If you’re already thinking about your Ramadan preparations, then now is the ideal time to consider giving up on one particularly unhealthy habit for good. Smoking – in any form – is not permitted during the daylight hours of Ramadan, and with abstinence already in your mindset, this could provide the motivation you require to quit smoking entirely.
Kick-starter to quitting
Dr. Iyaad Hasan, Staff Associate from the Medical Subspecialties Institute at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi explains how Ramadan introduces a “tapering method” which sees many smokers naturally reduce the amount they smoke each day.
Psychologically, the inability to smoke between sunrise and sunset can also lead people to question and address their reasons for smoking, something that is key to successfully giving up the habit long term. “Ramadan is a great way to teach yourself how to go through your regular daily routine and to avoid the triggers that make you smoke,” says Dr. Hasan.
No safe forms of smoking
Cigarette consumption may decrease during Ramadan, but other forms of smoking, namely shisha and medwakh remain just as popular, and just as damaging to your health.
Medwakh may deceive smokers as it lacks a smell, but its nicotine concentration is a lot stronger than a cigarette, says Dr. Hasan. Shisha, meanwhile, equates to the nicotine equivalent of three cigarettes in one sitting, but that isn’t the worst news.
“The problem with shisha isn’t the nicotine content, it is the chemicals. The chemical content that comes off the smoke is 100 times that of a cigarette. You are taking in the same amount of chemicals during a 60-minute shisha session as you would be smoking 100 cigarettes,” explains Dr. Hasan.
E-cigarettes or vaping should also be avoided, according to Dr. Hasan, who says many people using these methods often end up relapsing to their old habits.
It’s entirely possible to give up smoking on your own, but Dr. Hasan says that opting for a strategy that combines support and medication will double or triple your chances of successfully giving up.
Support involves counseling to help you identify the cues or triggers that cause you to smoke and to develop a strategy for avoiding or dealing with those triggers. Subsequent support meetings tackle the response to actually giving up, any relapses that may have occurred, and adjusting to life as a non-smoker.
Medication can also be used to support efforts to quit smoking. “We often prescribe nicotine patches, which you are allowed to place on your skin while fasting. We also use tablets which help reduce cravings and decrease the pleasurable effects of tobacco products. These are taken twice a day, once just before you start fasting in the morning, and then again in the evening, just after you break your fast.”
Giving up smoking isn’t easy, and to be completely tobacco-free Dr. Hasan says a clear strategy, motivation, awareness and reason to quit are all essential. This can seem daunting, especially for long-term smokers, but the health benefits are far-reaching and many are evident within the first few days of being smoke-free.
“Your body begins to change within the first 20 minutes of quitting. Your blood pressure starts to drop. Within a few days to a few weeks, your blood circulation improves. Your sense of taste and smell comes back. Breathing improves tremendously, possibly up to 30% within the first week,” says Dr. Hasan.