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Roger

Age at interview: 66
Brief Outline: Roger, 66, gave up smoking at aged 64. Roger is White British, is a retired local government officer and has two daughters and a son. He quit smoking two years ago when he was diagnosed with COPD. Roger first smoked when he was a teenager. Over the years he has tried a variety of ways to quit smoking including hypnosis, acupuncture, nicotine replacement patches and an inhalator. He finally quit with the help of Varenicline when he was diagnosed with COPD in his sixties.

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Roger had his first cigarette in his early teens, when he found some cigarette papers on the way home from school and pinched some pipe tobacco off his grandfather. He remembers that he managed to set his hair alight in the process, and that he didn’t really know what to do with a cigarette. The next cigarette he had was from his grandmother at her house. He remembers that the first time he tried to inhale smoke from a cigarette he threw up, but that he still persisted with smoking. He says that cigarettes were ‘dirt cheap’ and that ‘everyone smoked’.

Roger started off smoking untipped cigarettes and remembers thinking that ‘real men’ had nicotine stains burnt onto their fingers. He even remembers that a doctor told him that ‘the death rate from breathing fresh air was 100%’. His grandmother, who was a heavy smoker, used to come with them on family holidays, and he remembers that everything used to smell of cigarettes and that she ‘chain smoked’ in the car. Roger remembers getting up in the middle of the night in his late teens to buy cigarettes, being convinced that he needed them. After leaving school, he nearly always had jobs where he could smoke at work, and said that people used to smoke in council offices.

Roger acknowledges that he always knew that there was a link between smoking and lung cancer from the 1960s, and kidded himself that he was going to give up soon. He thinks that the worst time to quit smoking is at a New Year, as ‘you quit when you’re ready, not when it’s New Year’. He says that everyone knows someone who is old and who has smoked all their life, which helps people minimise the risks. In order to help him quit he went to hypnosis, but didn’t complete the course, because without thinking he accidentally smoked someone else’s cigarettes on a train journey. Later he had acupuncture and felt that it helped slightly, but found that nicotine replacement patches and an inhalator didn’t work. He has also tried nicotine replacement gum (which he found ‘totally useless’) and bupropion (Zyban) (as some friends had recommended it). Neither worked ‘because he wasn’t ready’ to quit at that time. He knows people who have conquered addictions by will power but knows that he himself couldn’t go ‘cold turkey’.

In his sixties, Roger was diagnosed with COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) and was told that part of his lungs had been damaged by smoking. He was advised to quit in order to halt the damage to his lungs. He went to the nurse at his GP’s practice to get Varenicline (Champix). After taking it, he said he felt sick when he had a cigarette and that he threw the rest of the packet of cigarettes down the toilet. Now that he has quit, Roger says he can now smell flowers or go to a restaurant; he enjoys meals more and thinks it’s brilliant. He is also pleased he isn’t giving his money to a large corporation anymore.

Looking back, he talks about the influence of his daughters on his decision to stop smoking. He said that the GP was very supportive and the smoking cessation nurse was ‘superb at motivating’ him. She taught him techniques for suppressing the urge to smoke. Although he hasn’t smoked for two years now, he still has moments when he thinks about smoking. He asks others to think about the risks they are taking when they have the option of ‘playing [it] safe’. However, he thinks it’s hard to quit and that he himself ‘ignored all the warnings’.
 

Roger’s acupuncturist used points in his ear to help lessen cravings. It seemed to work when the points were on one ear but not the other.

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I later had a session of acupuncture, where they put a little needle in there [points to ear] for a fortnight and then they take it out, and they put another needle in there for a fortnight [points to other ear], and when you feel like you need a cigarette you just put your finger tip on the round little bobble on the needle and just go gently rub it, and it kills the craving. Well when it was in this ear [points to left ear] it did and it was wonderful, and for a week I cut down by about 50% and the second week I hardly smoked. I had to go back to the acupuncturist, out it came. Another one in this ear [points to right ear]. It didn’t work at all. I smoked as much with this one, I was going like that [rubs right ear]. I was almost pushing the bloody needle into my brain to… and I didn’t, I just carried on smoking as normal. I went back to the acupuncturist and said, “Could you swap me back.” “No, sorry it will affect the energy channels in your body if I put it back in there.” So I thought ‘can’t have that.’ So, that didn’t work.
 

