Nepal | October 23, 2020

Kicking the butt

Raju Upreti
Share Now:


Amid rising concerns about COVID-19, the Ministry of Health and Population (MoHP) and health experts recommend several ways to boost the immune system and protect oneself against the virus. Quitting smoking is one.

Urging smokers to quit to reduce risk of severe outcome if they get COVID-19, Senior Chest Physician and Pulmonologist Dr Niraj Bam at the Department of Pulmonology and Critical Care Medicine, Tribhuvan University Teaching Hospital (TUTH) says, “Smoking leads to generation of harmful enzymes in body that allow coronavirus to gain access into the lung cells. Also COVID-19 tends to attack the receptors (cells) of the lungs accelerating inflammatory markers, subsequently blocking or narrowing the breathing passage. Smoking does the same while decreasing immunity to fight it.”

It’s the smokers and people with diseases such as bronchial asthma, COPD, pneumonia, lung cancer and low immunity power who have high chances of getting severely affected by COVID-19 as these diseases “help  the virus enter their lungs, where it replicates and attacks”.

Pointing out smokers have a high mortality and morbidity rate, he says, “The lockdown can be an opportunity for tobacco addicts to kick the habit.”

However he has also observed that “there are people who are smoking more as compared to earlier”. So, how can one quit smoking?

As per Dr Bam, “The best possible way to quit is to stop smoking this very moment. And never go back to it. Be determined and dedicated to your decision.” He opines that if one manages to not smoke for 14 days, there’s a high chance that one might be able to leave it altogether. But opting for e-cigarettes and vape as alternatives “will be the biggest mistake as these will be affecting the lungs severely”.

Individuals like Sudhir Sharma, a MBA student, are grappling with withdrawal symptoms. Sharma had been smoking about 9-10 cigarettes a day for past eight years — “I wanted to quit but couldn’t. The need to quit was always at the back of my head.”

Now that he has quit smoking (a week ago), he says, “I am going through mood swings. I get anxious, irritable and restless. The desire to smoke is sky high. I quit as I got to know how risky it is in relation to COVID-19, but I don’t think I will be able to for long. I am not being able to cope with this situation.”

Addressing the problem that Sharma is going through, Dambar Raj Bhatta, Psychotherapist said, “Smokers like Sharma fall under high level of nicotine dependence category. To help such individuals cope with the situation, a detailed assessment needs to be done. The help of a psychotherapist would be required in such cases.”

Going cold turkey may be the best possible way, but Bhatta, who has helped numerous smokers deal with withdrawals, does not see this as an effective approach. “It might create imbalance in mental functioning. Instead one should opt for alternative methods like meditation, engaging in hobbies to fulfil the craving led by anxiety. It’s necessary to find what kind of anxiety it is. And what could be done to normalise it. So taking help of psychotherapists (who are conducting sessions online) would be the best possible option.”

Bhatta informs there’s no need to panic due to changes in your (smokers’) behaviour once one quits as one will “experience physical and psychological withdrawal effects”. Suraj Shakya, Clinical Psychologist at TUTH, informs withdrawal symptoms disappear completely after two to four weeks of quitting “although for some, they may last longer”.

To successfully quit this habit he says, “You need to be mentally prepared for the reality of withdrawal symptoms and keep yourself motivated and busy.”

He suggests making a list of the benefits of quitting smoking, rereading it when the craving for a smoke hits, exercising more regularly during withdrawal, especially as a distraction from the craving, adding social pressure by telling people about your decision to quit, avoiding triggers such as drinking alcohol or watching movies where smoking is shown, and being realistic about how long the process can take.

He points out self-monitoring could be an essential step in helping oneself to cope with withdrawal. “Just follow and re-assess what you are doing. Remember you might be desperate for a smoke, but control your feelings at that particular time as it lasts for only a few minutes. If you can do this, you will win.”

A version of this article appears in e-paper on May 20, 2020 of The Himalayan Times.

Follow The Himalayan Times on Twitter and Facebook

Recommended Stories:

More from The Himalayan Times:

Teku’s Radha Krishna temple restored

KATHMANDU, OCTOBER 21 UNESCO, in collaboration with the Department of Archaeology, has completed rebuilding of the shikhara-style Radha Krishna temple located at the confluence of the holy Bagmati and Bishnumati rivers at Teku, Kathmandu. To mark the completion, Jeev Nyas Puja, a ritual to Read More...

Traffic lights functional in 24 thoroughfares in valley

KATHMANDU, OCTOBER 21 Metropolitan Traffic Police Division today said traffic lights had been brought back into operation in various thoroughfares of Kathmandu valley. According to MTPD, traffic lights have been brought into operation at Singha Durbar, Padmodaya, New Baneshwor, Putalisadak, Su Read More...

EDITORIAL: The heat’s on

When the country is having to import rice worth billions of rupees annually, declining output due to droughts and other reasons is worrisome With precipitation far above average across the country, this monsoon was an extremely wet one. Or so we thought. But parts of the country were subjected to s Read More...

Government should reconsider decision: Free PCR tests are a must

With the government washing its hands of its responsibility for controlling the coronavirus pandemic through free tests and treatment, people may hesitate to get themselves traced, tested and treated at their own expense. They will, in all probability, hide their infection, if they catch it The gov Read More...

Vedanta in quantum world

From a superficial view, Vedanta and quantum mechanics may look extremely different. One is a part of evolution of modern physics while the other is the world’s most ancient spiritual philosophies about Hinduism. But both are a part of the same universe. So they must have the same underlying re Read More...

Man who fell off cliff being treated in Kathmandu

BAJURA, OCTOBER 21 Mansingh BK, who was deprived of treatment due to financial crisis after he fell off a cliff, is undergoing treatment in Kathmandu. A resident of Ward No 9 of Badimalika Municipality, BK fractured his backbone when he fell from ta cliff. He was facing problems in treatme Read More...

consumer price inflation at 4.52pc

KATHMANDU: The macroeconomic update unveiled by the Nepal Rastra Bank on Wednesday showed that the consumer price inflation (CPI) in the country accelerated to 4.52 per cent in the second month of this fiscal year (mid-August to mid-September) from 3.49 per cent recorded in the earlier month. Read More...

Trade deficit narrows down nearly 25 per cent

KATHMANDU, OCTOBER 21 While the adverse impact of coronavirus has been witnessed on various sectors of the economy, it was more pronounced on external trade and credit expansion of banks and financial institutions (BFIs) in the first two months (mid-July to mid-September) of the current fiscal ye Read More...