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#6 Smoking cigarettes, and a little help from our friends

I was running this morning and relishing in the fact I haven't had a puff of a ciggy for over 10 years. I'm embarrassed by how much I used to smoke, and also how foolish I was to start it in the first place. At 14, I was so against it - and by 15 fully addicted. Back in the year 2000, 15% of 14 to 15 year olds smoked (about 1 in 6) in NZ.

While running I also thought about a young 19 year old guy I was hanging with on Saturday who is a "social smoker." Of course I hit him up about how shit smoking is, and naturally the young overconfident guy resisted my advice and got defensive.

"Yo, I just smoke on the weekends when drinking" he said, pulling the 'blue steel' facial, smoke seeping from a sultry expression.

This is the exact scenario that has sucked so many young people in before. You bum a couple of smokes off a mate, repeat for a few weekends. Over time, your mate raises a valid point that you owe them about a pack now. You buy a pack, and head on down a real slippery slope.

It's a tricky situation for this guy in his age bracket, as 20% of 18-24 y/o's in NZ are smokers; which is pretty alarming, particularly as one of the key drivers encouraging smokers is being around others who smoke.

The trends of smoking in NZ across the board are going down, however they're still disgustingly high. The stats definitely call for us to encourage people to quit - however smokers need to come to this realisation themselves.

The way to approach this is not to 'hit people up' as I did on the weekend, but to guide their thinking process for self realisation. In future I will approach the situation like this -

1) Ask the person how long they've been smoking

2) Mention that I used to smoke, and still remember how much I enjoyed it.

3) Ask them how long they plan to smoke for

4) Make a comment about how hard it was to quit, and how much happier and healthier everyone who I know that doesn't smoke is now (including myself). Then leave the conversation at that.

5) During the next week, flick them a message and offer support if they are thinking about quitting (they will not be considering it), but it reminds them you're consistent with your views.

6)Acknowledge they are not interested, and be understanding.

7) Invite them for a fun physical activity, and chat about their breathing afterwards. Ideally the activity would be something that would be a hobby for you both in future, like mountain biking. Again, it's not a time to tell them to quit. People don't want to feel they are broken and need fixing. But this continues an approach of gentle guidance.

8) Send through some information about the effects of smoking. This site has a Cost of Smoking Calculator . Very sobering results for people who smoke every day!

9) You could try create a plan about saving the money they would usually spend on ciggies so you can go out and do something, or buy something else (ideally for the hobby, like a tow bar for the mountain bikes as an example). Even if they cut down by a few ciggies a day it will add up quickly. People are motivated by securing short term wins, so make sure if you get this going you celebrate results to encourage behaviour.

10) Remind them you're free to chat or hangout if they're struggling with quitting and want someone to talk to.

11) Quit.org.nz encourages you to focus on the positive sides of quitting smoking, instead of the negative points (cancer, leading cause of Sudden Unexpected Deaths in Infancy for pregnant women, etc). Instead you can put a positive frame over it, and this is a good infographic from Huff Post to refer to. It includes notes such as "Within 3 days your breathing is easier, and you can run without wheezing", and, "Within 2-3 months your circulation improves, and your lung capacity increases by 30%"

This is just a start for how I'll approach these conversations in future. It's difficult as people are at different stages with smoking, yet stopping people from starting and encouraging seasoned smokers to quit will change their lives. The important part is to make a plan to stick it out for the long haul and be consistent, and importantly, not tell them what to do.

I quit by cutting down to 2 to 3 ciggies a day for about 2 weeks. Then I went down to 1-2 ciggies a day for about a week and half. Then set a date for the first day of a new year to stop. I was stunned at how addictive nicotine is, and I could feel my veins yearning for it after I stopped smoking. I couldn't help but clench my fists fighting the urge to feed my addiction. Sounds dramatic and like i'm lying, but 100% happened.

Quitting takes willpower and a plan. And perhaps a little help from our friends.

Most of the stats came from https://www.smokefree.org.nz/smoking-its-effects/facts-figures