Kate is our Commissioning Lead for Quality; smoking since she was just 14 years old, 2020 saw her finally kick her 20 a day habit for good. This World No Tobacco Day Kate wanted to share her story to help other diehard smokers give up and breathe easily too.
“I started smoking when I was fourteen; I think I just wanted to look cool. Plus my parents and grandparents smoked and I could easily buy a packet of cigs with my dinner money. Back then it was just something everyone did.
I’ve tried to give up a few times in the past. I was hypnotised when I was about 19 but chose to carry on smoking as I was so stubborn, I tried to stop smoking with all three of my pregnancies and did cut down but never actually stopped, which I am so ashamed of now. I went to smoking cessation when it was first introduced too, with my mum – who used it to stop and has never smoked again.
I would always think I could just have a sneaky one, but it always set me straight back to square one.
I can pinpoint when I decided I wanted to give up for good, but it did take me a while to get there. I realised I was wheezing on a night when I was laid in bed. I just thought to myself “the damage I’m doing to my lungs is irreversible”. I’d feel so guilty if I got ill thanks to smoking – something I’ve done to myself. It really played on my mind in a way it hadn’t before.
Then one morning I was stuck in traffic and I saw a lady pushing a shopping trolley a couple of steps, taking a drag of her cigarette then coughing before doing the same again. I just didn’t want to be like that and something clicked.
I decided to ask Smoke Free Hull for help; I chose to go for one to one support and on filling out the online form had received a phone call to book an initial appointment within an hour.
I carried on smoking and even smoked on my way to the appointment. The first appointment included a carbon monoxide test (CO2). My initial reading was 18, meaning I was officially a heavy smoker. The lovely stop smoking advisor and I discussed a plan of how I might give up and I was asked to make a note of when I smoked and why and come back in a week.
The next day I was shocked to realise I I’d had five cigarettes before work! I also realised I mainly smoked out of habit – in the car, at lunch breaks and after tea. I enjoyed cigarettes the most when I was relaxed not stressed which surprised me.
I attended the next appointment and told the advisor I had decided to try Champix. I picked up the prescription but didn’t take the tablets, I wasn’t ready. I cut down the number of cigarettes I was smoking and every week my CO2 reading kept dropping but I was still not a ‘non-smoker’.
I knew the Champix wouldn’t work if I carried on smoking so on the way home I decided I would stop on the 1 January 2020 as it was Christmas and New Year. By then it was clear that it was just habit why I was having a couple of cigarettes on a night and not at all during the day. The support of the advisor, and their advice around choosing a quit date, really helped.
On the 1 January 2020 I stopped and have not had a cigarette since which is now 6 months this weekend! The weekly consultations with the advisor at the service continued and my CO2 levels were down to a non-smoker level 3.
I still get cravings but just keep reminding myself why I wanted to stop and to keep going; I don’t want to be back where I was before.
I’ve really felt the benefits of giving up smoking. I don’t cough or wheeze anymore. My sense of taste and smell has increased massively. I have a huge sense of pride. One my GP colleagues said I will live to see my grandchildren when I told her I had stopped, so I regularly remind myself of this too.
My advice to anyone considering quitting smoking would be to do it! Choose the support that works best for you and take each day as it comes. You will get there. If you don’t smoke but you’re thinking about it please don’t do it! It will be so easy to start but so difficult to stop. There are endless health reasons why not to start smoking – save yourself from having to go through them in the future.
I am aware that I will always be an ex-smoker so need to continue to resist any temptation to go back.
If I can do it anyone can.”
If you’re thinking about stopping smoking, visit https://hullstopsmoking.org.uk/ for free advice, guidance and support in the Hull area.