A-Z

Sue Y

Age at interview: 48
Brief Outline: Sue, 48, gave up smoking when she was 44. Sue is White British, works as a lab manager, lives with her partner and has two children from a previous marriage. Sue smoked her first cigarette very young as she grew up in a pub. She gave up when she was pregnant but started again afterwards. Sue didn’t smoke in the company of people she worked with and certain friends. She eventually gave up by reading the Allen Carr book.

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Sue says that because both her parents smoked it was ‘almost inevitable’ that she would smoke. Sue’s grandparents kept a pub that was very ‘smoky’. However, even though her parents smoked, they had banned her from smoking. The first cigarette that she smoked was her dad’s cigarette stub. She started trying to ‘smoke properly’ with her friends and went down to her park when it was raining. She kept ‘trying’ to do it, and was eventually ‘stuck with it’. She ‘properly’ started when she was 16-17. Sue mainly used to smoke down the pub where she played darts with a group of friends. She used to smoke 5/6/7 down the pub but used not to smoke every day.

Sue found she ‘didn’t like’ smoking when she was pregnant so she gave up. Just after she had her first child she was ‘stuck in the hospital’ and got ‘bored’ so started smoking again. She wanted another baby and just stopped smoking and then didn’t smoke again for seven years. She resented the fact that her husband was still smoking so she says it was ‘easier to start smoking than have rows about it’. She was ‘really, really stuck’ then, until she packed up four years ago ‘properly’. She had ‘years of sneaking around’ and ‘never smoked at work’. She never smoked or drank pints of beer in front of her parents until her mid twenties even though she was brought up in a pub. Her paternal grandfather died of lung cancer when he was 63, and her dad died 8 years ago of lung cancer when he was 64. She says that her dad’s death actually ‘made her smoking worse’ for a while. Sue’s daughter was tolerant of her smoking and ‘never argued’ but Sue knew it upset her. One day she bought the Allen Carr book and it ‘almost made her stop but not quite’. Then her friend recommended that she read it again, so she came home and read it and has never smoked since. Reading the book helped her realise that she was ‘addicted’ and it ‘wasn’t her fault’. Now she has no urge to smoke and doesn’t miss it. She kept the book for a little while in case she ‘slipped off the wagon’. One of the reasons that she didn’t give up as soon as she should have done is that she couldn’t imagine visiting her mum without smoking. One of the sayings in the book that helped her was that ‘if you are in a bad situation, smoking makes it worse, not better’. Sue thinks the book wouldn’t work for her mum, as she doesn’t read books.

Sue says that she thought she was ‘immortal’ when she was younger, and she didn’t really seriously think about the health risks until her dad died. At that time her mum was going through chemotherapy and so the mortality of her parents came into focus. After that her ‘whole life’ went ‘a bit weird’ for a little while. She found out only at that stage that her Grandfather had died of lung cancer. Occasionally she worries that ‘something will happen’ but she now ‘has to put that to the back of her mind’. She mainly didn’t like the fact that she was ‘lying’ and ‘sneaking around and doing it [smoking]’. She says she had a different identity with people from work, as there she was a ‘safety officer’, whereas outside she was ‘one of the lads’. She thinks that when her children left home she probably smoked more. If she didn’t have any money, people would always give her cigarettes. She smoked ‘Lights’ cigarettes, as she thought it would be easier to cut down, but that it wasn’t. Sue says that cutting down had ‘no effect whatsoever’. Her daughter was ‘adamant’ that she never smoked, but she knows her son has tried it. She says that she has never touched anything illegal, though she did buy alcohol and cigarettes when she was under age. She says that she doesn’t consider herself a ‘stupid person’ but ‘dealing with it’ wasn’t easy. Sue tried ‘just stopping’, then bought Nicorette gum. She once talked to her GP about giving up smoking, and was given an appointment for a support group, but this met in work hours. Sue said that the GP was ‘very dismissive’ of her attempts as well as he was ‘not very tolerant of people’s weaknesses’. Now Sue says she doesn’t go to the pub so much, and this was initially related to stopping smoking. She says to others to ‘give it a go’ and not to be scared of trying different methods. She says that ‘everybody smoked’ when she was a kid, and now since the smoking ban people don’t go out so much.
 

Sue read the Allen Carr book twice. It not only helped her to stop but also to be confident that she would never smoke again.

Sue read the Allen Carr book twice. It not only helped her to stop but also to be confident that she would never smoke again.

