Mon, 02 Jun 2003

`It's hard to quit smoking'

In observation of World Antitobacco Day on May 31, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported that more people were smoking, particularly youths in developing countries. Statistics from the WHO reveal about five million people worldwide die from tobacco- related diseases every year. Indonesia is one of the countries where smokers find it difficult to quit, despite the numerous health risks associated with the habit. The Jakarta Post asked some city residents about their smoking habit.

Samsuri, 37, is a vendor selling soft drinks in Srengseng, West Jakarta. He lives in Tangerang with his wife and two children:

I realize that smoking is very harmful to our health, but I find it really hard to quit.

I have been smoking for more than 20 years. I started smoking when I was in the fifth grade in elementary school.

I think people usually have to stop smoking because they develop a serious health problem. But so far I have never had any health problems caused by smoking cigarettes, and that's why I keep smoking.

I also think that cigarettes are important for me, particularly when I'm at work.

Without a cigarette in my mouth, my day seems to go slower and it is so boring. Smoking keeps my hands busy and time passes quicker.

I usually smoke about a pack a day, which costs me more or less Rp 6,000. I have no idea how much money I have spent on cigarettes for the last 20 years.

But as a smoker I never think of how much my habit costs, because I'm always buying more smokes.

I don't think I would be any richer if I stopped smoking. I'm sure I would always find something else to spend my money on. In that regard, giving up smoking would be to no avail.

I think the best way to prevent people from smoking would be to close down cigarette manufacturers. But I don't think that would be very easy to do.

Ari, 25, draws comics for a living and works from his studio in Kalibata, South Jakarta. He lives in Kampung Rambutan, East Jakarta:

I am well aware that smoking is extremely dangerous to our health. But I never think about what effect it has on me or else I wouldn't smoke.

Cigarettes are a necessary part of my day, especially for an amateur artist like myself. I wouldn't be able to work without smoking.

I find I am more productive when I smoke, or maybe it's just me thinking that smoking helps me be more creative.

Cigarettes give me a lot of inspiration. They are important to me because without inspiration I wouldn't be able to earn a living.

I have to say that smoking is a positive thing in my case, despite the government health warning printed on the side of the cigarette package. I think that cigarettes also help relieve my tension and that's completely true.

I don't think twice about how much my habit is costing me, because without cigarettes, I would be in a real financial mess.

Irwan, 36, sells coffee from his cart at Gambir railway station in Central Jakarta. He lives in Bogor, West Java, with his wife and three children:

Of course, I know that smoking is not good for our health. But it would be really hard for me to quit now as I've been smoking since my first year of junior high school.

I wouldn't be able to get by without having a cigarette, especially after I've just had a meal.

On the other hand, I've managed not to become a chain smoker. I can still control myself and I smoke less than one pack of cigarettes a day.

I have to control my habit, especially because of the tougher life we lead now. So I have to spend no more than Rp 5,000 a day on cigarettes.

I have to admit though that financial constraints are a major consideration for me. I cannot get more income with business being so sluggish. It was far different during the New Order era, when I felt I was making enough as a vendor.

I have to always remember that my family is depending on me for our survival. They deserve having that money that would otherwise go on cigarettes.

Unfortunately, it's impossible for me to stop smoking at this stage. Cigarettes help me to stay relaxed and positive about things, despite the fact that life is so much tougher now.

-- Leo Wahyudi S.