On World No Tobacco Day, Emson Bohitile Koiko reflects how a childhood game turned into a 30-year addiction to cigarretes.
Koiko’s addiction started as a 13-year-old child when he and other neighbourhood children would play “testing the stompies,” smoking discarded cigarette butts on the street.
The childhood game of trying the “stompies” became serious business in high school when smoking was popular and was seen as another way of proving that “you are now a mature man in the community”.
“Peer pressure got me there, and as I got older my addiction got worse.
“While I used to crave smoking at school, it just got more serious at tertiary level to the extent that I started buying a packet for myself,” he told OurHealth.
“The first time I realised this was a serious addiction was when I started waking myself up during the night to smoke,” said Koikoi, adding he would smoke a full packet of 20 cigarettes a day. A packet costs anything from about R28 to R35.
Koiko smoked for 30 years until he stopped in January at his children’s insistence after being diagnosed with diabetes.
As the world observes today’s World No Tobacco Day, 43-year-old Koiko of Kagung outside Kuruman in the Northern Cape celebrates five months of being smoke free.
Koikoi says that although he knew the side effects of smoking were life threatening, quitting was not easy.
Addiction not easy to shake
“Addiction is painful and demanding,” said Koikoi.“Every year I made a resolution to quit smoking but every year I did not succeed.”[quote float= right](Quitting) has been one of the greatest achievements. Cigarettes are no longer part of my budget. (Smoking) is not in my vocabulary anymore”
But when he was diagnosed with diabetes last year, Koikoi realised that carrying on smoking was, health-wise, no longer an option, and he decided that he would quit permanently.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), smoking leads to nearly 6 million deaths each year worldwide, including 600,000 of which are the result of non-smokers being exposed to second-hand smoke.
It also damages your heart and your blood circulation, increasing your risk of developing conditions such as heart disease, heart attack or stroke, says the WHO. Smoking is particularly bad for people living with diabetes who can already suffer from circulatory problems.
Koikoi initially substituted sweets for cigarettes when cravings hit.
“Now I will just take a walk or become busy with some of the household chores,” he said.“(Quitting) has been one of the greatest achievements. Cigarettes are no longer part of my budget. (Smoking) is not in my vocabulary anymore.”
Koikoi said the words of encouragement he can give to those who are struggling with the addiction is to not stop trying.
Since Koikoi quit smoking he has been able to save hundreds of rands of money a months and also improve his health. “It is not only about the money I have saved, and my health, but I have made my children so happy. They are the ones who also motivated me to stop.”