Roger suspected that would not have the willpower to quit by themselves. Taking varenicline (Champix) reduced the cravings and enabled him to quit.

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I recognise that I hadn’t got, or I didn’t, I’d convinced myself possibly that I hadn’t got the willpower to quit myself, doing the cold turkey technique. I hadn’t got the willpower to do that. And I know from personal experience of knowing people, that some people can quit addictions by just cutting, no help, no assistance, no little techniques or anything, just quit, and other people can’t. They have to be tailed off and have replacement therapies and all sorts of things, and just as a just as a heroin addict will go onto methadone therapy, so I, so a tobacco addict will go onto nicotine gum or nicotine replacements, the same principle. And that, and that, that would have to be how I did it, although I didn’t go onto replacement, I went onto Champix, which I don’t quite know how it works, but it just you just without making any effort just don’t want to smoke. It’ s wonderful. Just wonderful. Just a packet of fags there and you just don’t want to smoke one. It’s like ‘what?’ It’s absolutely mind blowing. It’s a wonderful feeling. Hmm.
 

Roger absent-mindedly helped himself to cigarette from a stranger’s packet on a train, and then started smoking again.

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So I went for a job interview in Southampton. And I was on the train going down and there was a sailor on the, on the train, who was sat in the table, opposite me at the same table. And he had got a packet of Marlboro. Well at the time I smoked Marlboro cigarettes occasionally. On top of the packet of cigarettes was a red throw away lighter, exactly like the one I had. And, I was feeling a bit like I needed a cigarette, and the next thing I knew was, I was sat there in the chair with the cigarette, with a Marlboro in my mouth half smoked, with the carriage going ‘round and ‘round and ‘round, I was feeling really queasy, and then all of a sudden I heard this voice say, “I hope you enjoyed that mate.” And it was the guy from the Royal Navy. And I said, “What do you mean?” And he said, “Well you’ve just helped yourself to one of my cigarettes.” So then I thought ‘oh my God.’ So I explained probably why I’d done it, because I’d mistakenly connected his cigarettes with mine. I associated myself with the cigarettes and just felt like one, and then picked up like you do when you’re a smoker. And he was a lovely guy and he meant well, but I hate him for what he did. Because what he did was he reached into his back, into his bag, huge big bag, took out a carton of Marlboro, took 40 out in two packs of 20 and a disposable lighter and passed them across the table. He said, “There you are mate. I know what it’s like.”

So I was set up then for the whole day with cigarettes. I got rid of 15 on the way to Southampton. So that was a waste of time. It was 12, no £6 a session for the hypnosis, so eighteen quid, but at least I saved money on the fags, ‘cause I didn’t have to pay for them.
 

Roger saw the x-ray showing he had chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and gave up smoking soon afterwards. He hasn’t smoked since.

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I went to the doctor, and I had, I got sent for an X-ray, and I made an appointment to see the doctor with a view to perhaps giving up smoking, but I had to go back to get the results of the X-ray. And I was told that I had chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and that part of my lung had been damaged by the effects of smoking for so long. And I thought ‘oh, God.’ So the doctor then explained that if I quit smoking now, it would stop it getting any worse. But it wouldn’t repair the damage that had been done. If I continued to smoke one thing that was absolutely certain, as night follows day, that my lungs would become totally buggered. That was, I didn’t need to know any more. Straight on Champix. The instructions were to give yourself a date within the second week of the course to quit, and I was seeing the nurse every week, and on the second week, she said, “Well what day have you given yourself?” and I said, “I haven’t,” and she said, “But you’re supposed to.” I said, “No. No, I’m going to quit, but I’m going to quit when I’m ready. And that was on the fourth week, and it was a Whit Bank Holiday and it was the Saturday before the Whitsun Bank Holiday, and at quarter to midnight I had a cigarette, and I thought ‘this tastes vile.’ And I went into the toilet and emptied all the tobacco into the toilet, emptied my cigarette papers into the toilet, luckily there are only five, and flushed, and I’ve never touched them since. Never had a cigarette since.
 

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.

