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Giving up smoking

Messages to other smokers

People had different experiences trying to give up smoking: some were surprised just how easy it was to stop and wished they had known this before, others found the process very difficult and wanted to let others know that it was important not to abandon giving up. Because of this, they had different messages for others about what had helped them and what to watch out for.

Give it a go, and keep going
People often had a gap of several years between when they first wanted to quit smoking and managing to give up. Some found it hard to keep trying to quit.
 

Sue advises others to “give it a go”. She says that trying to give up is hard, it’s easy once you’ve done it.

Sue advises others to “give it a go”. She says that trying to give up is hard, it’s easy once you’ve done it.

Age at interview: 48
Sex: Female
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Give it a go, don’t be scared of trying about it, and try different methods. And, if you get a chance to do something, like if I could go back and do it early, but I would certainly not be scared of planning to go to a clinic or something, because the money isn’t an issue, but you do save it anyway. But, I think it would be nice if there was more chance for people to know the different things they can do. So yes, I would say, give it a go, don’t give up giving up, because it’s easy. It’s hard for a long while, but when you do it, it is easy to do it once you’ve done it, and you know, the actual point all of a sudden you do go why did I do that? And yes, keep it going. Don’t give up giving up [laughs]. That’s a silly thing to say but… And think about other people.
 

Caroline thought people should try to understand why they smoke; she found giving up easier than she had thought.

Caroline thought people should try to understand why they smoke; she found giving up easier than she had thought.

Age at interview: 53
Sex: Female
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Well my message definitely is to learn as much as you can about why you smoke, but not learn it in one great, big, long blob. You just need to kind of little bite sized bits, every now and then. First of all, about why you smoke and then what the benefits would be if you didn’t smoke, you know, so what damage you’re doing to your health through smoking. But the smaller, the better. So great big chunks of information to read, it puts you into information overload and as a smoker you actually switch off. You know that they’re right but you choose not to listen to it. So just small little bits is the best thing and to go for it. It’s easier [laughs]. It’s easier than you think. I think the hardest bit is thinking right I’m going to do it, and then once you’ve done it you suddenly think oh that actually wasn’t that bad.
Chris had a difficult time giving up, but wanted to tell others to keep going to find the right combination of help out there that might work. She said that, ‘It’s not going to be easy’, but that the benefits were worth it. Blodwen, however, said she could make it sound easy, but you have to persevere.
 

Tom realised that he didn’t have to stop enjoying smoking before trying to quit and that helped him to stop. He said you also had to really want to quit.

Tom realised that he didn’t have to stop enjoying smoking before trying to quit and that helped him to stop. He said you also had to really want to quit.

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If it were to be a message to somebody who’s thinking about giving up smoking, what might it be?

Well, it is a cliché, but you have really got to want to do it. And I think you, there’ll probably be points at which you think you want to do it, but I don’t know you actually still do. I mean for me, I think it’s a very, I’m sure people will find their own way. And if people want to try, you know, the Allen Carr book or whatever and the patches and the gum, well all I can say is that for me, it was about the realisation for me, that I don’t have to stop enjoying this before I give up.

This can be about me stopping something that I enjoy because the benefit of stopping outweighs the enjoyment I get from doing it. It seems like, it’s much more easier said than done of course, because it took me years to get to that point, and you know, even more time again to make it stick. But that’s what worked for me.
 

Andy said it’s important to know why you are trying to quit smoking and to break the task down into achievable goals.

Andy said it’s important to know why you are trying to quit smoking and to break the task down into achievable goals.

Age at interview: 31
Sex: Male
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For me the best way of looking at it, is to look at the reasons why you want to give up, because I think for me, that really was the key issue for me, look at the reasons why you want to give up. If you want to, if you’re just doing it because you feel like you should then I think you’ve got a battle in front of you. I don’t think, it doesn’t make it impossible. But I think it makes it a bit more of battle. But if you want to, if you really want to give up, look at the reasons you want to give up and prioritise those. Look at the specific reasons, whether it’s your health, whether it’s the financial aspect of it. Whether it’s, you know, whether it’s whatever, and there are thousands of good reasons to give up smoking.

And to always keep them at the forefront of your mind. And when it gets difficult even during the times when it’s tough, and it’s annoying and its hell on earth, put those reasons, the reasons you’re giving up at the front of your mind and you know, quite often it’s just a matter of riding it out in weathering the storm. And, and I think as long as you know why you’re doing it, I think generally you’ll be fine. It’s, you know, the most ruddy difficult thing in the world to do, but I think, I think if you want to do it, you will. I think ultimately you’ll succeed, but you just need to tell yourself that, that I want to do it.

