Age at interview: 65
Brief Outline: Chris, 65, gave up smoking seven months ago. Chris is White British, retired and lives with her husband and dog. She gave up smoking after trying to stop for 15 years. Chris smoked from the age of 14. She smoked 20-30 a day throughout most of her life and said that nearly everyone around her smoked. She was then diagnosed with emphysema and bronchiectasis after always suffering with a ‘bad chest’. She has given up after many attempts and now has to be on oxygen.

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Chris started smoking with her brother when she was about 14. She found her brother rolling a cigarette out of the dog-ends of her parents’ cigarettes and she thought she would try it. She felt ‘so sick’ but soon smoked more and had a ‘bit of a cough here and there’ but was ok. Money was ‘very scarce’ so she didn’t smoke a lot - ‘two or three a week’. When she started work at 14 she would buy more as she had more money and was mixing with people who were smoking. Later, she started smoking 20-30 a day. She remembers smoking being everywhere in films and on the television and that cigarettes were advertised everywhere.
Chris had smoked for over 50 years and has tried for the last 15 years to give up. However she found it very difficult, saying that the ‘slightest thing’ started her off smoking again. She says that she always had a bad cough and a bad chest. Recently she was diagnosed with emphysema and bronchiectasis. On hearing the news she didn’t stop smoking straight away and later was told she needed to be on oxygen. She finds that she is limited in the things she can do now. She wants to see her grandchildren grow up and get married and she sees other people around her age who are ‘fit and healthy’. She has given up as she says she has ‘no alternative’. Now its seven months since she stopped smoking but she says she still wants one, even though she says she will never have one. She misses the relaxing feeling of smoking, and sees her friends looking relaxed whilst smoking and wants to be like that. She misses the ‘cigarette after dinner’ and the ‘first one in the morning with a cup of tea’. When she was smoking she wouldn’t enjoy it sometimes, but she says her brain was telling her ‘you do need it’.
She has tried the Paul McKenna book and CD. Even though she wasn’t in a ‘trance’ she found that it was ‘very calming’. She had stopped smoking once before for 3.5 months when her daughter was diagnosed with cancer. On a previous attempt at smoking, she used to get patches, then have a cigarette and ‘double up on the nicotine’ and used to lie to everyone. However, the consultant at the hospital said that she must give up smoking. She then saw a smoking cessation nurse with whose help she had many attempts at quitting. Chris used nicotine replacement patches and the inhalator together, which she says ‘wasn’t successful’, but then she had the patches and the gum which seemed better. She felt that the nurse was ‘very supportive’ and saw her on a monthly basis. She says that her dad had emphysema and she remembers how she thought ‘Oh Dad, it can’t be that bad’ when she saw him struggling to walk. Now she herself finds it hard to go to the loo in the middle of the night and is completely out of breath when she walks without oxygen. She says that one consultant used to make her cry as he used to ‘shout at her’ for smoking. Then she changed her doctor for one who she felt was more supportive. Her attitude at the time was that no-one could tell her she couldn’t smoke. She sees someone now who is a woman and ‘very down to earth’. Chris finds being on oxygen hard, but she found a way of working with it. She has got the support she needs and has had her bathroom converted to make it more accessible. Chris has noticed that she has put on a stone in weight after stopping smoking and she doesn’t like the fact that she has to buy new clothes. Chris’s husband is also not well as she says he has emphysema, problems with a blocked artery in his leg, and an aneurysm in the bottom of his stomach. He still smokes but doesn’t do so inside the house. Now they have started decorating the house and don’t smoke in rooms where they have decorated. She thinks it’s a good thing that smoking has been stopped in pubs and restaurants. However she does think that smokers should have a place to go.
She feels really pleased with herself for giving up smoking as she didn’t think she would ever do it. She advises people not to give up, and just to find the right method for them. She urges people to get the help that’s available. She finds going on holiday very difficult as it is ‘such a hassle’ to try and arrange oxygen abroad, and travel insurance is very expensive.

Chris used a CD by Paul McKenna at home. It was very relaxing and but she isn’t sure whether it helped her quit.

Well you read the book first and then you listen to his CD and he tells you, all the, there was a programme when he went on stage and he tried to say to this person about stopping to smoke. One of his background people was listening to him and after the programme the person in the background stopped smoking. It was strange. Because all that Paul …


Paul McKenna was saying it was rubbing off on one of his workmates. You know, the camera bloke or the lighting bloke whoever, and after that he stopped smoking and he believes that it was Paul McKenna. So I have got the CD and he, he sort of counts you down into a trance, you’ve got to sit in a quiet room or lay down, however you feel comfortable. Close your eyes if you want and just listen to what he’s saying to you. And I used to think well if I’m not in a trance, is it doing me any good? But you do listen to it all the way through. It’s very calming and you can even fall asleep and apparently it’s still working on you. So whether that helped I don’t know, you know, but it was interesting.

