Age at interview: 32
Brief Outline: Andrew, 32, is White British, works as a supermarket manager and lives by himself. He has quit smoking for 18 months. Andrew first started smoking with his friends when he was 16. He smoked 20 a day ‘like clockwork’ until he tried to stop. Andrew had previously had a few attempts at quitting smoking with the help of nicotine replacement patches, but has now stopped for 18 months and has since trained for a marathon.

More about me...

Andrew began smoking when he was 16 and can remember enjoying it. He started with a couple of his mates with whom went fishing and found he just joined in. When he went away from home to university he could smoke more often. He remembers that it ‘wasn’t encouraged’ but it wasn’t the ‘huge social evil’ that it is now. When he moved home again, he had to tell his parents that he smoked. Andrew smoked 20 a day ‘like clockwork’. He also smoked weed at university and afterwards, but thinks it was the tobacco, rather than weed, that he craved.

Andrew says that when he was younger he never had ‘any intention of giving up’, but later he was with a girlfriend who didn’t smoke and he thought it would be fairer to her to quit. He went to the GP and gave up ‘fairly easily’ with the help of nicotine replacement patches. However he says he gave up for the wrong reasons - i.e. for somebody else, not for himself. At this time he also took up exercise and went the ‘whole hog’, but when he started smoking again he also stopped exercising too. With hindsight he felt that he had been ‘railroaded’ into choosing the patches. He was never offered tablets (such as varenicline) and didn’t want to go around with an inhalator. Andrew found that he couldn’t get the patches to stick to his arms, and that they itched for the first few days. He found the decreases in doses hard and later used to trim the patches down so there was no big drop.

Andrew started smoking again one Christmas with a ‘cigar’ and was up to 20 a day again ‘quite quickly’. The second time he gave up he lasted the 12 weeks of the patches, then ‘lasted a week’ after, before starting again. He thought this was because his motivation wasn’t very strong. When he wanted to give up again, he was frustrated that there was a six-week waiting list. Because of this he went to the pharmacist and got an appointment easily. He found it exactly the same as going to the GP’s practice. The lady who worked in the chemist’s said that he could ‘call in’ any time, and he went to see her after the course of NRT had ended in order that he would continue not smoking after the course of patches had ended. He trained for a marathon and completed the carbon monoxide tests. Ironically Andrew found it harder giving up after the smoking ban, as all his friends smoked and left him in the pub by himself. He doesn’t have a problem with this now, but when he was first giving up it was hard. As he worked in food retail he has never been able to smoke at work. He has given up for over 18 months now and he hasn’t completely changed his lifestyle, but he does do exercise. He doesn’t think that anybody will quit for financial reasons; however, he set up a standing order for the amount he would have used for smoking, and has saved quite a bit. Although he does know people who smoke only on the weekends, he says that this was something he could never do.

Andrew says that looking back he doesn’t get as ill as he used to with ‘constant coughs and colds’ but he remembers feeling better only very gradually, and in fact recalls that at first he coughed a lot when he gave up. He thinks it was a drug addiction, and he misses it ‘very occasionally’ when he see someone smoke on the tele or in a film, but not in real life, as the smell annoys him.

Andrew was certain he had given up and has since trained for the London Marathon.

Does this time feel final to you?

Yes. It does.

Why do you think that is? What feels final about it?

Just is. It’s been 18 months, 20 months now. So that’s the longest I’ve given up for. But this time I gave up I wanted to and it was for me. I didn’t want to it wasn’t easy to give up, but now, I sort of just, I’ve not completely changed my lifestyle, but I do exercise. I run the London marathon, which I couldn’t have done if I smoked. I exercise, I exercise an awful lot which I wouldn’t do, and I enjoy doing it.

To some extent I’ve probably, I’ve probably swapped I’ve probably, I’ve probably substituted smoking with exercise to some degree.

Tell me about that?

Well you get that endorphin rush from exercise if you push yourself hard enough. Obviously I did, I still do a lot of road running and circuit training once or twice a week. And I enjoyed, I actually enjoyed doing it. I enjoy how it makes me feel. As I said you can get a huge endorphin rush from it. And I just like the way it makes me look as well. I’ve never, I didn’t I had no need to lose weight but from doing no exercise at all, to doing a lot, you know, I’m told I’m fairly vain, I enjoy how I look. Which I wouldn’t do if I smoked.

His smoking didn’t bother Andrew’s girlfriend and his friends were neutral about his attempt to give up.

No one told me, no one told me to stop.

So not even your girlfriend?