I’m doing it for the right reasons. I want to give up. And just be determined to beat it. Make a goal, make it a challenge. Don’t just do off the. You know, don’t just sort of take it off the back of a whim. Sit down and make it a determined goal for yourself. And break it down into little battles as well, like I said. Break it down into the first battle, get rid of the physical cravings that will last a few days, three or four days may be at tops. Deal with those cravings, then deal with the... all the other little things, the routine, the cigarette you have after dinner. The cigarette you have when you’re on the way to the post office. The cigarette. All of those things. Deal with them one by one, break it down into little battles and the first, the original battles, the first battles are the most difficult and every battle that you ever have after that becomes so much easier. It gets to the point when you don’t even think about it anymore. And you suddenly say to yourself and think actually how long ago was it I gave up smoking. You suddenly realise. Instead of counting the minutes and hours that you were at the beginning you suddenly realise that months have passed and you have just stopped counting.
 

Jules wanted to tell other people to ‘just do it’ and that he had succeeded when he never thought he could. He said it helped to have an incentive.

Jules wanted to tell other people to ‘just do it’ and that he had succeeded when he never thought he could. He said it helped to have an incentive.

Age at interview: 41
Sex: Male
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Do it, just do it, no can be the one message I suppose is, in my mind is if you want to do it, if you really want to do it, you can, you can do it. I did it. I never thought I actually would do it. I suppose people might say you’ve got an incentive, that’s what you need, you do need an incentive, but if you want to do it, you can do it.

It can be really patronising when somebody says you should give up smoking and you’re really ready at the time and the last thing… because at the end of the day if you smoke, you know that’s not good for you, you know it’s not doing you any good and the last thing you really need is someone saying you should give up smoking. I know I went through moments of hell every single night. You’re not depressed but you’re miserable because you’re smoking and you’re reliant on the thing. So some guy whose stopped smoking turning round and say you shouldn’t be smoking is probably not what you really want to hear. But if you do want to give up smoking, you can actually do it. It is physically possible to.
 

John thought that giving up smoking had to be important to you, that you should not to be too hard on yourself when you ‘fail’. You need to prepare and invest time and energy.

John thought that giving up smoking had to be important to you, that you should not to be too hard on yourself when you ‘fail’. You need to prepare and invest time and energy.

Age at interview: 47
Sex: Male
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It’s got to be important to you. If it’s not important to you then you’re not going to. Unless it’s something you do by accident. And if it’s important to you then you’ve got to balance whether it’s more important to give up or more important to carry on being a smoker, and you’ve got to reach that sort of tipping point. The scales have got to tip in that way. Unless you’re a very strong willed person. And I’ve met one or two. But as I just said I found I was getting, I liked it more and more so I just had to stop, because I knew if I carried on I couldn’t. But most people I know have started early and have carried on.

And generally it’s something that’s happened. Either they’ve had a child and they’ve thought well I don’t want to smoke in the house. So that was more important, or they’ve had a health crisis. Or perhaps they’ve gone into hospital for a week or two, not been able to smoke and thought well I didn’t miss it. There’s usually a trigger, but without those kind of things people have got to make a trigger of their own. And that’s where setting a date, New Year’s Eve. Doing all the preparation which might be, I’ll buy my last two packets of cigarettes and those will last me to the end of the week, so I’ve got those in place so that’s going to be the time. Then I’m going to go down the laundrette, I’m going to do this, and I’m going to write a book, and go to the library. I’m going to each day, now I don’t smoke, I’m going to treat myself to five pounds worth of sweets, biscuits, or what have you.

So it’s either, choosing a date, and doing all the preparation as something the books recommend. Having that support in place where instead of going to the pub, you’re going to go to the cinema or a play. So you’re still going out, but you go somewhere different, or a restaurant. Having a sweetie jar where you put your money in and see it… Whatever, you know, works for you is fine.

