Medical experts say more than a third of Qatar’s residents are smokers (cigarettes and/or sheesha). Some 200 million cigarettes are smoked here daily, to the tune of $65 million annually, and up to half of all fire outbreaks in Qatar are linked to smoking.
Keen to help residents kick the expensive, dangerous habit, Qatar is working to establish an anti-smoking association. It also offers support services through local smoking cessation clinics.
But what is it like to quit? And why is it so hard? Aisha (not her real name), a longtime smoker and British-Qatari resident, aims to answer those questions for herself and will share her journey to a smoke-free life with weekly diary posts, published on Doha News.
Here’s her first entry.
My Smoking Diary: Week one – my last cigarette
It’s Saturday night, and I’ve just smoked my last cigarette – I hope.
My name is Aisha. I’m 33, originally from the UK but I’ve been here in Qatar almost half my life and for all that time I have been hiding a secret, my smoking secret.
I picked up on the fact that women smoking here isn’t socially acceptable as soon as I arrived in Doha and it’s even more of a taboo for a covered woman to smoke. So for 15 years I have kept it mostly secret. But I decided to share my journey to a smoke-free life in hopes that it may encourage others and also be a motivation for me to finally overcome what I feel has been one of the hardest battles I have ever faced.
After 17 years of smoking, why have I decided to do this now? Well, I’m sick of being worried every time I have a cough or pain in my chest that it is the start of something more sinister. I want to be around for my wonderful kids for many years to come (and set a good example).
More importantly, I have my first ever umrah trip coming up soon! I’m so excited about it and I don’t want this dark cloud hanging over me because no matter how much I try to kid myself I know Allah is not happy with me slowly destroying this body He has given me. So decision made, motivations recorded.
I decided I’m going to need help with this.
Past attempts to quit have all failed so I need a support system. I looked up the smoking cessation clinics that have stated relatively recently in Qatar and got myself an appointment. I have to say I was so nervous! I had visions of hordes of guys sitting there and me being the only woman.
Fortunately it was very quiet when I arrived and I quickly booked in with the receptionist. Male and female waiting areas were separated so apart from the fact I had to take the walk of shame past the men’s waiting area when they called my name, it was fine. A lovely nurse reassured me that I’m not the only woman who attends and told me not to worry.
Not worrying soon ended when she did the carbon monoxide test on me! One to 6 is nonsmoker, 20 + is heavy smoker. I had always thought of myself as a light smoker but my numbers where off the charts at 26! That was scary.
Off I went back to the waiting area feeling very bad and trying to convince myself it was just because I had a smoke in the car on the way there (all smokers will identify at how good we are about making these kind of excuses). Ten minutes later, it time to see the doctor. He was very pleasant and although shocked when I spoke in English, he made me feel very relaxed and not uncomfortable at all. He asked me about my smoking history, any failed attempts at quitting, my daily smoking routine etc.
After an explanation about the misconceptions of smoking being a way to relive stress, he outlined a plan and recommended nicotine gum for me. He did say they also had patches and tablets, but didn’t feel I needed them. He left it for me to set a date, told me to get rid of all smoking paraphernalia on that day and assured me that with help and support I would be smoke-free before I know it.
So here I am Saturday night, just about to smoke what I hope will be the last cigarette of my life! I’m excited, hopeful and a little scared. It’s not hard during the week but come the weekend, my willpower escapes me. I hope keeping this diary, getting some support and the motivations I previously mentioned will be enough to finally help me kick this habit once and for all.
I have another appointment at the clinic later on in the week and I hope to see a more reasonable number on that carbon monoxide test. Will keep you all posted!
Are you trying or have you tried to quit? Are you helping a loved one kick the habit? Please share your stories with us in the comments!