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5 Ways to Quit Smoking Slowly for Malaysians

October 22, 2021

Group of friends enjoying party and throwing confetti

Celebrate your no-smoking journey with your best buddies. 

According to the National Health and Morbidity Survery 2015, 52.3% of Malaysians cigarette smokers were looking to quit the habit.[1]. Likewise, 59.5% of smokers thought about quitting after noticing health warning labels on cigarette boxes.  For a large number of smokers, their desire to quit the habit is driven by a variety of reasons, such as health, family, or finances. 

However, quitting is not easy, and relapsing is not uncommon. The good thing, though, is that each shot at quitting is another small step towards the day when you can finally say ‘Saya sudah berhenti merokok’!  

Housemates John Ng, 30 and Reuben Michael, 31, agree. They have come to realise that half the battle is having the mental strength and fortitude to resist the cravings and urges to smoke. 

According to John, a Business Owner, and Reuben, a Project Manager, they both smoked heavily for a long period of time, and would each have a pack of cigarettes whenever they worked late into the night.  

“We always had extra packs of cigarettes lying around the house, so shortage was never a problem. It came to the point that our house had this foul bau busuk,” they shared. This, according to the buddies, was what convinced them to quit.  

Let’s look at some of the tactics that worked for John and Rueben. 

Step 1: Have Supportive Quitting’ Buddies You Can Rely On  

According to John, he first attempted to quit smoking by going cold turkey. This, John says, didn’t work too well for him. “It was so tough, my mood was off, and I got so irritably hungry every time,” he explained.  

Rueben saw how John struggled, and as a show of support, decided to join John at quitting. Instead of quitting cold turkey, what worked for the two was gradually reducing their intake with a set deadline in mind. Not only that, they talked to their partners and family about their decision to quit. By publicising it to those closest to them, they showed they were ready to take digs from those ready to rub it in their faces should they fail!  

Doing this and monitoring their day-to-day progress, they were able to motivate each other to quit smoking.  

They were also able to convince other friends to go on this journey with them, with the duo eventually creating a support group where they could discuss ways to avoid getting back into the habit. 

Step 2: Ditch the Cigarette Temptations 


 A man reading his tablet with a pensive thoughtful look while standing in his kitchen preparing a meal from a variety of fresh vegetables on the counter

Time to pick a hobby to keep you busy and cigarette free. 

Another strategy that John and Rueben tried was removing temptations that could lure them back to smoking.  

The first thing that John and Rueben did was to stop buying cigarette packs by the carton. Then, as they gradually lessened their smoking habits, they paced it to a pack a week until they no longer felt the need to buy more. Then, they removed novelty lighters and ashtrays from their living space, making it harder for them to smoke indoors.  

After that, the pair changed their daily routines. For instance, instead of lighting cigarettes while working late nights, they made sure to have a bowl of healthy snacks such as fruits, that they could munch on.  

Whenever he felt the need to hold a cigarette, Rueben opted to keep his hands busy by doing small things like squeezing a stress ball or spinning a pen with his fingers. “Though these acts may sound random, they helped me immensely, especially early on when I was so used to having a cigarette while finishing work at home,” Rueben said. 

Step 3: Kick-Start New Hobbies 

According to John, quitting smoking allowed him to explore new passions and hobbies, such as cooking.  

John notes that his fiancé was studying how to cook at that time and would often do some experimental cooking in their apartment. This led him to discover how good he was at making chicken biryani and ondeh-ondeh. So, instead of lounging around watching TV with a cigarette in hand, he now spends more time in the kitchen helping his fiancé cook. It also turned into an opportunity to get closer to loved ones and spend quality time with them.  

Reuben, on the other hand, took up guitar playing to keep his mind off from cigarettes. 

“Learning how to play the guitar not only helped me become more focused, it also helped keep my hands busy, which helped stave off the temptation to light a stick,” Reuben explained. 

Not only that, John’s newfound love for cooking rekindled other flames. “Saya suka, tunang pun jatuh cinta” he added, laughing. 


A man holding coffee and wearing headphones

Reward yourself – maybe the headphones, maybe the coffee! 

Step 4: Treat Yourself! 

The first time John went off cigarettes for a whole 24 hours, he treated his fiancé to a nice lunch the next day. This inspired both John and Rueben to develop a reward system for their journey.  

According to the duo, they even started rewarding themselves for achieving small milestones such as recruiting another friend into their online support group and surviving late-night hangouts with other smoker friends without lighting a single stick.   

In addition, once John and Rueben saw how much they saved by not buying cigarettes, they decided to use that money to treat their families and the friends who have supported them.   

“Cigarettes cost a lot in the long run, so when I saw how much ringgit I saved by quitting the habit, I decided to buy things like a vintage record player for myself and a pair of new kicks,” Rueben said. Now, he’s enjoying the analog sounds from his vinyl records and stepping out in style with his sneakers. 

Step 5: Ease the Transition with Better Alternatives  

Another tactic that John and Rueben used during their quitting journey was to actively explore other alternatives to smoking, such as e-cigarettes.  

“We tried just about everything on shelf when it came to alternatives but settled for an e-cigarette as that was the one that helped the most,” the pair said. 

According to the pair, e-cigarettes— especially the ones with closed-pod systems—are helpful because they help mimic the actions one would normally do when smoking a cigarette.  

Not only that, e-cigarettes are also affordable, with starter kits retailing for around RM59—which is slightly higher than the cost of a monthly Netflix premium subscription. In addition, the pods are also cost-effective, as they allow users to vape at their own pace without needing to finish or waste an entire stick’s worth of puffs in a single sitting. 

John and Reuben both note that not everyone will have the same experience as them, and that their tips might not be immediately effective for others. Despite that, the pair shared that they did have one trick that really worked for them: keeping a positive outlook. 

“At the end of the day, having a positive mindset is also very important,” John and Rueben said, noting that affirming themselves every time they felt like they failed motivated them to keep going.  

“Adopting a positive outlook makes it easier to keep on going and pushing through the challenges,” the pair said.  

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