly a difficult task even for those who are determined. This is primarily because the nicotine found in cigarettes is highly addictive and causes a craving so strong that the smoker begins to think they cannot do without it. Just like Karangwa, several people have tried to quit smoking countless times but often fall prey to the never-ending craving.
Jalia Ngabirano, a middle-aged woman living in Kiyovu says, “I have been a smoker for almost 15 years now and tried to quit on several occasions.
The thing is when the desire to smoke gnaws at me, it consumes me totally and I cannot help but reach out for another cigarette. I have stopped trying to quit”.
Sadly though, there is no pill that one can take to get rid of the desire to smoke as panadol tablets might eliminate a headache. Therefore succeeding in the difficult task of quitting cigarette smoking solely depends on the smoker.