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Miles

Age at interview: 48
Brief Outline: Miles, 48, gave up smoking when he was 28. He is White British, works as a solicitor and is married with two children. Miles started smoking with his friends down the pub when he was 17. Later he smoked more when he trained to be a solicitor to cope with the stress. Miles gave up when he met his wife as she was against smoking. Now his son has a chest condition and he finds he is much more conscious of people smoking.

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Miles started smoking when he was about 17-18, and thinks it was due to peer pressure. He thinks that nobody ‘enjoys their first cigarette’. All his friends had started smoking and he thought it looked quite cool. Miles says that he ‘went around’ with a ‘smoking bunch’ and you would almost be ‘laughed at’ if you didn’t smoke. The ‘coolest person’ in their group of friends smoked. Miles thought to have a ‘pint in your hand and a cigarette in the other’ was the ‘done thing’. He says they thought they were ‘immortal’ and they continued smoking until it ‘formed… a habit’. He says that he would have never smoked in front of his mother as despite the fact she smoked she ‘frowned upon her children smoking’. He only smoked in front of her much later in life. Miles remembers that his mother found a packet of cigarettes in his pocket and he felt ‘quite ashamed’. He remembers that he found women who smoked unattractive which he now thinks was ‘double standards’. In his early twenties he tried to give up, as he didn’t like the ‘stains on his fingers’. One of the difficulties for him was that there was always ‘smoking at a particular time in your social life’ and found he found it really difficult to avoid when he was down the pub. At the age of 23 he got his first job as a solicitor, and he felt that smoking relieved some of the stress of his new job - he thinks this reaction ‘exacerbated the habit’. Nowadays he finds it strange that smoking was allowed in offices, and remembers his boss having a ‘yellow ceiling’. He thinks that there wasn’t so much talk about passive smoking back then. He says he didn’t fully appreciate the financial cost of smoking at the time. Miles continued smoking into his mid to late twenties, and it wasn’t really until he met his now wife that he seriously thought about stopping. He says that it was ‘love at first sight’. He soon realised that it was ‘smoking or her’ as she came from a ‘very non-smoking family’ and was a nurse.

His partner identified that he was an asthmatic and said that he should give up. He went ‘cold turkey’ and ‘fell off the wagon’ a few times, but never bought a cigarette again. He had developed a bit of a cough at the time, but didn’t put it down to smoking. He says his motive for giving up was love, and was quite excited about the process of giving up; he thinks that the timing of the attempt was ‘perfect’. He remembers it wasn’t ‘too difficult’ because he was so happy at the time. When he gave up, he gained a ‘few extra pounds’ in the process. He says he may have had the ‘odd cigar’ when he had had a few drinks, but eventually gave them up as well. Later his son was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis – a hereditary chest condition – and as a consequence nobody could smoke in front of him. Miles was told that he couldn’t even smoke away from his son as he mustn’t have the smell on his clothes. Miles is now developing his own chest problems and as he says he a mild variation of it of the cystic fibrosis gene. His lung function has dropped to 40% and he feels that this is a ‘bit worrying’.

In his work at the Citizens Advice Bureau, he has found that his clients have financial problems as a result of smoking, and this has hardened his hatred of smoking. Now he says that by 1990 he found that the trend was to give up and to show ‘good your will power was’. He has noticed that a large proportion of his clients smoke, whereas he admits he is now quite surprised if he sees a middle-class person smoking. He would find it very difficult to eat when someone was smoking and has become more conscious of people smoking because of his son’s condition.
 

Miles got his first job in a solicitor’s office in the mid 80s and remembers smoking there.

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I think I was on about twenty a day. So I was relatively a heavy smoker. And, I continued smoking, obviously when I then moved into employment and I was, I got my first job as a solicitor when I was, in 1985, so that was, that was at the age of 23, and in those days of course you could smoke in work as well. So, it sort of relieved some, somewhat of the stressing in, in my new job by being able to smoke in the office and work at the same time. So I think it some ways sort of that exacerbated the habit.

It’s strange nowadays because you never, ever see smoking in the office at all, whereas in those days, it was common place, and certainly my boss he smoked quite heavily. I always remember him having, you know, sort of yellow ceiling where he smoked. So it was one of those different culture, obviously than it is now. And I would for the record I totally agree with what the government done a few years ago, by banning smoking in public places.
 

Miles stopped smoking over twenty years ago before NRT patches or gum were widely used. He had the odd cigarette in the pub, and then an occasional cigar before eventually quitting for good.

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So made a conscious to give up smoking. From memory I didn’t find it tremendously difficult. I think it was, you know, I really, I went cold turkey. There was none of these patches or anything in those days. It was just sort of give up, and, and, I think I fell off the wagon a few times. There was a few times, where, you know, you’d be down the pub and someone would give you a cigarette. But I can’t actually remember ever buying them. Just sort of oh I’ll have one and that’ll be it. But certainly the twenty day sort of habit at the very most sort of stopped at about three or four a week. And then it sort of developed very, very sort of rarer and rarer.

And then I moved on, I thought, I’ll make myself better, I won’t actually have cigarettes. I’ll just have the odd cigar. So I sort of had the occasional, so I remember there was a sort of, sort of you know, your mates around whatever, and it was always a cigar rather than a sort of cigarette. And then I think I was getting a bit of a bad time from [wife’s name] at that time, so eventually I even gave up the cigars, and like I say that was not too difficult because I don’t think cigars were, I think a lot of the nicotine dependence, obviously gone by that stage. So that’s the sort of summary of the addiction.
 