In the olden days with the spittoons and where they used to just spit into these spittoons, he said, and that’s what’s in your lungs. Just imagine the picture of looking into one of those. I mean they’re horrible, it used to turn my stomach to even think about it. He said that’s what’s in your lungs, you know, and every time you light a cigarette you think of that. Or he said, try and think of something really, really nasty so each time you light a cigarette bring that thought forward into your mind, and that will turn you off the cigarettes. Do, I can’t remember, do something with your hands as well. And when you’ve finished it, you won’t want a cigarette. I can’t remember everything. There’s lots of different things in the book. You know, it’s worth a read, you know, and the video was very nice, because it was nice and calming and relaxing and there was soft music and little bells here and here, One in one ear and he’d say, you’ll hear this in your right ear, and you’ll hear this in your left ear. Sometimes there’s two things going at once. But it’s, it’s very good, it’s very relaxing. So I think may be that did help.

Chris wasn’t offered a place at a support group but was quite happy to stop smoking on her own.

Were you offered any support groups, sort of giving up smoking groups or anything like that?

No. No. I was happy with the way I was doing it.

I was going to ask would that have been your thing anyway?

No I don’t think it would have. I don’t think so.

How come was it…?

I don’t know. I think… I suppose really because it means that I’ve got to go somewhere and I’m getting to know where, I don’t particularly want to go anywhere. It’s a bind. It’s you know.

He’s, it’s just, I’m quite happy sat at home. I’m quite happy in my own little world, you know, I know I can’t do a lot, walking and going out and, yes, but I plod along, potter around in the house and I keep it clean, you know, that’s the main thing, and sometimes I think oh God it’s getting me down, but I get it done.

Chris felt proud of herself that she had managed to quit, particularly as everybody thought she wouldn’t. She still sometimes fancies a cigarette but knows she won’t have one.

And how do you feel in yourself that you managed to give up smoking successfully?

I feel very good in myself. I’m really pleased with myself for doing it. Because even I didn’t think I would ever, ever do it, and none of my family ever thought I would. I was. All my photographs are in the attic now, but if you look at some of the old photographs in nearly every, even in my wedding photographs, have got a cigarette on. Everything is with cigarette. Absolutely everything, and nobody ever thought I would ever give up smoking and now that they’re all just amazed really and so proud. They don’t smoke in front of me. They nearly all go in the garden. They won’t even do like [name of husband] does and smoke in the kitchen. You know. And I feel really good the fact I’ve done it. And I know that no way, even if you hadn’t have done this and it’s going to go on the web and I just know I just won’t smoke again. I won’t. You know, because, because I still fancy one and I know [name of husband]’s got cigarettes if I want one I can just take one, but I just know I won’t. I just know. It’s just something. I don’t know. I don’t know what it is. But I just know I won’t smoke ever, ever again.

The only time I’ve ever said that I would pick up a cigarette is if one day I go to the hospital and they say, “Chris you’ve got cancer.” And then I shall just buy 20 cigarettes and smoke the lot. Because to me, there’s nothing else. It don’t...You know, they can’t say those 20 cigarettes you could live another few month months. I’d rather live those fewer more months and enjoy my life. That’s how I feel, but up until then and I hope touch wood it will never happen I will never pick a cigarette up again.

Chris has put on over a stone in weight after quitting. She found she snacked a bit more after quitting but thought that didn’t account for all the weight she gained.

The only thing that smoking’s done for me which I don’t like, is made me put on over a stone in weight. And I always said if it makes me put weight on I’ll smoke again. I’ve always been quite slim and all my clothes are a 8-10, and now they’re a 12-14. I’ve started having to buy and that I don’t like, because I like my clothes that I had. Okay, yes, I’m 65, but I don’t like old fashioned clothes and I like to be reasonably modern but not over the top, and a lot of my things now I can’t get into. Yes, that’s a down side. But I don’t know why because I don’t eat loads. In fact they’ve given me the Fortisip drinks you know, with all the vitamins in. I have them on prescription because I’m not getting any vitamins and that. But I’m still, well I’ve still put weight on.

I think it’s, I don’t know. I don’t know whether it’s something to do with something to happens to your body when you stop smoking, that makes you put that weight on, I don’t know. But it did. It did make me put weight on.

Some of the people that I’ve spoken to have experienced exactly the same thing and said that they sort of replaced food, you know, replaced smoking with food, so that when they reached for a cigarette they’d reach for a snack instead, to sort of keep their hands busy?