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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.’
 

Roger looked up COPD on the internet and was alarmed. His doctor explained that the damage could not be reversed but that if he stopped smoking it could be halted.

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I went on I went on the internet and looked it up and the first place I went to, I don’t know what it was, I can’t remember the website now, but it freaked me out completely. So I went to the doctors’, and the doctor gave me a couple of places to have a look and sat me down and talked me through it. And it was great. Very helpful. And he told me what effect it was going to have on me, as it was at that moment, what effect it would have on me if I continued to smoke, and he didn’t beat around the bush, but he didn’t over dramatise it. He just told me clinically and in factual terms what would happen. And he told me what would happen if I quit now. That it wouldn’t get better, but it wouldn’t get worse. And there were some things that would help alleviate some of the symptoms, but it couldn’t, the damage that had been done up to that point wouldn’t be able to be reversed. But, I had it in my power to stop it getting any worse.
 

Roger tried to smoke five times before he could inhale without feeling sick. He didn’t realise at first that people inhaled smoke into the lungs.

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So when I was sixteen and a half, I went to what was known as a technical college, and I was sat at one of the tables in the canteen and people were drawing in their tobacco and then going [pssss] and ‘where’s that gone?’ And it just vanished and I thought ‘oh no, I’m not doing this right,’ you know, and people were laughing at me. So I went into the toilets. A long row of sinks and a huge one piece strip of mirror, right down the whole length of the toilets, with the cubicles behind me. So I stood in front of the mirror and I took a cigarette out. Five Woodbines I had. You could buy cigarettes in packets of five. I took one out, lit it with a match, and then very, very reluctantly tried to inhale. The first time, I choked, so I gave it a moment. The second time, down it went. Oh and I watched myself, literally, in front of my eyes, in the mirror, go green. And I felt sick and I rushed into one of the toilet cubicles and threw up. And it was horrible. So I came out. Now anybody with one brain cell even would have said, ‘not for me, not me.’ Persistent. I go back to the mirror. Pick up the burning cigarette which has burnt the wooden shelves slightly…[inhales] down it goes, and I go slightly green, I go green but not quite as deep green as before, sick, back into the cubicle, throw up. This happened in all four times. On the fifth occasion I become a real smoker, I could inhale all the way in, without being sick, so I thought ‘great.’ So I lit up my next, my last cigarette. Took a deep drag [sucking noise] went back into the refectory, pushed the doors, and there was nobody there, they’d all gone.
 

Roger’s daughters helped to persuade him to quit smoking because they worried about his future health.

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I think it was my daughters, my daughters, my youngest daughter said to me, “Oh, I want you to stop smoking, because I want you to be around for a bit longer.” And it’s not a very nice thing to hear from your daughter who’s quit smoking, who’s much younger than you obviously, and she’s telling you thinks which you should know. And things you should either have done something about long ago, or should be actively thinking about doing right now. And I was quite happy to carry on smoking away, it’s not going to happen to me and all the rest of it. And I was one of the unlucky ones who, believe it or not, it did happen to me. So and I, you know, I mean it’s a hell of a gamble, it’s a hell of a gamble, it’s not going to happen to me. Hm. Hm. Because if it does it’s probably too late for some people. I was lucky but it might not be lucky for some.
 

Roger always supported the smoking ban even though he was still a smoker when it came.

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But when you smoke you don’t realise, and because you’re an addict you have a total inability to empathise with non-smokers, to the point where you think it’s terrible that smokers aren’t able to smoke in enclosed public premises any more. And that sort of selfish, unthinking attitude which some people have, which I’ve never shared, I’ve always supported the idea of smokers not being able to smoke in public places like that. Always, even, when it wasn’t even, you know, I’ve always gone into a restaurant and thought ‘oh that’s disgusting’, people smoking, you know, I’m trying to eat here. And that’s from a heavy smoker think thought like that. So I haven’t got much sympathy with smokers who feel they’re hard done by because they have to stand outside in the nice warm gazebo, yeah. So…anyway.
 

Roger was diagnosed with a serious lung condition and also didn’t want to give his money to tobacco companies any more.