Miles always had an association in his mind between smoking and drinking.

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I think, you know, threw the odd cigarette and oh just one then, go on. But certainly it was not, it was not going back. Because I knew as well that if I smoked, if I went back to it, the smell would catch up with me as well, so I knew may be the odd one was okay, but nothing too serious, but … but again it goes towards peer pressure I suppose doesn’t it? Even at the age of 30, I was, you know, you were having a bit of peer pressure from friends I suppose, but it is difficult.

No, but anyway, it worked really well. I think it was only ever when really when it was alcohol involved. It was that association between nicotine and alcohol and I think that was my weakness. But generally I think I did get through it.
 

Miles had a non-smoking girlfriend and knew he had to stop smoking, but he still had the ‘odd one’.

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What was sort of awful about them? What was it that you….?

I think from memory it was something within the body that sort of craves it. It was almost like someone’s speaking, your body’s almost speaking to you about cigarettes almost I think from memory. Because I knew I had to be tough. I knew I had to be, you know, to sort of overcome it. Because it was in with [wife’s name], and I think if I’d gone back to cigarettes, I think I might have got the cold shoulder. I don’t know whether she would have or not, but… I think that, just the risk of that would have been too much. So…

I mean of course, you know, because she was in [name of town] and I was in [name of town] or I only intended to see her at weekends, but I think I was apart from the odd time of having the odd one, I think I was more or less I was pretty good. Because I knew by this stage that I had to kick the habit. I knew that the, this wasn’t addiction. It was a physical addiction to some extent, you know, a habitual addiction as well.
 

Miles thought that when he was younger it was a ‘knee jerk reaction’ to have a cigarette with a pint of beer or a cup of coffee.

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I think all your friends started smoking and it was, it looked quite cool. And especially in those days, I think, especially when you were down the pub, sort of to have a sort of pint in your hand and a cigarette, I think, was the sort of done thing in those days. I think we, at the age of 18, I think we were aware of the health risks and all the government promotion which was given at that time, but you know, being 18, you just totally think you’re immortal. So we continued, well I continued smoking and it then obviously formed very much a habit.

And I think it was sort of in my twenties, my early twenties I first of all thought oh I don’t like the stains on my fingers after a heavy night’s you know, sort of smoking and things like that, so I tried to give up, but I think that by that time obviously the habit had sort of become quite addiction. And I think one of the real difficulties for me was there was always smoking at a particular time in the social, in the social life, so certainly I found it really difficult to actually avoid having a cigarette when I had a pint down me, at the local pub or with friends or even may be having a coffee in a coffee bar or something else like that. It was a sort of almost knee jerk reaction to pick up a cigarette and to start smoking.
 

Miles felt ashamed about smoking in front of his mother and felt that he led a ‘dual life’.

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I wouldn’t, I never smoked in front of my mother, because my Mother even though she smoked she frowned upon her children smoking, as if you know, don’t do what I do, just do what I say sort of thing. So I never smoked in her presence. I do remember her sort of smelling my clothes and confronting me about it. And me denying that I’d ever smoked, but I think she, she soon realised that I was you know, then she confronted me a second time, and this time she found a packet of cigarettes in my jacket pocket and I remember feeling really quite ashamed that I was smoking. So there was all this slight dual life. You know, what happened down the pub and also what happened to in front of my Mother as well, and my Father as well. My Father never smoked a cigarette in his life. And he obviously frowned upon it as well. But…

You know, my sister smoked and also two other, my youngest brother and also my youngest sister also smoked as well, so I think it’s, I don’t know whether it may, certainly my wife talks about the fact that children can pick up some addiction to smoking from passive smoking now. I don’t whether it was because of my Mother’s habit, or may be just a cultural route which we were in during the 70s and 80s or whether it was something which I may have picked up over the years
 

Miles thought he had ‘double standards’ as he had found women who smoked unattractive.

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From recollection it was mainly, it was mainly. I mean there were women who smoked. I think the biggest influence was my sort of male friends who were the biggest smokers. I mean, I think actually sort of frowned on women smoking I think, because it was sort of making smell of it, and in a way I preferred women who didn’t smoke. I think that’s what I found most attractive about [wife’s name], my sort of wife, that she didn’t smoke. So that was double standards I have to admit.

And I think maybe that’s ultimately, because I thought if I’m finding these women unattractive, then maybe they’re finding me unattractive as well. I think that was possibly one of the motivations especially when I was getting a bit more serious with [wife’s name]. So...
 

Miles found out his son had cystic fibrosis, which made him very sensitive to cigarette smoke.

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In 2000 my son unfortunately, was diagnosed with a condition called cystic fibrosis. Which is a hereditary chest condition. And, as a consequence of that, certainly the medical advice is that he cannot be, nobody can ever smoke in front of him. And not only that, but really, you shouldn’t smoke yourself, even away from his presence, because event he sort of smell and the toxins which come from your clothes can actually have some sort of material detriment to him as well. So at that stage I was very much motivated to completely, to cut myself completely away from any sort of smoking, whether it would be sort of cigarettes or cigars. Certainly, well I’ve never, I never smoked in his presence. But I suddenly weaned myself off even that sort of, the occasional one. And also, sort of less, less important I would say, probably my own health. Because myself and my wife each have a cystic fibrosis gene. So we’re normal per se, as a result of that that’s what, it’s the two genes from myself and my wife would have essentially got together and produced this cystic fibrosis child.
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