Yes. I do, I must admit I do snack. Before I stopped smoking I’d have one meal a day. Now that really hasn’t changed because that’s the way we’ve always been. We have it at about 7 o’clock at night. But now I’m not smoking I do tend to…. I’ve got the chewing gum but it’s sugar free. I don’t, I’ve cut the sugar right out completely because of my weight, but I do have a bag of crisps in the day, may be two bags of crisps. I don’t eat many biscuits or sweet things. But I do buy mints when I’m walking the dog, I take a handful of mints out with me. And I can’t see, you know, that they would put that much weight on. You know, and then I have a meal at night. But even that meal at night, if, I still can’t eat it all, and I don’t have a large meal, it’s just a small meal. I go, “Oh take some off, I can’t eat all that.” You know. And I, I you know, very rare I finish a meal. I don’t know. I don’t know whether it’s something in your body decides to work when you’re not smoking or stop work when you’re not smoking. I don’t know. Because for some unknown reason I just piled the weight on, and you know, and I feel fat, you know. I go out with my daughter you know, and she’ll say, “Oh that looks nice Mum.” And I go, “Yes, it’s a fat 14.” She goes “oh, Mum? You’re not fat.” I said, “Yes, but I’m not thin either. You know, I’m going to buy bigger clothes and I don’t like it.” And she says, “No but you look well.” And even the doctors she said, I said, “I’m a bit worried about the weight.” She said, “I tell you what Chris.” She said, “You’re looking good. I don’t know what you’re worried about.” I was like, “Well I just know I’m getting fat. And that’s it. End of.”

When Chris was first diagnosed with COPD it came as a shock. Her consultant upset her by describing, quite graphically, how her continued smoking might kill her.

What were you thinking and feeling during this whole process?

Disbelief I think more than anything. You know, they say the one doctor I was under right at the very, very beginning, he used to make me cry. He just used to shout at me every time because I smoked. You know, he said, “This is what it’s doing to you. You keep coming back in here. Your x-rays and that are showing that it’s worse, and you’re still smoking. What do you want me to do?” You know, “What do you keep coming back.” Okay they make the appointment and you have to go back, but it’s, whys, should we treat you, that was the attitude? When you’re not even trying to do anything yourself. Yes. Luckily then I had a different doctor, but he [small laugh] used to make me cry, he really did, because he said, “Not only will you have trouble to breath in, if you carry on smoking, you won’t be able to breathe out either. You will feel suffocated. You will actually drown in fluid in your own… Your lungs will just fill up, and you’ll just suffocate.” And still then it didn’t make no difference, still then I thought, if I want to smoke I’ll smoke. You know, you can’t tell me I can’t smoke. Although you don’t, they do know what they’re on about don’t they. You know, but that was my attitude, nobody can tell me I can’t smoke. If I want to smoke I’ll smoke. And I did.

And you know, this sort of attitude where people are sort of telling you something when you’re an adult and so on, did you feel like that there are any other areas of life where you’ve been told to do something you didn’t want to do, or …?

No, no, not really. Just smoking. I thought they can’t tell you can’t smoke. They can’t tell you know, me, I can’t smoke. If I want to smoke, I will smoke. Yes, no I’ve been a good person all my life, but I thought that was my only vice was having a cigarette you know. I mean, yes, I did go out socialising and smoking but nine times out of ten I was only drinking orange juice. I just wasn’t a drinker. In my young days before I had children who got married I did drink and I don’t know what stopped me. But I just stopped. I don’t, I think I don’t like the feeling of being drunk, that’s, that’s what stopped me drinking. I just hated that sinking feeling, and the room going round. So I just didn’t smoke, I didn’t drink. So somebody’s not going to turn round and tell me I can’t smoke, when that’s all I do, you know. So that’s how I felt at the time. But I wished I listened.

Chris realised most of her smoking was through habit, not pleasure. For example a phone call would make her reach for her cigarettes whether or not she really wanted one.

You were saying that you started to not enjoy cigarettes at one point you said?

Yes, there’s a lot of times in the day when cigarette smoking, it’s a habit. It’s more of a habit than it is. It’s not, you don’t do it permanently for enjoyment, because somebody used to ring and immediately I’d pick up the phone, then I’m going to a chat now. Where’s the cigarettes? And light a cigarette. I didn’t want one, because I would never have thought to have smoked until the phone rang, you know. If I read I don’t smoke a cigarette. When I’m ironing I can’t, I couldn’t smoke a cigarette. So you can do all these things and not have one. Yet when you’re not doing something the first thing you want to do is pick up a cigarette. But you don’t particularly enjoy that cigarette, you know. It’s, you can light one up and smoke it, and within ten minutes, I’ve done it myself, light another one up. Now it’s only ten minutes ago, I’ve just had one, and I think do I need this cigarette? It, it doesn’t taste very nice. But I think it’s your brain telling you yes, you do need it. So you smoke it anyway, regardless of whether you enjoy it, or whether you don’t. You do smoke it. I think you’re going to have read a books on not smoking, and they keep telling you in the book it’s your brain telling you, yes you do need it. You need that boost. You just have to say to yourself, no I don’t, I don’t need that.

