My grandfather passed away from lung cancer when I was only six years old. I didn’t really understand much of what was going on while visiting him in the hospital and colouring in my dinosaur coloring book other than “Grandpa was sick.” My grandpa who let me sit in his lap while he did his prayers. He would risk getting in trouble with my grandma by giving me my favourite unhealthy foods off the top shelf.
He had been smoking since he was a kid in Pakistan—trying it for the first time with his friends. What he probably thought was a one-time thing led him to smoking two packs a day—something I remember as a child. I have one distinct memory of me following him when I saw him smoking outside. I tried to open the door only to have my grandma running to me haphazardly and shutting the door, so that I would not be exposed to the second-hand smoke.
I got a chance in my university career to get involved with Leave the Pack Behind, an organization funded by the Ministry of Health which helps young adults aged 18-29 to quit smoking. I felt like it was fate. Before Leave the Pack Behind, I resented smokers because I associated them with the hurt of losing my grandpa. But I am so grateful for this organization because they taught me more than they will ever know. Smoking is an addiction like anything else —cravings and withdrawal halt smokers from their path to recovery. It can take a smoker an average of seven times to stop—but even up to 30 times is considered normal. Asking smokers “Why don’t you just quit?” is not helpful to them in the slightest, even though we think we might be helping our loved ones. Because that’s exactly what my loved ones told my grandpa.
Being involved in this organization makes me wish that an organization like Leave the Pack Behind was there when my grandpa was a teen. Leave the Pack Behind offers young adults aged 18-29 an eight-week supply of free nicotine-replacement therapy in the form of either patches or gum. It is available on most university and college campus clinics, or through online orders where you can have it shipped to your home instead.
So please, if you’re thinking about quitting—go that extra step and take action. Every step that you take is one step towards a smoke-free life. Even if it takes you that 30 times—I know you can do it.
Thank you for taking the time to read this. We are currently also recruiting current or ex-smokers to share their stories of smoking through a project called #LTPBChampions. If you are interested or have other questions or concerns, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.