For a long time I have wanted to scream this, but it has taken at least five attempts to finally achieve success.
As a Latin American, I know it is much easier to achieve addiction. Statistically it is proven that Latinos smoke more, and I unfortunately fell into these statistics.
My intention with this column is to relate my experience as a smoker in hopes my story may help other people quit smoking — or, better yet, never start.
I had my first cigarette at age 19. I did it only as an experiment to find out what it felt like. I figured it would be just an experience. But that experiment led to habit that has take 20 years to kick.
The person who has never smoked does not know what this is, what is enslaving about tobacco, and how hard it is to walk away from it.
My advice to young adolescents is don’t try tobacco even once! Sampling a single cigarette is a risk that should never be taken. The age when you start smoking is generally between 13 and 23 years old, then from there the likelihood that a person becomes a smoker falls significantly. It is around this age when parents and teachers should advise, teach and persuade the young not only to avoid long-term smoking, but to not trick themselves into thinking they can have “just one.”
I tried to stop four times, and it wasn’t until the fifth time I had success — or I think I did — because smoking is very insidious and persistent. It does not leave your mind at peace. It talks and whispers to you constantly to return.
They say it’s best to quit through pure force of will, but for me the way to quit was through motivation. Willpower does not work without motivation. Sooner or later the person will return to smoking. You have to find something that motivates you so you can vigorously alter your routine.
For tobacco users, it’s frustrating to hear family and friends constantly insisting they stop smoking. It’s useless. That pressure only makes things worse and creates a bad mood in the smoker. The way to kick tobacco, in my opinion, is through a conscious, self-motivated decision by the smoker. They must make a plan, choose a quit-smoking aid, set a time to begin, prepare plans for changes in routine, keep in mind activities to do when smoking cravings come, and get motivated by new activities.
In my early attempts to quit, I used the nicotine patch, but it did not work. The last time I used a new drug, Chantix, and it proved successful in my case. Anxiety was cut in half and the urges to smoke were weaker.
Now I feel I’m out of cigarettes, and I have decided to help those who want to quit, to encourage young people to never try it. The cigarette is a death trap. In my three businesses, I am now working with the state health department on developing a smoking policy and also will provide information to people who decide to quit smoking about where they should call and ask for help.
Many people say smokers should quit in order to save money, but the truth is that the smoker does not care about saving money — this habit is stronger than financial concerns.
In my case, I decided to quit for my health and my children. I have three beautiful children, and I want to see them when they are adults.
Because of how hard it is, I see quitting smoking as a heroic act, and now I feel like a hero to my children.
I’d like to thank my family for helping me quit and I give a heartfelt message to youth not to even dare experiment with this addictive substance, because it is a trap. Do not smoke so you can achieve a long and healthy life.
For smokers who think about quitting, you must know it is possible. You have to have a plan, seek help, find the motivation and become the hero of your children as I have.
I hope this column will inspire some smokers to make the decision to quit forever. Life is worth living.
Youth, be smart!
Smoker, you can quit!
Fernando Leonhardt is the owner of the La Ranchera and La Rancherita markets in Logan. He is an immigrant from Argentina.