ASU Tobacco-free Blog

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Sandra Hanson

My name is Sandra Hanson and I’m currently a senior majoring in psychology at ASU. I am working on my pre-med and hope to become a doctor.

I started smoking in 7th grade, when I was 11, because all my friends were doing it and I thought it was the cool thing to do. I did not notice the effects of smoking until I quit. I didn't know that it was abnormal to be out of breath after walking up a flight or two of stairs, or to feel stuffy. It was only after quitting smoking that I realized that I was allergic to smoke. It was also an expensive habit, which only got more expensive once the tax on tobacco increased dramatically.

I decided to quit at the age of 27 when I found out I was pregnant with my son. I had tried to quit once, albeit unsuccessfully, before my pregnancy and relapsed as soon as my son was born.

I felt a little defeated.

At the time, I was working at a medical office where nobody smoked. This forced me to think about the habit and my environment: I didn't want to be the only smoker, the habit was expensive and I hated it. So I just said “no more” and went cold turkey.

I suggest going cold turkey to everyone who’s thinking about quitting because if you slowly taper it down - most smokers feel they have to finish the pack - you will never quit. Buying a pack means you have 20 cigarettes to smoke before you can. When I was done with my last smoke, I made a deal with myself: I would not buy cigarettes anymore, no matter what.

I struggled. It was like a constant war in my head. Some days, I felt an overwhelming desire to smoke but didn't. The craving can be very strong, especially for someone like me who had smoked for more than 16 years and the habit was ingrained into my daily life. I got grumpy, that is for sure.

One of the biggest excuses smokers use to avoid quitting tobacco is relieving stress. I, too, used it often but after I decided to quit, I would clean, play with my son or do anything that would just keep my mind off nicotine. After a while, the craving would go away and it was a small, yet a very rewarding victory for me. The need to smoke can make one feel so powerless, but I wasn't going to let it run my life anymore.

For nearly two weeks after I quit, I still had that morning cough that seemed to get worse. I couldn't help but wonder if there were any benefits to quitting. Soon after, though, it subsided. After about a year and a half of not smoking, I was out with some friends who were smoking, took a drag and immediately regretted it. It felt gross. I couldn't even remember why I ever smoked.

A total of six years later, I am now a non-smoking snob. The smell really bothers me and I now know what I put non-smokers through. I have noticed so many things since quitting. My bank account isn't dwindling, my hair has a nice shine to it, my skin looks great and I don't smell like a perfume-drenched ashtray. I am more active and just overall healthy. I know that I have added many years to my life.

I continue to be a non-smoker because the rewards of not smoking outweigh the rewards of doing it. I support a tobacco-free ASU because everyone has the right to fresh air. It is dangerous to breathe in smoke, whether you are inhaling it willingly or second-hand.

 

Jennifer Mata

I’m only 25 years old, but I can tell you my body has endured enough to age me another ten years.

My name is Jennifer Mata, and I am a quitter.

I’m currently a junior majoring in English Literature here at ASU, and the stereotype of the reader/writer hunched over their work with cigarette in hand has been a fairly accurate description of me over the years. I came to ASU to continue to network with those in my field and to pursue coursework that would provide me with resources and inspiration for my future endeavors. So far it’s been better than I could have ever dreamed, and yet it’s had a deeper impact on my life than I could have anticipated.

I began smoking when I was sixteen years old. Despite the research that claims it begins as a peer-pressure stunt, my experience was entirely peer-pressure free. In fact, I knew of only two other individuals my age that smoked and we ran in different social circles during that time. My father is a lifelong smoker, and as a child I abhorred the act. The only influence I remember at that time was pure stress. I was engaged in advanced academic courses during my high school years and the clearest thought occurred one evening as I studied for finals: “A cigarette would relax me.” And as I smoked my first cigarette that evening outside on the back patio, I remember thinking, “Now this, this is exactly what I need.”

As I continued smoking through the years, my tolerance increased as did levels of stress. If I had so much going on at any given time, I’d go through two packs a day, as I did once I first started college. At parties and other social events, smoking always allowed us to gather in small groups and discuss random ideas; it brings strangers together, if you can believe it. As office workers would refer to “water cooler talk,” stepping outside of work or gathering between classes to smoke is the same sort of experience.

I don’t know any smoker who has quit successfully their first time out of the gate. I’ve attempted to quit many times in the past few years, but chose not to because it was a comfort and routine for me. However, I decided to give it up for good upon transferring into ASU last fall. I decided I wanted to become healthier, I wanted to run again, and none of that would be possible while sucking on cancer sticks.

The turning point came in September of last fall. I became terrible ill with a chest infection that bordered bronchitis, and remained ill for several weeks. After recovering from the illness, my stubborn side wanted to smoke. And I did. You can imagine how this turned out. I knew the only way I could guarantee a way to soothe the cough for good was to quit smoking entirely. I threw my packs away and stuck to my inhaler and cough suppressant medication.

It was a difficult road, as the cough took months to finally cease. While the physical effects were coupled with my illness in the first few days of quitting, the psychological effects linger. Any free moment I have during the day when I would usually be smoking, I have to find another way to pass the time. No more smoking on the way to class, no more smoking in between writing breaks, none of it.

It’s been difficult, especially when surrounded by other smokers, but I know my body needs the break. I fear the illnesses smoking causes, and I simply can’t let go of how painful it was to endure the months with that cough, coupled with trying to keep smoking. It’s simply not an option anymore. Of course I miss it. But I feel more comfort in knowing I have the chance to live a longer, healthier life by giving it up.