A smoker for 10 years, 43-year-old homemaker Preeti Khanna on how she kicked the butt under hypnosisIt was back in the early ‘90s. I can recall the scene vividly. I was 21, and chatting with some friends at the gas station in Central London. We were excited since it was the last day of college, and a few of them lit up. I remember taking a drag and the next thing I knew, I bought myself a cigarette. I had never smoked before.It was peer pressure. It just seemed like a fun thing to do. At that age, you don’t think of what it might do to your health, although the packet explains it graphically.Within six months, I was smoking 10 cigarettes a day, and al-ways had a packet in my bag. From London, I took off to New York to pursue a career in banking. This was 2000. Unlike most of England, NYC isn’t smoker-friendly. I had to walk two miles from my office to take a couple of `legal’ drags. Likewise, if I was at a restaurant and craved a cigarette, I had to step out and smoke. The craving for nicotine doesn’t seem like a big deal.People think cold weather ups the craving, or helps keep you warm. It is a myth. I moved around two very cold countries before I settled in Mumbai after I got married, and my daily quota never changed.Of course, it didn’t help that I married a smoker (laughs), and that most of our friends were addicted. In fact, it’s only after I married that I let my `vegetar-ian, non-drinking, anti-smoking’ parents know of my habit. They were livid, and asked me to quit. But it had been five years since my first drag and I was addicted. So, whenever my husband and I visited them, we’d hide and smoke like teenagers.Success & relapse In mid-2002, I discovered I was pregnant with my first baby and I quit cold turkey.All through those nine months and a year of breast-feeding later, I didn’t touch a cigarette. Then at a dinner party, some-body offered me one and there I went again. It was a relapse. I wasn’t feeding, so I thought it was okay to smoke and stuck to five cigarettes a day.In late 2003, I got pregnant again and it was a repeat. For the next 20 months, I quit and thought this time it was for good. But at a friend’s wedding abroad, we were all standing in a group and I was offered a drag. Without a thought, I grabbed it and I was back to smoking five a day.Sapped for stamina Bringing up two tiny kids and sustaining a habit, and a bad one at that, is tedious. Each time I’d smoke -never in front of my children -I was particular that I brushed my teeth and changed my clothes before attending to them. I didn’t want them smelling of ash or inhaling the remnants.Neither did I want them to think `mama is smelling of smoke’.