Smokers invited to trade puff for puff

Mr Wahab Mohamed, 77, giving up his cigarette in exchange for a curry puff at Sultan Mosque yesterday. Until mid-October, smokers who visit Puff For A Puff booths at 22 partner mosques can trade cigarettes for free curry puffs, before choosing to joi
Mr Wahab Mohamed, 77, giving up his cigarette in exchange for a curry puff at Sultan Mosque yesterday. Until mid-October, smokers who visit Puff For A Puff booths at 22 partner mosques can trade cigarettes for free curry puffs, before choosing to join the Health Promotion Board's I Quit programme.ST PHOTO: JASMINE CHOONG

Worshippers attending Friday prayers at Sultan Mosque were invited to choose between puffing on a cigarette and exchanging it for a different kind of puff - a curry puff.

The national mosque in Kampong Glam was one of seven mosques that took part in the Puff For A Puff initiative yesterday.

From now until mid-October, smokers in the Malay community can drop by the Puff For A Puff booth at 22 partner mosques and trade their cigarettes for free curry puffs.

After the swop, they can sign up for the Health Promotion Board's (HPB) I Quit 28-day programme to get continued support to help them commit to kicking the habit.

The initiative aims to highlight the cost - both financial and health - of smoking.

Mr Amrin Amin, Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Health and Home Affairs, who was at Sultan Mosque, said: "The cost of a curry puff is about the same as the price of a cigarette, or even cheaper."

A standard packet of 20 cigarettes costs about $14, or about 70 cents a stick. The curry puffs given out are healthier than typical curry puffs as they are fried in oil with less saturated fat and made using wholegrain flour.

 
 
 
 

HPB said this latest effort is to "encourage smokers to take the first step to quit the habit", which some smokers say is the hardest part.

One of the smokers at Sultan Mosque was IT engineer Muhammad Azli, 30, who has tried to quit but failed. "I've been smoking for close to 15 years now. It's hard to suddenly stop."

He traded in one stick but did not join the I Quit programme as he "did not feel ready yet". Still, he has cut down on cigarettes since the start of the year - from 20 sticks a day to five.

Personal driver Radin Ilahi, 42, said he has been trying to quit since last year. He now smokes one box in three or four days, down from four boxes a day.

Yesterday, he traded in a box of his cigarettes and signed up for the I Quit programme, hoping to get professional help.

His two children, aged 16 and 18, have also tried to help him quit. "When I'm sleeping at night, they secretly throw away my cigarettes," he said with a laugh.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 29, 2019, with the headline 'Smokers invited to trade puff for puff'. Print Edition | Subscribe