Photo by Anouk Brekhof

Students on International No Tobacco Day

They quit

Photo by Anouk Brekhof
May 31 is World No Tobacco Day. Five students talk about how they started smoking, the role tobacco played in their lives, and why they finally decided to quit.
31 May om 14:43 uur.
Laatst gewijzigd op 24 August 2021
om 15:27 uur.
May 31 at 14:43 PM.
Last modified on August 24, 2021
at 15:27 PM.

Door Yoana Petrova

31 May om 14:43 uur.
Laatst gewijzigd op 24 August 2021
om 15:27 uur.

By Yoana Petrova

May 31 at 14:43 PM.
Last modified on August 24, 2021
at 15:27 PM.

Yoana Petrova

Gabriele Dubrovinaite grew up

Gabriele Dubrovinaite, arts, media and culture student at the UG, had her first cigarette when she was fifteen. ‘I had my fun, but it’s been five years. Enough is enough.’

Gabriele chain-smoked for five years. But two months ago, she decided to quit once and for all. ‘When you’re a student, you can afford to do some reckless things’, she says. ‘But there comes a time when enough is enough.’

Smoking had made her feel tired and she noticed the adverse effect it had on her skin. Even though she was exercising regularly, she could not get the best out of her training. ‘Running when you smoke is possible, but you cannot be in your best shape.’

Still, she struggled to quit for years. She’s a student, she explains, and that comes with meeting lots of people and going out a lot. Smoking is also a part of that. ‘For me it was a party thing’, she admits. 

But now she’s ‘growing up’, and she’s decided to say goodbye to the cigarettes she got used to smoking while out for a drink. 

It’s still been hard, though. The first couple of days were the worst: ‘I was angry, I was hungry, I was gaining weight.’ But that was two months ago, and things have been getting better. 

She is tracking her progress through a diary, where she writes down all the reasons she has to quit, and an app. Every time she craves a cigarette, she goes back to her list to remind herself of why she wanted quit in the first place. ‘I made myself a promise and I am only as good as the promise I keep.’

Giordano Zanna got scared

Giordano Zanna began smoking when he started studying international relations and international organisations at the UG. He’s quit because he’s worried about getting ill.

For Giordani, cigarettes were a way to fight stress. Deadline after deadline, nicotine helped him fight anxiety and cope with pressure. But smoking was also his way of taking a break and making new friends. ‘Smoking was a social activity. I was not the only one who smoked’, Giordano says.

However, the situation changed when the lockdown started. Giordano was taking all his classes online, which meant he no longer had the opportunity to meet up with his friends during breaks. ‘Smoking just didn’t make any sense anymore’, he says. ‘I know how bad smoking is for my health and I am afraid of getting a lung disease’ 

He has decided to quit altogether, since he sees no use in continuing to smoke. ‘You have to decide for yourself.’

Maitreya Penkar and Leon Reinhardt were supportive

Students Maitreya Penkar and Leon Reinhardt both quit smoking because they wanted to support their housemates during Ramadan. ‘I wanted to challenge myself.’

Maitreya had his first cigarette when he was fourteen years old, the film studies student says. It was a way to fit in during high school and he’s been a regular smoker ever since. 

Leon, who studies international relations and international organisations, started at nineteen. He started as a social smoker at parties, but when his studies got more demanding, it became a habit.

However, both students jumped at the chance to kick the habit when Ramadan arrived and the Muslim students they lived with were no longer eating, drinking or smoking during the day. Maitreya felt bad for his roommates, having to deal with him smoking all the time while craving a cigarette themselves. ‘Even though I am an atheist.’ 

Leon, who isn’t a Muslim either, felt the same way. ‘I just wanted to do something nice for my housemates’

For Maitreya it turned out to be no easy feat. ‘On the fourth day, I felt angry, and my hands were shaking’, he says. Things got better after a week, but the covid-19 crisis in his home country of India led to a relapse. ‘That put me in a very difficult place,’ he says. ‘I need to be calm and relaxed to stop smoking, and right now I am not. I need to smoke more than ever.’

For Leon, who hadn’t been smoking as long as his friend, things were much easier. He didn’t suffer many withdrawal symptoms. ‘I think I just broke the habit.’

Chris Kruize educated himself

Psychology student Chris Kruize quit smoking two years ago. ‘Studying psychology made it easier.’

Chris was nineteen when he lit up his first cigarette. He started because his colleagues were smoking and he wanted to give it a try, too. ‘You just try one and then another and that’s how it starts.’  

He was an active smoker – of tobacco and weed – for approximately three years. He still remembers the moment his parents found out. They reacted extremely emotionally; they were shocked and made him promise right then and there that he would never do it again. Of course, he still did. But now in secret. 

It wasn’t until he went to university that the real change came about. ‘I was learning about behaviour and ways to change that. Understanding the process made it easier’, he says.

This time, the motivation to quit came from within himself. ‘I did suffer from withdrawal’, he says. ‘When times were hard, I would grab a beer or a snack. But after a few weeks I was fine.’ He’s realised that the joy of smoking has less to do with cigarettes themselves and more with the social aspect of it, with the time spent with friends. ‘I’m very happy I quit.’