Bhopal (Madhya Pradesh): A few residents in the city have turned the ‘aapda’ of unavailability of tobacco products during the corona-induced lockdown into an ‘avsar’ to quit smoking and chewing gutkha.
Due to the lockdown enforced to curb the spread of Covid-19, shops selling cigarettes, bidis and gutkha have remained shut for the better part of the past one year. Besides, the spread of Covid-19 has brought health issues to the fore, making people realise the value of physical fitness and immunity.
On the eve of ‘World No-Tobacco Day’, themed on ‘Commit to Quit', Free Press spoke to some city residents who have broken free from the stranglehold of tobacco.
‘6 months in a hospital’
‘I was a heavy smoker since 2001. I used to smoke 10-15 cigarettes a day. In 2020, when the lockdown choked the supply of cigarettes, I switched to bidis. Subsequently, I developed lung infection and then septicaemia. I was hospitalised for almost six months. Smoking was out of the question in the hospital. After my discharge, I chose to quit smoking. Now, I’ve been a non-smoker for almost a year. My family is happy and so am I’
— Javed Khan, social activist
‘Saunf as a substitute’
‘I was into chewing tobacco for the past 16 years. In August 2020, I decided to bid goodbye to the habit. I made a promise to my wife that I’d quit and I kept the promise. For more than a month, I faced withdrawal symptoms. I was irritable and I always felt that something vital was missing from my life. I started chewing ‘saunf’ to get the feel of tobacco. Also, I started exercising. I joined a gym. I tried to keep myself busy. Ultimately, I succeeded. Now, I don’t need to munch on saunf. I feel quite better.’
— Utkarsh Tiwari, 47, businessman
‘High price of Gutkha during lockdown insist me to quite’
‘I was addicted to gutkha. I’d developed a taste for it about 14 years ago and could never give it up. I often got ulcers in the mouth. But even that wasn’t enough to induce me to quit. After the lockdown was imposed last year, paan shops were shut. Gutkha was not available. If at all, you had to pay Rs 120 for a Rs 20 packet. It was too high a price to pay. So, I stopped chewing gutkha. The first fortnight was terrible. I lost my appetite. I started chewing cloves to reduce the craving. Slowly, things improved. I’m no longer a slave to gutkha. My health is better and I’m saving money, too’
— Manoj Payasi, 39, private job
‘Talk about healthy lungs’
‘I wasn’t a heavy smoker. I smoked four cigarettes a day. But I didn’t smoke in the presence of my wife and children. I smoked only when I was out of my house. However, during the lockdown, there was nowhere I could go. Moreover, there was a lot of talk about healthy lungs. So, partly due to compulsion and partly due to the request of my family, I got rid of the habit’
— Ahsan Rehman, 48, businessman
‘Drop in COPD cases’
‘Smoking over long periods, say 20 years or more, can lead to a condition called Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). It’s the third-biggest killer in the world after road accidents and heart attacks. The condition of a COPD patient is bound to worsen if he or she also happens to contract Covid-19. We’ve been witnessing an around 5%-10% drop in COPD cases over the past one year or so. That may be because people have given up or reduced smoking out of fear. Chewing tobacco makes you more vulnerable to mucormycosis. Intake of tobacco in any form reduces the immunity of the body’
— Dr Parag Sharma, associate professor, GMC, and consultant chest physician, Hamidia Hospital
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