Return from fag end

Updated: 02 March, 2020 10:07 IST | Shunashir Sen | Mumbai

After musician Vishal Dadlani shared that giving up smoking helped improve his voice, experts tell us what quitting cigarettes entails.

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Earlier this month, Bollywood composer and musician Vishal Dadlani posted a revelatory update on his Instagram account. He confessed to his nine-lakh followers that for the past few years, his singing voice had been a shadow of its former self. "I never let anyone know, but I was struggling. My range, control and tone were wobbling. Singing softly was completely impossible," he said. The main reason behind this, he added, was smoking. Dadlani had been puffing over 40 cigarettes a day for the past nine years, thus compromising his talent. But, he quit in August 2019. And in the six months that have followed, there has been a marked improvement. The musician wrote, "My clean tone has returned, my control is a lot better [not yet perfect, though] and I'm actually happy to be singing again, instead of feeling discomfort and pain."

Kicking it off

Vishal DadlaniVishal Dadlani

Dadlani, 46, has thus successfully got the monkey of cigarettes off his back. But any smoker will tell you that kicking the butt isn't a cakewalk. You might start off thinking that it's not a big deal and that you will take a drag here and there without really getting into the habit. But before you know it, you are a slave to cigarettes. They become a necessary crutch while drinking tea, after a meal and at social gatherings, for instance. This, despite the fact that you know that smoking only causes harm. There isn't a single study that says that cigarettes are beneficial to health. So what is it about this product that makes it one of the most addictive and destructive substances known to mankind? And how, like Dadlani, does one go about the task of saying that enough is enough and it's time to show cigarettes the window?

Dr Sudipta  Kumar SenDr Sudipta Kumar Sen

Dr Sudipta Kumar Sen, an internal medicine specialist who focuses on the heart, tells us, "The nicotine in tobacco is addictive and like it is with any other drug, the more you consume it, the more you have to take of the same thing to get the desired kick. You might start with one cigarette a day, then increase it to four and later end up smoking 10. So, your dependence increases in the same way it happens with people who consume heroin, for example."

Health first

What this does is wreak havoc on your physical system. Sen says, "What happens — and this is true of other carcinogenic substances like industrial pollution as well — is that the cells in your lungs multiply in the wrong manner and become tumorous. Smoking increases the chances of a tumour in your lungs or oeasophageal tract becoming malignant, which leads to cancer. You might also develop chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or get a cardiac arrest. In fact, World Health Organisation statistics tell us that 1 million people die every year in India due to smoking, and that 80 per cent of people who suffer from lung cancer, heart attacks or heart failure are smokers. These are really gory figures."

Anirban ChakrabortyAnirban Chakraborty

Indeed they are, and they might act as a wake-up call for smokers who are looking to quit the habit. Like we said, it isn't an easy process. But Anirban Chakraborty — who, like Dadlani, is a Mumbai-based music composer who successfully stopped smoking, three years ago — has some handy tips. One of reasons that Chakraborty took the decision is that he saw that people around him were a lot fitter than he was. Secondly, and this is what spurred him the most, he saw the debilitating effect that COPD had on his father, his idol, copying whom he took up smoking in the first place.

Play along

Chakraborty, 44, tells us, "I won't mince words about the fact that I started smoking to look and feel cool. So when I decided to quit, I turned that brainwashing around and told myself that if I don't smoke, that can be cool as well. I started believing that if I tell people at a gathering that I don't smoke, I am the king of the party. I also stopped buying cigarettes, while a friend taught me another technique. We were in Goa on a trip, and I saw him just holding a cigarette for a while. So I passed him a lighter, but he said that he didn't want it. He said that he was just holding the stick without lighting it because he wanted to increase the gap between two cigarettes. What otherwise happens is that you immediately light one, light another one again in a bit, and before you know it, you have smoked 20. So, increasing the gap makes you smoke less. But again, what really worked for me is that I reversed the 'cool' factor about smoking. I took my ego and turned it around."

Keshav NaiduKeshav Naidu

The musician adds that as a result, his voice, too, is in a much healthier place, apart from his general physical well-being of course. But there are times when a person might give up smoking for some time, only to later succumb to the habit once again. That's what happened with 40-year-old content creator Keshav Naidu. He started smoking regularly only when he was 30, and has gone off cigarettes twice in the intervening period. The first time was when he had gone to visit relatives in Tamil Nadu for an extended period and abstained from smoking because he was too embarrassed to do it in front of them. And the second time was when he started playing a game with himself. "I had gone to the dentist for a wisdom tooth extraction, and he said, 'Try not to smoke for a couple of days.' So I went home and I didn't for the first two days, and before I knew it, it turned into four days, and then a week, and then a month. So it was a fun game that I was playing with myself more than it being an actual decision to quit," Naidu says.

He is candid enough to admit, though, that smoking recreational cannabis mixed with tobacco got him back into the habit. But that reason obviously doesn't apply to all smokers. Often, it is the fear of withdrawal that keeps people from quitting. Chakraborty, however, says that if you start with an I-can't-do-it attitude, then you can't do it anyway. "That's why I never really entertained the idea that it's not possible for me. Whether I pass or fail is different, but my attitude was always that yes, I can conquer cigarettes," he says, meaning that if you too are willing to adopt the same can-do approach, we will leave you with the last line in Dadlani's status update. It goes, "Basically, what I am saying is, if you smoke, quit now before you damage yourself permanently."

Smoking statistics

  • Of all the annual deaths in India, 9.5 per cent are caused by tobacco.
  • Cardiovascular diseases account for 48 per cent of tobacco-related deaths.
  • The mean age of people taking up smoking for the first time is 18.7 years.
  • The percentage of former daily smokers who have quit is 16.8 per cent.

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First Published: 02 March, 2020 08:47 IST

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