City Voice students' association magazine

WANT TO BREATHE EASIER?

Written by Romy Benshabat, HND Practical Journalism

Quitting smoking could be the hardest thing you’ll ever do, but with most life-long smokers beginning their smoking habits before the age of 24, the years in which the majority of City of Glasgow College students attend college are a vital window of opportunity to stop smoking cigarettes.

Slogans have never really worked for me, “be smart, don’t start” was all but too late, being hypnotised conjured visions of being made to cluck like a chicken and acupuncture looks intimidating and uncomfortable. However, when I found myself at 22 years old, struggling to breathe as I walked up the hill to college every day, I felt like something should really change.

But where would I even start? I’ve been a smoker since I was 16, first starting as a social tool, gradually slipping in and out of denial that I even was an actual smoker. My parents hate it, most of my friends don’t smoke anymore and honestly, do I even enjoy it?

City of Glasgow College’s new no smoking policy also made smoking between classes less convenient and made me feel strikingly out of place when I did smoke. The introduction of the policy means that both college campuses are now completely smoke free environments, which made me more aware of my habit than ever before. I decided, despite the cliché, to use New Year as a starting point to quit smoking.

At first, I really had to look at the reasons for which I continued to smoke despite being well aware of the associated risks and negative connotations, as I felt focusing on the negatives alone had never helped. Like with any addiction, we each have our own individual triggers and understanding why we smoke is one of the most important key factors when it comes to quitting. Our reasons for smoking can include providing relaxation or preventing stress, rounding off a meal or preventing hunger, while drinking alcohol, a means of which to subtly detach from social situations, a means of which to socially connect with other smokers, revisiting familiar settings where you’ve smoked previously, a way of getting more breaks at work or simply to have something to do with your hands.

It’s important to remember however, that many of the excuses we use for smoking, triggers or “needs” we feel that we have, can not only be replaced by healthier alternatives but some may not have existed before you started smoking. It’s commonly thought that smoking relieves stress but actually nicotine withdrawal causes heightened feelings of stress and although it can seem like smoking reduces other stresses, this is unlikely to be true. Studies have shown that quitting a habit like smoking is much more about placating these needs as opposed to just going cold turkey or attempting to just not buy cigarettes.

However as students, it’s easy to forget to take care of ourselves, for many it’s the first opportunity at living independently or being a student and trying to make the most of what is described as the best time of our lives can be enough pressure in itself. I tend to find myself in a limbo, attempting to balance a healthy lifestyle with enough of a social life to keep sane and enough studying to pass my HND. If you already smoke, the idea of quitting smoking amongst the delicate balance of your already new, stressful lifestyle may seem impossible but the benefits are likely to outweigh those you gain from smoking.

But how do we do it? City of Glasgow College students are familiar with the difficulties of quitting smoking:

Chloe MacNeil, 18, HND Hospitality Management, said: “I smoke to relieve stress but I keep trying to quit and recently started using a vape. I found it even more difficult when I go out with friends though, when they offer me a cigarette and I just can’t say no.”

Chloe Urquhart, 21, HND Fine Art, said: “I’ve started and stopped a couple of times, I started so young it’s become part of my daily routine so it’s really hard to quit for good. The people around me make me want to smoke more, environment is definitely a big issue. Being used to smoking at college and then coming back to the same setting without a cigarette really makes me crave them.”

Euan Bryson, 26, HND Practical Journalism, said: “One day I just decided to quit and it stuck. I think it’s a lot about attitude, I decided that still smoking when I was drinking wasn’t going to work so I went cold turkey. I kept up motivation by starting cross fit training, meaning that I never felt like going back to smoking because I wanted to be able to stay in shape and it just didn’t make sense. Once you get past the first month and replace it with something healthier, you don’t really look back. ”

There are many things you can do to help the process. It’s recommended to create a list of reasons why you want to quit, focus on the positives of quitting, try to keep your hands and mouth busy, try to change associated food or drinks, identify when you want cigarettes and distract yourself - if you distract yourself for five minutes, a craving is likely to pass bringing you one step closer to being smoke free.

Most importantly, if you’re struggling don’t do it alone. I certainly couldn’t. Ask for support and find what works best for you. Smoking is an addiction that is undeniably hard to break but the support is there when you’re ready; with various medications available through the NHS to help treat the chemical addiction, phone apps which provide guidance and tips like Kwit or Butt Out, support from your doctor, family, friends and college and the countless health benefits, this could the most positive change you make this year.

Smoking cigarettes is the world’s leading cause of preventative poor health and premature death - in Scotland alone, tobacco is associated with over 10,000 deaths and around 128,000 hospital admissions every year. Charity organisations like Ash Scotland aim to improve the health and quality of Scottish people’s lives and said in a recent report that there is clear evidence “that a society free from tobacco will not just be healthier, but wealthier and fairer too.” In fact, delivering on the Scottish Government’s vision to reduce Scotland’s smoking rate to 12% by 2021 would save the NHS £100,000,000 and the average person £1,500 a year.”

Less than one million people now smoke in Scotland, so be part of the change, be a healthier you and breathe easier. If you need more guidance, speak to your doctor, ask for advice from your Students’ Association or phone helplines like Smokeline on 0800 84 84 84 for a free quit pack and personalised help. You can also visit www.canstopsmoking.com

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