The other thing I always say to people thinking about giving up smoking is don’t be worried about failing, don’t be worried about slipping back and thinking, oh I gave up for a week and I’ve had one, well I can’t, it obviously proves I can’t. It just means it’s difficult, you managed for a week, okay, it’s another start, but it doesn’t mean to say you’ve failed completely. It often just means you got to stop and think about it, like you weren’t prepared for that surprise or that evening out with the lads down the pub where you felt, where I had three last night down the pub. Okay don’t worry about it. But don’t beat yourself up about it. Because generally habits build up over a long time. I had thirty years of this habit. I’m not going to stop over night and feel like a changed person. I had to work at it. And, it didn’t take as long as I thought, but initially I did have to put as much effort into not smoking as I did in smoking. And I was being prepared to put in investment in time. And maybe not seeing the reward straight away.
Lifestyle changes
Others found that to give up smoking they had to change other aspects of their lifestyles as well, or that they did so as a result of giving up. Some had needed to change aspects of their routine so as not to think about smoking. Rukmini, Sarah and others found that changes in their lifestyle, such as doing yoga and taking better care of themselves, helped them to refocus.
 

Tam thought that you had to fight your demons and do whatever you needed to in order to succeed. It is easier to keep off cigarettes now that smoking isn’t allowed in pubs.

Tam thought that you had to fight your demons and do whatever you needed to in order to succeed. It is easier to keep off cigarettes now that smoking isn’t allowed in pubs.

Age at interview: 37
Sex: Female
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Oh gosh do it. And just fight them buggering demons and get through it. You’ve got to fight. And you’ll have some really awful demons and some really awful, it is it’s like those two little on your shoulder, one telling you come on you can do it, and the other one’s saying, no, no, have a fag. It is hard, but I’m so glad I did it and stuck with it. Yes, I mean it was, as I said earlier, because you recognized by my voice at one point, I had thought if I miscarriage I can have a cigarette and that’s such an awful thing to think, but that was one of my thoughts at one point, was at least I could have a cigarette. Thank God I didn’t. [5 sec pause] But yes, just do whatever you can. Go to the doctor. Patches. Try anything to try and get off it you need a bit of help with willpower.

I mean it’s easier now with yes, the pubs and everything. You change your lifestyle a bit to be able to keep going and stay off them. Because I don’t, I mean I’m at college at the moment and there are people there that smoke. But that doesn’t bother me no more. But sometimes when the guy who I sit next to, when he comes back, he smells a bit bad, or I just move or… no I couldn’t imagine being a smoker again now. And I wouldn’t want to be a smoker again now. Yes, try and do it, I don’t know, put the money in a pot. If you do eat, eat and deal with that, and then in a year’s time when you’ve cracked it. Just don’t ever use that as an excuse. Of oh I’ll go back on the fags to lose the weight. You end up a fat smoker [laughs]. Been there before. Yes.
 

Rukmini said there were other ways to feel good about yourself than smoking.

Rukmini said there were other ways to feel good about yourself than smoking.

Age at interview: 35
Sex: Female
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What message would I give to people who are thinking of giving up? I just think, you know, I just think your body doesn’t need it. There’s, there’s other ways to feel good about yourself and it’s a dependency that nobody needs, and it’s got really high health implications and you know, in modern times as it is we have to deal with all kinds of ailments. It’s a complication that we create for our self. And if we can stay away from it. It’s best, you know.
 

Sue found it easier to quit when she wasn’t in her normal routine. She has made small changes to her lifestyle such as having a coffee instead of a fag break.

Sue found it easier to quit when she wasn’t in her normal routine. She has made small changes to her lifestyle such as having a coffee instead of a fag break.

Age at interview: 57
Sex: Female
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I think perhaps if you can do it at a time when you can take yourself out of your normal daily routine and, and so you’re broken from everything, that might be a way to do it. You know, even if it’s kind of a weekend with non smoking friends or something. So that you’re just out of the normal situation. And it genuinely wasn’t as difficult as I thought it would be, and certainly the thing that I’d been hanging onto for years about it being part of my identity was wrong really I suppose. Because I am still the same person that I was. I still have the same friends. I still see my smoking friends and I don’t feel the need to smoke with them.

And I suppose now I rebel in slightly different ways. And it’s not, the other thing is that the really interesting people aren’t the ones outside smoking, there are still interesting people inside, but may be you just to need to make the time to sit with those, for five minutes with those people and have a break, say have a coffee break or something with the non smokers rather than a fag break with the smokers.

And I think that all those, it was little things like that that made a real difference. Sort of having a different type of break, having a coffee break rather than a fag break and, and you know, it’s, it’s kind of, for a little while, it’s about managing your life style, but then actually it’s not, it’s just what you do. It’s the norm now. So that’s it.
The benefits of stopping smoking
People who give up smoking usually start to feel healthier and enjoy life more. When asked, they said they would like to pass on a message about the aspects of their lives which had been transformed by stopping smoking. Those who had developed smoking related diseases often wanted to warn people about the avoidable risks they were taking by smoking.
 

