Graphic imagery and support help them quit

He once thought smoking was cool, and the type of cigarettes you smoked revealed your personality.

"Those who want to be cool and rugged would smoke Marlboro, Camel or Lucky Strike," thought Mr Adi Yadoni. "And white-collar workers or softer personalities would go for menthol cigarettes which have a cooling taste."

The 50-year-old film producer and director, who used to smoke a pack of Marlboro a day, is one of those who have managed to kick the habit.

Mr Adi, who took up smoking when he was 18, quit about 10 years ago when he was running a cafe.

"Smoking became a hassle for me - I have to go to the yellow box, I cannot be free. I had enough of this."

Another thing that helped Mr Adi quit was the graphic imagery showing blackened lungs on cigarette packs. "When they started to put these pictures, it turned me off."

Over a couple of years he gradually weaned himself off cigarettes, especially when his wife became pregnant. "I became a family man and realised that you don't live alone," he said.

Commitment to family helped Mr Tay Lin, 40, quit too. Now the managing director of an advertising firm, Mr Lin was mired in financial and relationship problems at age 18 when he decided to get started on a pack of cigarettes.

Although they left him with even less money, his smokes gave him time to think about his future.

He once joked that smoking was like yoga as it made him focus on his breathing. Sometimes he would look at the smoke circles and start daydreaming.

However, the Government's anti-smoking messages slowly seeped in, from photographs of devastated lungs on cigarette packs to the Government's ubiquitous smoking bans.

"They all played a part in educating me on why I should not smoke," said Mr Lin.

Mr Lin had once tried to quit 16 years ago, but failed because there was no one to encourage him. But it was a different story this time.

He joined a national anti-smoking programme, I Quit, which had been set up by the Health Promotion Board in 2011.

Among its initiatives is a 28-day programme in which participants get text messages a few times a week.

This was based on a 2008 study in Britain that found that smokers who stay smoke-free for at least 28 days were much more likely to quit for good.

Sometimes Mr Lin would get a text in the morning, saying it was a nice sunny day out and suggesting that he go for a run.

On other days he would get a message at about 3pm - when smokers tend to light up during coffee breaks - encouraging him to keep up his abstinence.

But the big push came from his wife, whom he married last December. Soon after he proposed to her in September last year, she broached the subject of quitting.

"She told me that if I ever decided to quit, she would be there to support me," said Mr Lin.

A month before his wedding, Mr Lin broke the news to his family - he had said goodbye to cigarettes for good. They threw a pre-wedding party to celebrate.

Lin Yangchen

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on July 09, 2017, with the headline 'Graphic imagery and support help them quit'. Print Edition | Subscribe