Indulging in a puff or a two is usually associated largely with the ‘cool’ quotient. Probably this is why we see that cigarette finding its way into the hands of high school and college students. It starts out as peer pressure with the usual ‘try one puff, nothing will happen’. The need to fit in or the fear of being rejected in social circles ultimately leads to that occasional puff which goes on to becoming an addiction.
What with the likes of some of the celebrities puffing away a cigarette or two on screen, a la Jim Carrey in The Mask or an Ajay Devgan in the action thriller-Khakhee. Little do the naïve young breed of fans realize that this act of emulating their favourite star will result in them having to pay a heavy price literally?
Smoking leads to diseases affecting the heart and lungs besides being a major risk factor for heart attacks, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), emphysema, and cancer, particularly lung cancer, cancers of the larynx and mouth, liver cancer and pancreatic cancer. Studies have shown reduction in overall life expectancy in long term smokers especially with estimates ranging from 10-17 years lesser than non-smokers. Some evidence suggests a small increased risk of myeloid leukaemia, cancers of the gall bladder, adrenal gland and the small intestine.
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) caused by smoking, is a permanent, incurable (often terminal) reduction of pulmonary capacity characterised by shortness of breath, wheezing, persistent cough with sputum and damage to the lungs.
Smoking is also known to reduce appetite-an extreme measure that many resort to in order to shed those pounds and wanting to appear svelte. It is considerable known to affect fertility in women. Providing a short term relief from stress and elevated moods on a temporary basis are some of the reasons why this cigar finds its popularity amongst the adult segment.
Once entangled in this foil of fumes, one finds it tough to break away from that occasional puff and falls prey to this deadly habit. Sort of reminds one of a quicksand which requires tremendous strength to pull a person away from this dangerous situation. Smoking is similar to a quicksand- it’s tough to break away once you are sucked into it.
While it’s tough, it’s certainly not impossible as there have been some inspirational figures who have overcome this temptation and given up that cigar up for good. Having discovered a new found goal in their lives, they have chosen to huff and puff their way to the finish line and reward themselves a medal and the runners high instead of that short term high provided by the life threatening nicotine.
Ketan Chauhan, a Mumbai based runner was a regular smoker and was smoking for the last 15 years. He began running in 2013 and would still continue to smoke even after his run. Being associated with MRR (Mumbai road runners) group, he would come across several inspirational stories about different runners which made him focus more on running and building up his mileage. Finally he took the plunge and quit cigarette smoking end of December 2015. Says Ketan, “I took my last puff then and from January 2016, I completely stopped smoking. I gave up partying with my friends as well and after a few months of not smoking, I felt good. Some friends would say “ek puff marle kuch nahi hoga” but I knew I did not want to go down that lane ever again. Till date I haven’t touched a cigar and feel thrilled about it. Running really helped me kick the butt. “
Satwik Rajani, another Mumbai based runner tried his first cigarette when he was still in school at the tender age of 16. He got so addicted that he would end up smoking 10-15 cigarettes a day and his scales shot up to a whopping 107 kg. “It all changed when I took up running.” he says. “I started training for my first marathon in November 2016 which prompted me to quit smoking as I wanted to perform well. Since then there has been no looking back as I completed my first full marathon in 3:47. At present I am just a few days away from running my first ultra which is the comrades run at South Africa on June 4th 2017.”
Samir Kulkarni from Kalyan Dombivali runners (KDR) group was able to brush off those unhealthy habits aside and embrace a healthy lifestyle. Smoking ruined Samir’s life and made him feel that he was aging a tad too fast. He encountered fatigue while climbing a staircase which prompted this 32 year old to take up fitness seriously. A 480 m run close to his home made him take up a new challenge. He gradually built his stamina by increasing his mileage. His association with running communities like KDR and MRR (Mumbai road runners) transformed him from an unhealthy smoker to a fit runner. “Running has made me much more disciplined and achievement oriented.” says Samir. “It has helped me quit bad habits and gain control of my mind. Not to mention the number of friends that I have made and the different kind of high that I face every time I finish a run.” He has sacrificed family events and late evening parties to keep up with his running schedule. He has also inspired non-runners to devote 30 minutess to some physical activity and smokers to quit smoking and follow a healthy lifestyle.
Satish Gujaran-a 7 times comrades’ finisher and an inspiration for many runners, narrates his journey from being a chain smoker to a comrades runner. He would smoke 2 packets of cigarettes every day. He started running in 2004 and in the quest of wanting to quit smoking, he joined Isha Yoga. Gradually from not smoking for 2 days, he increased it to 7 days and realized that if he could go without smoking for 7 days then it’s not tough to quit smoking for good. “It’s all in the mind”, he says. “Initially when I gave up smoking, I found it very difficult. Running has given me the will power and ability to control my mind which helps me in ultras especially. After a certain distance it becomes more of a mind game. I ran my first comrades in 2010 after which I completely quit smoking. So it took me 6 years to give up this habit entirely.” Satish now makes it a point to help a few runners give up this habit and adopt a healthier lifestyle. From a person who could barely run 1 km to running 89 km is truly a remarkable achievement.
The journey from addiction to dedication is a path that involves great amount of perseverance and will power. Difficult as many may proclaim but certainly not impossible as tough habits don’t last, tough people do!