More about me...
Eventually, when Sue was 54, she stopped smoking. Before that, she had stopped at various times. She quit when she was pregnant and after her baby was born, and then didn’t smoke for four years after that. As she didn’t drink when she was pregnant, she says that the association between a ‘glass of beer and a cigarette’ wasn’t there to tempt her. Later she started a degree and was ‘surrounded by smokers’, so started again. She felt she always started again when she was stressed or when ‘something big happened’ that she felt she had ‘no control over’. Now she sees this as a ‘repeating pattern’. She sometimes gave up because ‘someone else’ thought she should be giving up, and says that doesn’t really work as a strategy. She talks about the ways she rationalised smoking and said that she saw smoking as part of who she was. