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Gareth

Age at interview: 58
Brief Outline: Gareth, 58, gave up smoking a few days ago. Gareth is Welsh, works as an artist, and lives with his wife. He started smoking as a teenager with a group of friends, and became a regular smoker at college. Gareth mainly used to smoke hand rolled tobacco. Over the years he has stopped outright a few times, and is now trying again.

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Gareth started smoking when he was very young when he and a group of his friends used to smoke in the toilets at school. He mainly smoked with boys at his school and he became a regular smoker at college. He has memories of good times when they went to concerts in Manchester and Liverpool and smoked pot on the bus. He first stopped smoking in 1983 for about 6-7 years, and then he stopped again in 1996. He remembers being able to smoke at work when he was a social worker, and that he smoked in meetings; he comments that smoking ‘went’ with particular professions.

Gareth talks about certain ‘ritualistic’ behaviours concerning smoking, and particularly rolling your own cigarettes. He says that smoking can be about ‘taking yourself away’, particularly since the smoking ban. Now Gareth has given up for 3-4 days and hasn’t felt a ‘desire to smoke’. He thinks that the risk will come when ‘a few months from now somebody rolls up a cigarette’. Over the years he has hidden smoking from his mother and when he was at school. He tried not to smoke in front of people, especially in the street where there are kids about or people who have health conditions.

Gareth says that he is ‘aware’ of the dangers of smoking, even since the ‘early days’. In addition Gareth has diabetes type I. Sometimes he gets ‘pissed off’ with himself for smoking but then later thinks ‘what the hell does it matter?’ He started again last year and thought that smoking ‘interfere[d] with what [he was] doing’. His teeth have also suffered - he has periodontal disease that he links to smoking. However, as he has been rolling his own cigarettes since 1973 he says that the ‘memory’ of all these behaviours is ‘pleasurable’ and yet ‘the addiction is certainly present’. Gareth talks about feeling angry with himself when he smokes and says that smoking affects his self-esteem – he feels that he has ‘let [himself] down and allowed it [smoking] to restart’. He also likes the odd joint and he mixes cannabis with tobacco ‘which obviously [...] brings [him] back to smoking’. He has often thought that he is having a joint only ‘because [he] needs the tobacco’. However at some points he has been able to smoke joints without starting smoking tobacco again.

Gareth says that he is ‘thrilled’ about the smoking ban and that he would like the government to stop tobacco production in this country. He doesn’t even know whether he enjoyed smoking but says that he ‘linked’ it to other things that he did, like ‘having a cup of coffee in the morning’ or ‘having a pint’. Gareth went only once to the local pharmacy to see what products they had on offer to help him quit. However he says that the products - like patches, gum and inhalators - don’t work for him and that he doesn’t believe in ‘cutting down’. Gareth says that his main support comes from his wife, commenting that she doesn’t have to ‘do or say anything’ to support him but that she does get annoyed about the time it takes to have a cigarette before they go anywhere in the car. He believes that he has to think ‘further than himself’ in relation to smoking. In relation to his diabetes he went on a self-management course, and although he hasn’t thought about going on a smoking cessation course he thinks he may go and check it out. Although he has Googled other health conditions he has never looked up anything to do with smoking.
 

Gareth has many times tried to quit but without making a big issue of it. He’ll refuse a cigarette if offered but not announce that he is trying to quit.

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I’ll just try and do it. Because sometimes you know, you can’t be thinking about this all the time. I’ve got other things I need to be thinking about and getting on with. So, I, I think there’ll be a part of. There’ll be some thought about not smoking every day. And, it’s only enough to re-enforce my decision really. Yes. And certainly with the people I know who are still smoking, I will still see them. The difficulty there is that both of them, they’re partners and they both hand roll cigarettes [laughs].

So you wouldn’t ever say to them, you know, I’ve given up smoking…?

No, no, if I’ve stopped I don’t tell them anything. I wouldn’t tell them that I’ve stopped. I wouldn’t tell them. I know I’ve stopped before in their company, before meeting them socially and they probably think I’m still smoking and then they may offer me a roll up, well you know, they roll up and then they offer me one. I say, “No thank you.” I just say, “No thanks.” And carry on talking about whatever we’re talking about. I don’t make an issue of the fact that I’ve stopped. That’s how I, that’s how I deal with stopping smoking really. Because I don’t want to be, you know, I mean I can talk about it now, but then once that’s over you know, it’s not something really I would want to talk with anybody relating. You know, if somebody does ask, “Are you smoking now Gareth?” I’ve said, “No.” That’s it.
 

Gareth said that when he met old friends and went for a drink he might end up smoking.

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So there are times when I think I should really just not do it. And, and of course there are times when I choose not to do it, but then it can easily re-start, particularly if I come into contact with friends of mine who I know roll their own cigarettes. Or if I’m meeting them socially or we go for a drink. There’s a good chance that I’ll just have one or two. But as a result of that I might even buy my own packet [laughs]. So I, you know, I’m not saying, I don’t avoid these social situations, because I have to deal with it. I really have to deal with my own, the decisions I make about my own life and my own health. So smoking I can’t really say I enjoy it. That’s not possible. it’s just the buzz you know, it’s the, I guess it’s the addiction, you know, but that can come and go. That, you know, I mean the addiction I think is always there. It’s always in the background and if you take a drag you want some more. But I do have the strength to say no and not smoke for long periods. But then I have a weakness when I start again. I don’t know I think it, well for example recently, because I restarted, I think it was last May I restarted, but you know, I’d been off the cigarettes for a number of years.

Last May I restarted. I think it was around Easter time. I think, you know, you become more and more aware of your behaviour and you think “Oh my God that’s appalling” and you see it when you observe other smokers and you know that you behave like that and you think oh and you know, you have. It actually interferes with what you’re doing because you have to stop to have a cigarette so if you’re doing a job of work, you stop to have a cigarette. You’re not working. You know, it’s all those sorts of things.
 

Gareth links smoking to other things like having a coffee in the morning or a pint of beer. He gave up recently and didn’t enjoy the last cigarettes he smoked.

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You link it with other things that you do. You link it to having a pint. You link it to having a cup of coffee in the morning. it’s as if they go together. Well you’re just kidding yourself really. But it’s the brain, you know, the brain tells you, well I guess the brain just tells you’re addicted. So you have it. But as for enjoyment, I mean I could, I mean three days ago I lit a cigarette, I think on the Sunday morning and I knew before lighting it that it’s just, it’s like that sort of behaviour. I didn’t really want that cigarette. And when I roll my own. When I’ve rolled my own until quite recently, I could just light, light it, take a few puffs and then throw the whole thing away. I didn’t have to. I never smoked right to the end ever. And I roll them thin, so I hardly, the other thing is I hardly did inhale, it just goes into my mouth and then out again. I never inhaled deeply.
 

Gareth is puzzled that he and his siblings have all stopped smoking but have all started again.

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But it’s strange really, because, you know, I mean I’ve got brothers and sisters. My sister has just stopped. My brother, well they’ve all, you know, I think, I don’t know if there’s similar behaviours here, because, because we’re brothers and sisters, there are four of us. We’ve all been smokers, some of them still are. But we very rarely smoke together, because we don’t spend, we’re not, well we’re close, but we don’t see each other often. But you know, the fact that one has stopped, well actually they’ve all stopped at different times, but restarted. So it makes you think well bloody hell, why? Why can’t we just stop once for the rest of your life?

I don’t know. I think you can’t really explain, you can’t explain everything. But it would be nice to know, you know, why that is the case. It would be interesting yes.