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Well the, actually, I must admit I first started reading, thinking I know what you’re doing. I know exactly what you’re doing. Because it starts, you know, it makes like I’m not going, I’m not going to tell you, I’m not going to tell you, you know, it’s bad for your health and things like that. And you think yes, you’re telling me that, but you’re not telling me that [laughs].

So, I thought, the first time I read it, it kind of half got in my head. I knew that I should pack up and it was right and it is a book which tells you everything you already know. So it is telling you that it’s bad for you, but in a way that is not condescending or it’s not like your doctor, saying, “Oh just pack up it’s bad for you, you’re going die.” Its making you think, yes, but I know it’s bad for you, rather than somebody else telling you. So, yes, it is very repetitive obviously because it’s... I assume it’s like cognitive therapy really, you know, it’s just self help from a book.

So I actually enjoyed it. And I’ve really, I actually felt that I knew Allen Carr at the end of it. It is really strange, and I missed him when I finished the second time. The first time, as I say I was a little bit dismissive, because [because I lasted a little while and started again, and the second time it really, really jarred in my head. And I kept it for a while because I thought, just in case I slipped off the wagon, I’ve got it there. But I did actually give it away eventually, because I know I don’t need it any more. But yes, I did, it was a very odd experience to read a book that’s telling you everything you know. And you’re in denial. So...

So can you tell me what happened on the second reading of it, if you see what I mean?

What happened on the second time that didn’t happen on the first time?

Yes.

Nothing, nothing happened different. It just gelled. It just actually clicked into my head that it was right and I knew it was right, and I did actually know, sat in that chair over there and, I’d left myself one cigarette, because the book tells you not to stop smoking. So that you’re not battling while you’re reading it, but as you’re reading it, you’re getting less and less that you want to. So I kept one cigarette and I really wanted the last cigarette and I went outside and I knew as I was smoking it I was never going to smoke again. And I just could, I couldn’t believe it. Because he’d said, you know, at the beginning of the book, he says that he knew he was smoking his last cigarette, and I thought, that, you know, that’s an incredible thought that you could actually smoke it knowing, and I just went outside, and actually I hadn’t decided it was going to be that day either. Until later in the day. I decided, it was the Sunday and I decided I wouldn’t go out, and normally I would go out on a Sunday. So I had this, I had this packet of cigarettes and you know, I kind of timed them and left myself with one and then I went outside and smoked it. Bye bye smoking and never smoked again. Never even thought about 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.

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.

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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.
 

Sue smoked at the time her daughter was at university and money was tight. Her friends would always give her cigarettes when she was short.

Sue smoked at the time her daughter was at university and money was tight. Her friends would always give her cigarettes when she was short.

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I thought its bad and horrible it smells isn’t it. So it’s crazy. It does make you sound really as though you know you’re a bit nuts. Do you know what I mean. So why did I do?

So what seems strange about it now when you look back?

What seems strange?

You know, you said you feel it was a bit nuts.

Well like I said before, I knew it was bad, smelling horrible, and it cost me money which I didn’t really have. It’s only recently that I’ve actually got to a stage in my life where I don’t have to worry about, you know, if the car goes wrong and things like that. Whereas at that time, if anything went wrong it was a major issue for me. With both children at university, we were getting some help with that but, you know, I was still supporting them and yes, wasting money on cigarettes wasn’t clever.

But I had a lot of really nice friends who we would supply me [laughs]. You know, with all the people that I went out with, they would just go, “It doesn’t matter you know.” The funny thing was they’d moan about some people. They’d moan about men, because blokes don’t make men scroungers, but with women it was oh you can have one, is fine.
 

Sue’s Dad smoked – she remembers taking a cigarette stub from the ashtray at home.

Sue’s Dad smoked – she remembers taking a cigarette stub from the ashtray at home.

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But my first time I ever had a cigarette, I actually, my Father left one stub in an ashtray and I took it upstairs with a box of matches. I can’t actually remember whether it was a box of matches, or it must have been a box of matches, and I went and it in the bathroom. But because I was so young, and I have no idea how old I was, but it was less than ten. I took it upstairs in the bathroom, stood on the toilet, but didn’t switch the light on. My Dad had gone outside, and [laughs] and of course he could see the end that I’d lit it. But he came upstairs and by the time he got there I’d hidden it, but I always knew he knew. If you know what I mean. And it was, I remember it being quite horrible, but I remember that it, because everybody did it, I thought that it couldn’t be horrible. 
 

