Ramadan is widely known as a month of fasting for Muslims all over the world. This is the month where all the believers come together, restraining themselves from any kind of consumption from dawn until sunset. Besides eating and drinking, smoking is also prohibited during the day and this can be tremendously challenging for smokers. In fact, many smokers try to compensate for the day-long abstinence by chain-smoking during Iftar.
Chain-smoking is a habit of smoking several cigarettes in a row without taking a break. Not only limited to cigarettes, the term may also refer to the use of pipe or cigar smoking. Deprivation of nicotine, an addiction factor in cigarettes, is believed to cause the smoker to chain-smoke because they need to maintain a certain level of nicotine to feed the addiction.
Chain-smoking after iftar can have a sudden and direct impact on our body. The sudden intense introduction of toxic substances puts the respiratory and nervous systems at high risk. Some smokers will even reach for a cigarette as the first means of breaking the fast. Now, imagine loading your empty stomach with poisons and toxic right after more than 12 hours of fasting. Instead of nourishing your stomach with foods and drinks, you decide to opt for a proven harmful material that can cause digestive distress.
The lower oesophagal sphincter (LES), the muscular valve at the lower end of the oesophagus (the organ that connects the mouth to the stomach), prevents gastric acid reflux. Smoking decreases the strength of the LES, thereby allowing stomach acids to reflux, or flow backwards into the oesophagus. The painful, burning feeling in the chest caused by reflux is known as heartburn. In the long run, persistent reflux can cause bleeding ulcers in the oesophagus, narrowing of the oesophagus that causes food to get stuck, and changes in oesophageal cells that can lead to cancer. Aside from gastric acid reflux, smoking increases the risk of peptic ulcers, liver disease, Crohn’s disease and gallstones.
Besides its obvious digestive harm, chain-smoking may also make it harder for you to quit smoking. After a period of chain-smoking, the habit may be carried on until after Ramadan. You may be lighting up cigarette after cigarette even if you are not fasting on the day as you are habituated to smoking continuously during Iftar throughout Ramadan.
It’s important to acknowledge that besides the physical addiction of nicotine, mental or behavioural addiction can impose a significant challenge for you to quit smoking. Quitting smoking often means relearning or adjusting your routine smoking behaviours, which may be a difficult hurdle to overcome. If you spend the entire month chain-smoking instead of utilising the period as a stepping stone to quit smoking, you are now left with a difficult habit that needs to be unlearned.
Compensating your fasting time with chain-smoking will also negate the benefits of reduced cigarettes consumption. Even if you smoke fewer cigarettes per day during Ramadan, you may still be exposed to the same amount of toxins. Studies have shown that when smokers reduce their cigarette consumption, they may compensate by adjusting the way they smoke cigarettes to extract the same amount of nicotine, thus smoking, puffing and inhaling longer or more intensely. As such, chain-smoking also implies a compensatory mechanism in which you will not gain much benefit from the fasting abstinence. Hence the only solution is actually to stop smoking altogether.
Now that you know the harm of chain-smoking, why not try to stop smoking in a gradual manner before, during and after Ramadan? Aside from having a quit plan, you can use nicotine replacement therapy as a useful aid during the fasting season. Nicotine patch can be used during the day to ensure a controlled low dose supply of nicotine that will prevent withdrawal symptoms. This, in return, can help reduce the temptation to chain-smoking during iftar. Nicotine gum, on the other hand, can help you to be preoccupied with chewing instead of chain-smoking after iftar.
Try to reduce your smoking habit as you prepare to embrace the holy month. Then, make the best of Ramadan by avoiding chain-smoking after Iftar and minimising compensatory smoking. Ramadan is the perfect time and motivation for you to stop smoking. The fact that you are able to resist the temptation to smoke as you fast is an indication that quitting smoking is possible.
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