Roger wanted to congratulate people who were thinking about stopping and thought that people shouldn’t take the risk of smoking when they have the option of playing it safe.

Roger wanted to congratulate people who were thinking about stopping and thought that people shouldn’t take the risk of smoking when they have the option of playing it safe.

Age at interview: 66
Sex: Male
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I would say ‘good for you’, number one, number one, good for you. Number two, ‘would you rather have... a, if you were a gambler, would you gamble on something that had the most enormous risk when you had a choice of playing safe?’ Number one. Number two. Somebody might say yes to that - fine. Number two. ‘The health that you’ve got now, have you got kids? Would you like to run around with them? Have you got grandchildren, or do you expect at some point to have grandchildren? Would you like to be an energetic pensioner who is able to play with their grandkids? Or do you want to be in a wheelchair with a carrier bag over, with a bag over your shoulder and tubes going in your nose, so you can carry on breathing?’ Because I know somebody very close to me who’s doing that. And they didn’t stop smoking. And they said, “I’ve got to stop. I’m going to stop. I’m going to stop. I’m going to stop. Tomorrow. Next week. Next year. New Year’s Eve, all the rest of it, yeah, and they’re now on tubes through their nose and an oxygen cylinder in a bag on their shoulders, and they can’t walk more than about twenty feet without stopping. You want that? Fine. Keep smoking.

The ‘do you want to walk around and have to gasp into, get a ventilator just to be able to walk up a slight incline?’ Carry on smoking. If you do yeah, your choice. Free country. Yeah. All I can say basically, is, that I’ve looked back and I look at people now who smoke and I think to myself ‘did I really sit there doing that?’ Would I go up to my next door neighbour’s bonfire, get a big tube and suck in the smoke from his bonfire? Now if I said I was going to do that, people would think that I should be, you know, sectioned, but I’m doing a miniature version of that when I light up a cigarette because I’ve got a tube of paper and I’m putting dried leaves in it, and then I’m setting light to it and then breathing the smoke in. Now really, think about it. I did that for 64 years. Well, what an idiot! Smoking a bonfire, you carry a bonfire around in your pocket and then you breathe in the smoke, yeah, and then you say to yourself, ‘well it’s the only pleasure I’ve got.’
Caroline wanted to tell other people that if they could know how good she feels six months down the line they would give up smoking easily. Others like Neil said there are no upsides to smoking, only downsides, and wanted to warn people of the potential risks they were taking with their health. Blodwen wanted to urge people to quit - they would have a “lot more money in their pockets” (see ‘Money and Smoking’).
 

Munir said that you need to have a clear mind and willpower to give up. He thought that there are nothing but benefits when you quit smoking.

Munir said that you need to have a clear mind and willpower to give up. He thought that there are nothing but benefits when you quit smoking.

Age at interview: 54
Sex: Male
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What might be your message o somebody whose thinking about giving up?

Don’t just think do it, before it’s too late.

And any advice that you can give them?

Willpower and there’s nothing that is impossible. There’s nothing in this world that you can’t do. You need to be in a fortress and you need to have a clear mind out for the, you know, the benefits of giving up smoking. Especially I know things are very hard these days. Everybody is not fortunate enough like me. Financially it does make a lot of difference. If it made a difference to my wallet, it can make a lot of difference to a lot of other people, considering the situation of the country and the situation of financially people are struggling at the moment. And so it does make a lot of difference. Not just to your health, to your wallet as well.

So all benefits?

All benefits. All benefits.
 

Val had a laryngectomy and says that no one thinks something like that will happen to them. It has been a struggle but she hasn’t smoked in four years and has saved £15 a day.

Val had a laryngectomy and says that no one thinks something like that will happen to them. It has been a struggle but she hasn’t smoked in four years and has saved £15 a day.

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What might be your message to them?

Well I haven’t smoked for four years. Not because - because I can’t smoke, it’s as simple as that. I’ve been, I don’t know what to say to people. Everybody thinks it’s not going to happen to you, but it could. And it’s not a very pleasant experience. It’s a real battle to get to the place I am today.

But I don’t think people’ll take any notice anyway. They’ve got to want to pack up smoking. Not only that, think of the financial gain. I mean I used to smoke 40 a day, that’d be nearly £15 a day in cigarettes every week, look at what it costs. And when you’re on a pension, that can feed you and pay your bills over a month can’t it. I couldn’t afford to smoke now.

Last reviewed August 2018.

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