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Tobacco addiction: Your health could go up in smoke

Written by Kgaogelo Letsebe

To commemorate World No Tobacco Day on 31 May, Vuk’uzenzele chats to a recovering tobacco addict about overcoming his addiction.

Katlego Makhanda, from Moiletswane in the North West, knows all too well how hard it is to stop smoking. 

Until he stopped four years ago, Makhanda (28) used to smoke over 30 cigarettes a day. 

He started smoking when he was 18 as a result of peer pressure. 

“I was not interested in smoking – it didn’t appeal to me until I was in matric and a group of guys I used to hang out with started picking on me for not being cool enough to smoke.”

Makhanda initially smoked one or two cigarettes a day, but this increased over time.

“After matric, I went to varsity and the freedom that came with not staying with my parents meant I could drink alcohol as frequently as I wanted. This increased my rate of smoking.”

In 2017, Makhanda fell ill and was hospitalised. He was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes and for weeks was too weak to get out of bed.

“The doctor was very specific that managing my illness couldn’t be done if I continued to smoke. That is when I decided to quit for good.”

Dr Midah Maluleke from Mpumalanga says smoking is harmful to nearly every organ.

“Illnesses such as cancer, heart disease, stroke, lung diseases, diabetes and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease can result from smoking.

“Research shows that smokers are 30% to 40% more likely to develop type 2 diabetes than non-smokers. Smoking also creates difficulty in managing the disease,” he says.

Tips to stop smoking

The Cancer Association of South Africa (CANSA) offers the following tips if you are trying to stop smoking:

Decide on a date to stop smoking and then do it.

Throw away everything that reminds you of smoking. This includes cigarette packets, ashtrays, lighters.

Drink lots of water – it will help flush the nicotine from your body.

Inform your family and friends that you are trying to stop so that they can support you.

You may experience some dizziness, headaches or coughing once you have stopped smoking. This is normal and should improve after a day or two and disappear within 14 days.

Makhanda says his journey hasn’t been easy, but he is committed to not smoking.

“The local clinic and staff provided me with support and information on the importance of living a tobacco-free life. At first, the smell of cigarette smoke was tempting, but now I’m used to it,” he adds.   

For help to stop smoking, visit your local clinic or contact CANSA at 0800 22 66 22.