Sue advises others to give it a go and not to be scared of trying to give up

Sue advises others to give it a go and not to be scared of trying to give up

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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 paying 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, give it a go. Don’t give up giving up [laughs]. That’s a silly thing to say but… And think about other people. Think about the effect that it has on other people, you know, if you’re risking things. The effect of my Dad dying at 64, you know, was a massive shock, and then realising his Dad was the same age, he was 63 and my Dad were 64, and they were both heavy smokers.
 

Sue didn’t enjoy smoking, but did it just because she had an urge to smoke. She doesn’t believe people who say they carry on smoking because they like it.

Sue didn’t enjoy smoking, but did it just because she had an urge to smoke. She doesn’t believe people who say they carry on smoking because they like it.

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I suppose you don’t really know what the buzz really is by that stage. You know, it’s not exciting to smoke any more. You don’t know why you’re doing it. It’s just because you get an urge to do it, because you know whatever receptors in our brain have been tweaked and stopped tweaking and you just want to, so I don’t know any more. I think that was just the stage where you go out have a drink, have a cigarette and the two go together. And you think you’re doing it, because it’s a habit, but you’re not you’re doing it because you have to do it. Because you wouldn’t enjoy it because you’re addicted to it. So, and I think a lot of the time as well you smoke and you don’t want to, you actually get to the stage where you will smoke and you’re thinking why am I doing this? This is going to be the last one, and then five minutes later you find that you’ve lit another one. Or, you know, or somebody’s give you, offered you one and you’ve just taken it without thinking about it. So it isn’t much fun. It gets to the stage where it isn’t much fun for anybody, even the people who say oh I’m not packing up because I like it. I’m sure that’s not true, I’m sure they also get to the stage where they wish they could pack up, or wish they hadn’t started would probably be more… That would be easy.
 

Sue didn’t smoke during her first pregnancy but started again soon afterwards. During her second pregnancy she stopped again and did not start again for several years.

Sue didn’t smoke during her first pregnancy but started again soon afterwards. During her second pregnancy she stopped again and did not start again for several years.

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So then I wasn’t very old when I had my first child. So I, luckily I was one of these people who didn’t like smoking when I was pregnant and so I stopped, and then after he was born I was stuck in the hospital in the days when they made you stay in for a week, and they had a room at the end of the ward, where you were allowed to go and smoke. So I was, I think I was all right for two or three days, then I got bored, and the other people were smoking. So I started smoking again, a few days after…. But not a lot, it was never, ever at lot at that point. It was just now and again. But then my husband smoked. So I was surrounded by it.

And then a little while later, I decided, it wasn’t long after I had him, I decided I wanted another baby and I just stopped. I just completely stopped, and then I didn’t smoke again for seven years. And then I started again because my marriage started to break down and because I’d packed up, I resented the fact that my husband was still smoking and it was easier to start smoking than have rows about it. So I started again and that was it.
 

Sue thinks that it was ‘crazy’ to smoke more when her Dad was dying.

Sue thinks that it was ‘crazy’ to smoke more when her Dad was dying.

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And I remember you saying that you actually smoked more for a while after your Dad had died?

Yes.

Was that right?

Yes.

Can you tell me about that?

It does sound crazy doesn’t it? it does really sound crazy. But I, almost, it’s really fading now, but it was obviously the worst time of my life, your first parent dying is such a shock, you don’t realise, you don’t ever realise it’s going to happen until it happens. You know it will but… Actually it was almost, it was actually it was before he died that it got worse. So he hadn’t actually died, but the fact that my Mum and him were both ill at the time, made me, I can remember thinking, oh what the hell, you know, this is going to happen to me anyway. I’m just giving up trying to give up, or thinking about it or anything. Still I wasn’t smoking in front of the people at work, still I didn’t, yes, so I still had the thing in the back of my mind that I really shouldn’t be doing it.

And then, when my Dad actually did die, I mean, I think, I drove from… I was living up the road at the time, and I got a phone call to say you’ve got to get down here quick. I got going down there, of course by the time I got there it was too late, you know, he died, really before I got there. But the first thing that I did, yes, to go out, it was May, it was a warm night and I went and sat outside, my goodness knows what time, most of them outside and I was smoking. And it just seems bizarre now. Sorry, I’m getting a bit … [coughs] It seems crazy to have done that, but that’s it, then I was probably in a daze of just smoking then, because I was just with my Mum. And I think at that point, she just, well I don’t know how much she was smoking. She was, she was on, she was having chemotherapy for the breast cancer, but I mean, and so she wasn’t smoking much, because she’d kind of lost the plot a bit, the chemotherapy was making her go a bit odd. And yes, so it wasn’t a good time. But you know, I’m sure it did make me worse.
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