Sometimes I wonder, because you know, because I’m managed… The thing is on one hand I know it’s an addiction. And your body just screams for it as soon as you have a puff, and you know, the receptors just open up and say take me. I often wonder well how can I just stop like that and have no desire, no feeling the need to have a cigarette. Doesn’t that rule out an addiction? [Laughs]. No, you know, because that’s how I stop. I, it’s weird. I don’t quite get that one. So I don’t know my receptors may be just half open.
 

Gareth had developed periodontal disease after years of smoking. He thought that having many of his teeth replaced with a new set of dentures might be an incentive to stop smoking7.

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Now obviously the condition of my teeth, that’s another thing. I mean because I’ve smoked for, well off and on for so long, the condition of my teeth are pretty bad. I think there may be other factors that contribute to that, like diabetes or you know, whatever. But I do suffer periodontal. I have periodontal disease which means now that all my teeth have to come out and a totally new set put in. I’ve been putting that off for a while, but I know it needs to happen soon, you know, because I’m concerned about the infections and you know, because if your mouth isn’t right then you’ve got bad blood [laughs]. You know, it circulates. It goes everywhere. And that’s something I’m actually about to take action on now. I’ve already seen the dentist, but that was several months ago. And the reason I didn’t sort of do it immediately was because, because most of my teeth are still okay. But the condition is there, so that’s going to have… And smoking has certainly contributed to all of that. So I was thinking, well I’ve stopped smoking now. I’m going to have my teeth done. Once that’s done, that’s going to help me prevent myself from smoking if I’ve got a new set of dentures [laughs].
 

Gareth’s wife supports him not by saying much, but because he knows that she doesn’t want him to smoke he doesn’t do so near her.

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And, yes, and really the main support comes through [name of partner] anyway because you know, we obviously have friends and there are, but we don’t talk about smoking. You know, and if we’re socialising with a group of say six friends, and I’m the only smoker I might go out once, if at all, you know. The difference is if there was another smoker amongst the group, then you go out more often. That’s all, you know, it’s all these…

Little things.

Yes, yes, yes.

So how does [name of partner] support you?

Well at the moment you know, and certainly last Sunday she doesn’t have to actually do or say anything, because I know and if we’re actually planning to do something like we go for a drive or we go somewhere, I’d never smoke in the car and I don’t smoke in the house. So that’s a form of support, you know, because she doesn’t want me to, so I won’t do it, you know. That helps. And, if she, you know, if I say I’d like a cigarette before we go somewhere, she gets annoyed. Now that helps. Because I think, well yes, why do I need to light up now before I get into the car? There are times when I will have a cigarette if I really want to have one. You know, you can’t stop anybody once they’ve made the decision, if they want to do something. I guess we all do it, but for different reasons you know, but sometimes you do have to think further than yourself and it’s really about that yes, it’s being aware, well it’s reading your circumstances, what’s happening around you at that particular time. And most, most I guess most smokers, just ignore that anyway. If they want a fag they just go and have one. That doesn’t make me feel good.
 

Gareth remembers smoking in meetings when he had been a social worker, and thought it was a ‘different world’ now.

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I, well I worked as a social worker once, you know, it was just bloody smoke, you know, and they smoke in meetings it’s weird. We actually used to smoke. Well of course in those days you used to smoke in your place of work and I managed the unit of service for adults with learning disabilities. Staff meetings, we’d light up. You know, it’s amazing. It was a different world. A totally different world. And I think it’s about that. You move from one world into another and it’s very different. Even in the same place. Yes, there were quite a number of smokers. You know, it’s a weird one.

Sometimes smoking goes with the profession. You know, there’s always an element, and if there are more smokers then non smokers the non smokers don’t stand a chance [laughs]. Thinking back to those staff meetings because I remember bringing it up at a staff meeting. I said, maybe, I don’t think we should be smoking. I thought as a manager of the group of staff I thought I’m going to have to do something here, because it’s not … particularly if the residents were involved if they came into the meeting. Mind you one of the residents was a smoker. I think that’s probably what made the difference, you know. And he would sit in our staff meetings. Yes, that’s right I’ve forgotten about that.
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