Giving up smoking


Age at interview: 46

Brief outline: Haseen, 46, is a primary school teacher. He is Indian, married and lives with his wife and daughter. Haseen gave up smoking when he was 45. He started smoking on a regular basis when he went to pre-university in India. He then smoked more when he was earning money and it was only when he had moved to Canada and got married that he first seriously attempted to give up smoking. Haseen has now given up and thinks that going on a Vipassana (meditation) retreat helped him to do this.

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Haseen grew up in India, in the southern state of Kerala. He bought his first cigarette when he was about 6 years old with money he took from his Dad’s pocket and he was caught. Later, when he was older, he smoked again and was caught by his brother who was upset with him. The first time he smoked more was when he was at college and he thinks he was influenced by the older generation at school. Looking back now he thinks that the premature death of his dad when Haseen was 7 impacted on his smoking habits as he ‘wanted to grow fast to be a man’. When he went to pre-university in India he looked forward to the freedom of being able to smoke, and he started to smoke around 2-3 cigarettes a day but can remember he didn’t really like smoking. After school, when he earned his own money, he describes himself as a ‘fully-fledged smoker’. When he earned more money he started smoking a different brand of cigarettes. He noticed he smoked more when he went to bars and was drinking. He tells a story about how he used to go jogging in the morning and then have a cigarette afterwards. Some years later he moved to Canada and met his partner and future wife, who didn’t like smoking. At this point he smoked close to a pack of cigarettes a day and thinks that his partner was a restraining influence on his smoking habits. He talks about the realisation that somebody cared for him and that he should give up ‘this nonsense’. At the same time when he had a cough he was beginning to think it was connected to smoking. Haseen said that he couldn’t ‘stand the nagging’ of his partner but also said that he ‘wanted to live for somebody now’. He started thinking of his Dad’s premature death as ‘self-inflicted’ as he smoked and had ‘no control over his food habits’. He said that he ‘subconsciously probably always knew that smoking could kill you’. When he first started to think about giving up, he couldn’t imagine a situation where he was not smoking. After he got married, his wife ‘put her foot down’ and he gave up for six months but began again when he changed jobs. He started to work in advertising and everyone in his office smoked. However, he didn’t smoke at home as his wife would ‘kill’ him. He describes how smoking was a ‘comfort’ so that he would smoke when was stressed or when he had had a fight. He became concerned about his health as he was coughing a lot and had problems with acidity. He says that he was not affected by the warnings on cigarette packets or public health campaigns.

Having a daughter had a significant impact on his life and he describes his attempts at giving up as not ‘dead serious’ until he became a father and had to give up this ‘selfish kind of a lifestyle’. Haseen describes the grip that cigarettes then had on him and says that it was a ‘strong, strong addiction’. He says that chewing Nicorette gum was ‘nonsense’ and that he ‘never found any uses for those kinds of things’. Haseen never discussed his attempts to give up smoking with a doctor and never considered himself a ‘heavy smoker’ who needed ‘medical help’. Later he attended a Vipassana retreat (a silent meditation for a ten-day period) that made a ‘huge difference’ as he developed another type of consciousness and felt that he wasn’t ‘cut out for smoking’. After this he stopped smoking as well as eating meat and drinking more alcohol. Although he had a couple of cigarettes at New Year and a party, he doesn’t now smoke. Recently he has thought about going to see the doctor to have a spirometry test.

He thinks that things have changed a lot since he was a boy as you can’t smoke in public places. He wants to tell other people who are thinking about smoking that it is really hard, and to think carefully about the reasons they smoked in the first place.


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