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Well people have said to me, “Oh, how much… I bet you’ve saved a fortune, haven’t you?” Well, for me, from what I’ve said obviously, saving money was the least of my concerns. That didn’t have a part to play in it at all. There was a, there was a social conscience reason if you like as well, because I suddenly realised, when I found out I’d got chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, even though it was only low grade if you like, I suddenly realised that every time I went into the tobacconist, I was giving him money. He was making money out of me making myself ill. But that’s beside the point, what was more important to me was, that there are huge multinational, global tobacco corporations who are making money out of us smokers. Because they’d been banned from advertising in Britain and in Western countries, they’re now centring their attention on China and some of the developing countries, where there aren’t restrictions on advertising to the same degree. And I just thought to myself, ‘why am I giving these bastards my money when, if I die, it’s an irrelevance to them,’ because there’s another generation coming along and there’s always foreigners who they can get hooked on the habit anyway. And they can still make their millions, and I thought ‘enough, you’ve had enough of my money. I don’t want to give you any more,’ and that was another factor. It wasn’t because ‘ooh I’d have quids in the bank,’ it was because I didn’t want to give these murdering bastards any more of my money. And think of that when you smoke your cigarettes.
 

Roger looked up COPD on the internet and was alarmed. His doctor explained that the damage could not be reversed but that if he stopped smoking it could be halted.

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I went on I went on the internet and looked it up and the first place I went to, I don’t know what it was, I can’t remember the website now, but it freaked me out completely. So I went to the doctors’, and the doctor gave me a couple of places to have a look and sat me down and talked me through it. And it was great. Very helpful. And he told me what effect it was going to have on me, as it was at that moment, what effect it would have on me if I continued to smoke, and he didn’t beat around the bush, but he didn’t over dramatise it. He just told me clinically and in factual terms what would happen. And he told me what would happen if I quit now. That it wouldn’t get better, but it wouldn’t get worse. And there were some things that would help alleviate some of the symptoms, but it couldn’t, the damage that had been done up to that point wouldn’t be able to be reversed. But, I had it in my power to stop it getting any worse.
 

Roger’s smoking cessation nurse suggested a mindfulness technique to help him avoid relapse.

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I mean she’d pick up on, well, I mean things like, oh, I can remember one thing, when I said, “Oh I nearly, I nearly had a fag, I nearly had a fag.” And I was sitting with a group of people who I normally used to sit with quite regularly, it was an open air café in Leamington where I used to go, just spend an hour there. Because you could get free refills of coffee. So you’d go in and buy one cup of coffee and sit there for an hour, and have four or five for free. So, it seemed like a reasonable place to get coffee. And the but everybody smoked, and I used to sit there and I’d be one of them, and then when I quit, and I went back there and I’d sit there and I’d be the only non smoker, and it didn’t bother me at all. I didn’t feel like having a cigarette at all. It was just wonderful, that idea that you know, you’re just free. The chains are broken, yeah?

And but there was one occasion I can remember when I said, “I really felt like one, just for a moment.” And she said, “Did you?” And I said, I said, “No.” And she said, “Can you remember what your thoughts were between when you wanted one and when you decided you didn’t?” So I said, “Yes.” She said, “So the next time that you get that, that urge to have a cigarette, you just go back in your mind to that moment and remember what you’ve heard, what you feel, what you felt, hear what you heard, see what you saw. And just repeat it. And then you can associate with that feeling of grrr no I don’t want… and you won’t be associated with the feel of whoa…yes.” And that worked a treat, that little technique, which I’ve used a couple of times. And it’s very, very effective too, so…

And can you remember what the feelings were? The trick that you learnt…?

If I go into my head, I can go back there in my mind, and I can sit there and I can actually feel myself sitting there with the sun on me, and I can feel that sort of, ‘God I really feel like a cigarette.’ Because even when you quit smoking for two years as I have which isn’t very long, you still just occasionally get a little ‘ooh I wouldn’t mind a fag.’ But I know whenever I feel like that, I just think, I just literally in my head, I don’t even need to shut my eyes, I just imagine that moment, sitting in that chair when I had that feeling and immediately as soon as I think that, the sense, the desire for a cigarette just [clicks fingers] vanishes. Literally. Instantly. So, that’s my little technique. It’s brilliant.
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