When the habit is too hard to break

Copy of nd nicorette gum INLSA Nicorette nicotine gum. Picture: Handout/Supplied

For many smokers, giving up the habit is easier said than done.

Russell Ely, 28, has tried at least four times to quit his habit. He started smoking in Grade 8 because “everyone was doing it”.

That didn’t last long, and he managed to kick the habit for the rest of high school. When he went on to study at a technikon, he started again.

Ely now smokes an average of 30 cigarettes a day. He smokes four on his 20km journey to work and four on the way home. The bulk of his smoking takes place at work and this is largely due to stress, he says.

On his off days, however, Ely manages to keep the number of cigarettes he smokes down to three a day.

His motivation for quitting is his one-year-old son. He doesn’t want to expose him to second-hand smoke.

For the past two months, Ely has tried natural aids to stop. “It does help on my days off. But I still smoke about 30 on other days,” he says.

Mukesh Maharajh picked up his first cigarette at the tender age of six. “There were always cigarettes lying around the house. So I picked one up and started smoking,” says Maharajh.

Forty years later, he hasn’t been able to quit. But this is not for lack of trying. Each week, Maharajh tells himself he’ll break the cycle.

Each week he puffs on his “last” cigarette. Each week he quits for no more than two hours. Habit makes him reach for his cigarettes and continue the cycle. He’s never tried the patches, chewing gum or other aids created for quitting. He feels that going cold turkey is the best approach.

After 40 years of smoking, Maharajh claims that he is “as fit as a fiddle”. So neither health nor the rising cost of the habit is a deterrent for him, he says. His reason for wanting to stop has more to do with other people than himself.

“My smoking irritates other people. My girlfriend hates it,” he says. So Maharajh will try again this weekend.