Age at interview: 46
Brief Outline: Haseen, 46, is a primary school teacher. He is Indian, married and lives with his wife and daughter. Haseen gave up smoking when he was 45. He started smoking on a regular basis when he went to pre-university in India. He then smoked more when he was earning money and it was only when he had moved to Canada and got married that he first seriously attempted to give up smoking. Haseen has now given up and thinks that going on a Vipassana (meditation) retreat helped him to do this.

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Haseen grew up in India, in the southern state of Kerala. He bought his first cigarette when he was about 6 years old with money he took from his Dad’s pocket and he was caught. Later, when he was older, he smoked again and was caught by his brother who was upset with him. The first time he smoked more was when he was at college and he thinks he was influenced by the older generation at school. Looking back now he thinks that the premature death of his dad when Haseen was 7 impacted on his smoking habits as he ‘wanted to grow fast to be a man’. When he went to pre-university in India he looked forward to the freedom of being able to smoke, and he started to smoke around 2-3 cigarettes a day but can remember he didn’t really like smoking. After school, when he earned his own money, he describes himself as a ‘fully-fledged smoker’. When he earned more money he started smoking a different brand of cigarettes. He noticed he smoked more when he went to bars and was drinking. He tells a story about how he used to go jogging in the morning and then have a cigarette afterwards. Some years later he moved to Canada and met his partner and future wife, who didn’t like smoking. At this point he smoked close to a pack of cigarettes a day and thinks that his partner was a restraining influence on his smoking habits. He talks about the realisation that somebody cared for him and that he should give up ‘this nonsense’. At the same time when he had a cough he was beginning to think it was connected to smoking. Haseen said that he couldn’t ‘stand the nagging’ of his partner but also said that he ‘wanted to live for somebody now’. He started thinking of his Dad’s premature death as ‘self-inflicted’ as he smoked and had ‘no control over his food habits’. He said that he ‘subconsciously probably always knew that smoking could kill you’. When he first started to think about giving up, he couldn’t imagine a situation where he was not smoking. After he got married, his wife ‘put her foot down’ and he gave up for six months but began again when he changed jobs. He started to work in advertising and everyone in his office smoked. However, he didn’t smoke at home as his wife would ‘kill’ him. He describes how smoking was a ‘comfort’ so that he would smoke when was stressed or when he had had a fight. He became concerned about his health as he was coughing a lot and had problems with acidity. He says that he was not affected by the warnings on cigarette packets or public health campaigns.

Having a daughter had a significant impact on his life and he describes his attempts at giving up as not ‘dead serious’ until he became a father and had to give up this ‘selfish kind of a lifestyle’. Haseen describes the grip that cigarettes then had on him and says that it was a ‘strong, strong addiction’. He says that chewing Nicorette gum was ‘nonsense’ and that he ‘never found any uses for those kinds of things’. Haseen never discussed his attempts to give up smoking with a doctor and never considered himself a ‘heavy smoker’ who needed ‘medical help’. Later he attended a Vipassana retreat (a silent meditation for a ten-day period) that made a ‘huge difference’ as he developed another type of consciousness and felt that he wasn’t ‘cut out for smoking’. After this he stopped smoking as well as eating meat and drinking more alcohol. Although he had a couple of cigarettes at New Year and a party, he doesn’t now smoke. Recently he has thought about going to see the doctor to have a spirometry test.

He thinks that things have changed a lot since he was a boy as you can’t smoke in public places. He wants to tell other people who are thinking about smoking that it is really hard, and to think carefully about the reasons they smoked in the first place.

Haseen noticed being able to breathe more easily, being less irritable and having fewer problems with his digestion.

Yes, I feel a lot more, honestly, I can actually breathe. Because before this I never realised I had short breath. So now I can feel it. My breath is coming back in a much better way. I am able to, you know, I have full breaths, almost full breaths again. And, and also the acidity has gone. I don’t have any more acidity. And also I should say I’m less irritable. I used to be really irritable, very fast, when I was smoking I used to get irritable. I’m less irritable. Able to think in a more relaxed, and a clear manner. Not jumping to conclusions or getting the hang of you. So a little bit more clarity I would say now, in the thinking process.

Haseen’s father died when he was seven. He wanted to grow up fast and smoking seemed part of becoming a man.

And all through my life I think I always saw my uncles smoking and so they would smoke foreign cigarettes or something, so I used to think, oh that’s the thing I’ll smoke when I grow up. So it was more like wanting to be a grown up. I think that’s probably one of the reasons I, I started smoking when I was a teenager. I was never a regular, because I could when I was about 13 or 14 I tried smoking, the first couple of drags I could inhale, after that I could not inhale. There’s, you know, I found that I just puff it a little.

Probably I was in ninth grade, ninth grade I tried smoking at home one time in the bathroom. And I just got some cigarettes and I think that if I smoke inside the bathroom nobody will found out. Obviously the smell is there.

My Dad passed away, my Dad passed away when I was 7. So my brother caught me. My older brother caught me. Now he was not there, when he came home, he went to the toilet, and he said, “Somebody smoked in here. Who’s smoking?” [Laughs]. And I said, “I don’t know.” And he said, “Come inside, do you smell cigarettes?” I said, “Yes.” “Oh my God.” And he whacked the crap out of me.

He was so upset. He was upset because I think he was seeing me straying away into habits which you know, bad habits, and especially as my Dad was not there, and nobody was there to really you know, put me in, give me some sort of advice. So he was actually more sad than angry. So that’s why he really hit me [laughs]. I was only one time in my life he whacked me that day, yes. So after that I never smoked till I reached college actually. Yes.

