The month of Ramadan is a great opportunity to start some healthy habits and stop some bad ones, such as smoking.
Ahmed Rahman gave up smoking during Ramadan with the help of a smoking counsellor at his mosque in north London.
The 36-year-old traffic warden had smoked between 10 and 15 cigarettes a day for 20 years.
“Sometimes I managed to stop for a whole month, but every time I saw someone with a cigarette in their hand it made me want one,” he says. “Eventually the temptation would get too much and I’d light up again.”
His wife had become concerned about his health and showed him articles in the newspaper about lung cancer and chest infections.
“We have two children and she didn’t want them exposed to smoke, so I had to smoke in the garden,” Ahmed says.
Fighting the cravings
In 2005, Ahmed told a family friend that he wanted to give up smoking during Ramadan.
“We cannot smoke during the day during the time of fasting, so I thought that if I could give up smoking during the day, there was no reason why I couldn’t eventually stop altogether,” he says.
His friend advised him to contact his local primary care trust (PCT), which was running an anti-smoking group offering support to people trying to give up.
There were four to five group sessions a week at Ahmed’s mosque. Those who signed up had to commit to five weeks.
Between sessions, Ahmed would phone his support worker whenever he had the urge to light up.
“I liked quitting with a group of other people in the same situation, and being able to talk to someone who knew what I was going through was great,” he says. “Our co-ordinator made various suggestions for getting through the first few days after my ‘quit date’.”
‘It gets easier’
“The first few weeks were hard. Not eating or drinking anything during the day is difficult, but for me not smoking was harder.”
At night, Ahmed chewed nicotine gum whenever he felt like smoking a cigarette.
“Stopping smoking isn’t something you can feel half-hearted about,” he says. “There were a few weak moments at first when I told myself that a couple of cigarettes wouldn’t hurt, but I knew that if I gave in and had one, I’d be smoking 15 a day again by the end of the week.”
If he had a craving during the day, he sat in a cafe and read a paper until the urge had passed.
“I think the main reason that I finally managed to stop was that I really wanted to,” Ahmed says. “It does get easier as time goes on. After four weeks I was able to stop using the nicotine gum, and I’m proud to say that I have not smoked since Ramadan two years ago.
“Today, I can do physical exercise without getting breathless and my head feels clearer. My wife is really proud of me, and it’s nice to know that I don’t have to go outside and stand in the cold or rain just for a smoke.”
Quit smoking and tobacco
People who use NHS support are up to four times more likely to quit smoking than those who try to stop alone. All areas have a free local NHS Stop Smoking Service that provides medication and support to help you quit. Many services also offer support to help you stop using smokeless tobacco, such as paan. Read more about NHS Stop Smoking support.
9 out of 10 people using a stop-smoking service would recommend it to another person who wants to stop smoking. To find your local service, go to the Smokefree website, or ask your doctor or nurse to refer you to your local service.
You can also call the NHS Smokefree Helpline number on 0300 123 1044 (0300 123 1014 minicom), and ask to speak to an interpreter for the language you need. The helpline is open 9am-8pm Monday to Friday, and 11am-4pm on Saturday and Sunday.