Chris had always had a ‘bad cough’ and was diagnosed with emphysema and bronchiectasis.

Yes. I smoked for over 50 years. And I tried for at least the last fifteen years, to try and stop smoking and at any time I’ve not been very successful, slightest thing starts me of again, and I always suffered with a bad chest. I always had a bad cough. Even when I was young, and never gave it a thought, until one day the breathing started to get really bad, and I had quite a few tests at the hospital, and they suddenly said then that I’d got emphysema and also got bronchiectasis and one of them was down to smoking for definite. The other one they weren’t sure about, and I would need to stop smoking because the smoking was aggravating it, and I wouldn’t live as long as I’m supposed to live.

That didn’t work. I tried to stop, but I didn’t stop. I carried on smoking, and until, and until at the hospital one day, they said, I think you’ll have to go on oxygen, which was a bit of a shock to begin with but even that didn’t stop me straight away. I had a couple of attempts. And then I had to go on 24 hour oxygen and they said I had another five years onto my life. So whatever I’d got left, I’ll hopefully get another five years out of it.

But I’m not sure, my breathing is still getting really bad. I move about and I’m just completely out of breath, completely wore out all the time. So, in hindsight I wished I’d have stopped earlier, you know, if, if this can help anybody else, because I feel quite young in myself, although I’m not, I was 65, but... there’s a lot of 65 people I know that are really fit and healthy and can do lots of things. I’m limited, very limited now, to what I can do, and I’ve got some gorgeous grandchildren and I love them very much and they love me, and I just want to be here for them.

Chris’s family had little money when she was growing up, so only when she earned her own money could she afford to smoke more.

Money was very scarce. My Mum and Dad, they worked hard, and we didn’t have a lot of money, sort of, you know, you’d pinch one out of the packet and hope they don’t notice. And then perhaps two or three a week if you’re lucky. But that was about it, and you sort of started work and you buy it, you start buying them. And that’s you’re hooked then.

So when did you start work?

Well I was 14 when I started work. I left school when I was 14 and I was a telephonist. So yes, I did. So, but it was sort of in the summer holidays before I actually left school, that we mustn’t, well when he got me smoking and we used do it regularly me and my brother [laughs], share a cigarette.

So it was mainly with your brother, rather than…?

Yes, yes.


Yes mainly with my brother. I had a younger brother then, but we wouldn’t let him do it, because he was too young. We thought we were the oldest. So…

And tell me about smoking when you started working?

I didn’t earn a lot of money when I first started working. Obviously I used to give my Mum half of it. It was about £4.50 a week. But then, I just sort of buy, mainly when I went out, you know, we’d go out with friends and I’d buy a packet of cigarettes. Probably only ten, you know, but that was it. Then you get mixing with people that are smoking already and it just escalates from there. The more you earn, the more cigarettes you buy. It’s as simple as that. You know, to us smoking what 20, 30 a day. And that was it.

Chris saw a smoking cessation nurse who supported her through many attempts at giving up. Nicotine gum helped her.

She’s got so much faith in me and each time I’ve let her down, I feel awful, you know, and ‘Right, okay Christine stop for the day, come back when you’re ready again’. She sort of seems to just understand. Yes, well there’s a lot of people think oh yes, waste of space you know. But then she had me a talking to, she said, “You’ve given it how many goes now? At least ten since you’ve been with me.” [Laughs]. You know, there’s only a certain amount of time you can keep going, coming back and going on the patches. You’’ have to sort of have a break for a couple of years and then come back and see if it’s any better. But it wasn’t. She just said, you know, “Right, you’re ready to stop?” I said, “I’m ready.” She said, “Right, we’ll give you some patches.” Oh no, my doctor at the hospital, he said again, “You must, must give up smoking.”

And you were seeing him because?

As, for my lungs. And he said, “I’ll write to your doctor and we’ll give you everything that you need to stop smoking. That’s how serious it is that you have to stop smoking.” So anyway, she said, “Right, what, what, what do you think you fancy?” I said, “Definitely the patches, because I do think they help a certain amount.”

Chris tried different types of NRT: the gum and patches in combination worked for her.

So I tried the patches and the inhalator together. That wasn’t very successful. So then, I thought, I’ll try the patches and the gum. And that worked for me anyway, it worked, so I had the patches and I had the gum, and that done it for me.

What was that like?

It was okay, because the patches on their own just wasn’t enough. I still kept wanting a cigarette quite badly. And then when I had the gum with it, every time I wanted a cigarette I just pushed a piece of gum in my mouth and that releases a little bit of nicotine. And now I just chew ordinary gum, you know, I just feel I’ve got to chew something. It’s still a habit I think, of chewing nicotine, but I just buy chewing gum now. If I want a cigarette I just chew some chewing gum.
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