So again, I think one of the reasons, if I think back, the reason I started smoking has actually been influenced from seeing the older people, the older generation smoking and I thought it was something cool, and it’s not just cool, to be grown up, you know, so you feel you’re grown up, you’re no longer a child any more. I think it’s also a lot of the psychological thing that had happened to me, when I was a child and I’d lost my Dad. So I wanted to grow fast to be a man, and so by smoking, you think you can become a man, you know, so things like that. I think, thinking back I think some of the reasons that I started smoking would from those, yes. Yes.

But after that you know, I think that’s the reason. Come to think about it I wanted to be a man. So because there was no man in the house, so I wanted to be a man, and therefore if I smoked I’d be a man. So that kind of a feeling, yes. So yes.

When Haseen first had a partner, he began to feel that the risks he was taking would also affect her.

I came to Canada in 97, 98, 99 I met [name] and from that time onwards, the moment I started with … she hated smoking. She doesn’t like smoke. So all things are changing. Actually she had made a big contribution towards me getting off cigarettes, yes. Till then I used to smoke regularly close to a pack a day.

So you say everything started changing.


What was happening?

Interesting. I think it was very psychological thing. Then you started to feel, you know, you are not alone. That somebody else also really cares for you. Who generally tells you better give up all this nonsense. Then you start to think ah may be you know, what she’s saying is right. It’s not just bad for me. Then you have somebody else to, not to take care of, but you care for also. Like you consider them also. So what you’re doing to yourself inadvertently will affect the other person also. So that consciously slowly crept into my mind and said, “Okay somebody else also cares for me, so … maybe I should give up this nonsense.”

But even then I smoked. The number of cigarettes really came down from close to 16, 17 cigarettes a day. I would say it came down to like four or five cigarettes a day.

No it’s so interesting that when I actually start thinking about, the reason why I stopped or rather started thinking about it. Yes, it was then the time when I realised that somebody else also in your life and who you want to live for. It’s not that you smoke because I want to die kind of thing. It’s not just that, but you really didn’t care for your body and your very oblivious about those things. Like what the cigarette is doing to you, those kind of things. But then somebody else comes and tells you okay. Sometimes you cough or something, and is it because I’m coughing so then you realise, another person does care. May be I should be go back and think about it. So that’s how I started bringing it down. She used to nag me all the time. I thought alright I might as well give it up. I couldn’t stand her nagging [laughs] oh dear me.

Having a daughter made Haseen think seriously about giving up smoking, but he gave up only later.

Actually it was serious, I not until actually I had [name of daughter]. I mean I was serious, and but to be very honest, I was, I was, you know, I wouldn’t say like, you know, I was serious at the same time, not dead serious, not really till I had a child. Okay, you know. Now things are very different. Now, you know, you really have something in your life. You see even when you marry somebody, it is not like having a child. So, you know, you of course care for the person, very much, and so on and so forth, but when you have a child the dynamic completely changes. And then it is not just about yourself. Till then it was more a little bit o selfish kind of lifestyle, but the moment you have a child, then you know you’ve got to live long enough for the kid. You know. So that really.

But even then, so you can imagine, when we went to Africa despite having that knowledge that I should not smoke, I did smoke when I was there literally for the first year. I was there, I used to smoke. Five or six cigarettes a day. Hm. Probably more. Seven, eight cigarettes I used to smoke. But when in Birmingham I used to smoke like on a weekend I would smoke a cigar. Like a small cigar and [names of friends] I used to roll with them and smoke a cigarette with them.

But not yet. But I mean that’s how. I mean. How much the smoking had actually got a grip of me, you see like I said, you know, I have really saw how it is important it is for me to stop smoking, especially having a family. Because I had a child and so on. Despite all that, you still get back into it, you know. It is so hard, it is so hard. I have never. I can probably stop everything, but cigarettes was such a strong, strong addiction for me.

Haseen found it funny that he would jog with a friend and then have a cigarette immediately afterwards.

The funniest thing is we go used to go jogging in the morning, me and my friend. We used to go jogging in the morning. There used to be a huge old ballast there. We used to go jogging along the ballast and after jogging from the nearby shop we’d buy four cigarettes and smoke. Once this old guy came to us and said, “If you guys are jogging, why on earth are you smoking after your jog.” We said, “Yeah, yeah, yeah, whatever, yeah.”

So funny, I mean, yes, by the time, all of our friends. We started, smoking was part of the enjoyment too, when we bought, make sure that we have cigarettes with us, we don’t want to run out of cigarettes.

For ages Haseen didn’t realise just how bad smoking was for people and always thought he wouldn’t be the one to get ill.

But I mean I had no idea. I mean. How much smoking can be harmful to you. People don’t. I mean I don’t, I can’t talk about people, but I’m talking about myself. Just could not get it into my head that it is so bad for you, you know, it just. I consider it some sort of magic, sort of spell put on people. Yes, both psychologically and physically, and psychologically too, there’s the fact, you know, the thing I was telling you about it being company. It is a big thing. It has such a strong effect, it had a strong effect on me. Hm. So strange. Hm.

Yes, I mean there were warnings on cigarettes packets you, the statutory message, smoking can cause injury you know, cancer and all that stuff. It, I mean, I did get, I did realise the significance of smoking to that also. And in articles and paper, you know, sometimes medical journals and so on, you come across, you read [coughs] about that and you find out so many people died of lung cancer. So many people dying of heart disease and so on. Yes, it did, but on a, I never a journal and said like okay let me read about smoke, deaths caused by smoking or any of that. But on a casual basis you see it in the newspaper, you read it and so on. It didn’t actually make a big difference I don’t think, you know. It is always like, how do you say, like it’s not going to happen to me, it’s going to happen to somebody else. That kind of, but so many die, so many people but not me, so you know, that kind of way of thinking. So yes.
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