She didn’t no. She didn’t, I thought that it would be fairer to her, for her. She didn’t no, it didn’t bother her. She said, “It doesn’t bother me.” I thought it would be a nice thing to do, it was probably a nice thing for me as well. But nobody I’d always sort of done it on my own. And I’d not, I’d not said to anyone, “Oh I’m going to give up smoking.” Just in case I failed. So I didn’t say to people right beforehand, “Oh I’m going to give up next week.” Just in case I changed my mind. So I’d always done it sort of on my own. And obviously once you give up and like be in the pub, and somebody will say, “Do you want a fag?” “No.” They be like, “What, because you never say no. Don’t say no.” It’s like, “What do you mean?” I’d say, “I’ve given up.” You might get some comment. But people were if not supportive, they didn’t like hinder you and try and try and like force cigarettes on you and force you to smoke. But people weren’t, so people weren’t, weren’t, weren’t people were very neutral, they didn’t really care. That’s my, I told my Mother, she thought it was great, I’m sure she thought, yes. As far as my friends were concerned, it was just like…

When Andrew learned there was a 6 week wait for support at his GPs, he went to his local pharmacy and found flexible and personalised support.

When I went and made an appointment they were like, “Oh there’s a... there’s a six week waiting list.” “I want to give up now. I don’t want to wait six weeks. I want to give up now. I’m ready to give up.” The six week wait was massively… there is only one woman does it at the health centre. So it was a really bad do, it really snowed under. I was like it’s no use to me, I want to give up now. Six weeks time, I said, “I’ll go to the pharmacist.” So I went next door to the, to the chemist. Because there was no waiting list, you just went, just walked in, and … Well you had to make an appointment. But it was like when do you want to come. Whenever. So do whenever. And saw one of the ladies there. You didn’t actually see the chemist. It was just one of those who worked there. I did it through them.

And did you have, you know, a full appointment to talk about things? Or did she just sort hand over patches?

No. You had a full appointment and do the... you blow into something and it measures your carbon monoxide in your blood. They should do it at the doctors I’m sure. They did that and it was just exactly the same. I mean you weren’t seeing a doctor at the, at the GP. You weren’t actually seeing a GP the first time, you were seeing a nurse and so it wasn’t vastly different. I thought it was... in a way, in a way it was better, because they hadn’t got this huge amount of patients to get through. And don’t get me wrong, the nurse was brilliant. She knew your name and everything. She was lovely, really lovely. But she’d obviously have to see all these people. If I had have made an appointment to see her, once you got in with her, it was quite a difficult… she used to see you at set times. She’d have you and you’d be like Tuesdays at 10 o’clock and you’d see her then and that was all, you couldn’t move it or do anything different. The pharmacist, obviously they don’t see many people, so it was just like you.

… and if they said, “You can always ring us or you can just always call in and see…” They all, I mean this is a little village, and the lady I did it with lives in the village and has always lived in the village and works there and you see her like about anyway, and she was like, “Just call in and..” what do I say, yes, and then last... when I actually gave up this time. I think it was the third, I did more than did I do more than the twelve week course? No. Oh no, I kept going back to see her. So even though I done the twelve weeks, because you can only do twelve weeks on the NHS and that’s a cheap way of doing the patches, and they are really expensive otherwise aren’t they? But I said to her, oh the time before I’d given up, I’d finished the patches and I had just started again, and she said, what she could do, she’s not a nurse, she’s not as constrained by the NHS. She said, “Come back and see me. Make another appointment in a week and see me. You can’t have any more patches unless you want to buy them yourself. But you don’t need any more patches. But come back and see me? And may be having that appointment, knowing you’ve got to come back and see someone, will help you stay stopped.” And then, so I did. I went back and seen her, it might have been a week, it might have been a month. So I might have seen her every month, probably for three or four months. And then it was like, well we’ll go to two months this time. So I actually probably stayed seeing the pharmacist for a, I don’t know how long. A little while, which through the GP they wouldn’t have had that flexibility, because they partly crash the numbers and partly because it is very regimented. This is what you have to do. Right this patients done, sign them off, next one. So I actually found the pharmacist better. I’m not knocking the GP’s, but the pharmacist was a lot better, because they’d got that flexibility.

During the Christmas period, Andrew bought a single cigar at the pub, and was soon back on 20 cigarettes a day.

And I’m not complaining I’m stressed. It wasn’t that. But it would have been hard, I’d hard day, I’d gone down the pub, I might have had a cigar because you can, I don’t know why. I don’t think, because it was kinda because it’s Christmas or because you can buy one cigar in a pub, which you can’t buy a cigarette. You can buy a cigar and also because I think it was not associated… it’s not a cigarette. So it’s not, it’s not the same. And it was definitely a, you can have one and be all right, one will be all right. It won’t matter.

And it don’t work like that, well it don’t work like that for me. That’s why I had one. I can’t remember, it was like really the next night, oh I’ll have another cigar. I thought oh that’s it the landlord said, “Are you sure?” Because he smoked heavily. I think he knew you’ve given up for ages. He said, “Are you sure?” I said, “Yes, it’ll be all right. It will be all right. It’s only a cigar. It won’t hurt.” And that was it. And it was just, you know, then it was like two cigars the next night as well. I was crashing fags off people and then I was just smoking again. And I’d started again.

And so did it sort of go back up to 20 a day, quite quickly?

Yes. Yes. I was smoking 20 a day. I’m sure it went back quite quickly from what I can remember. I was just back doing exactly what I’d done before. So it was just the same.
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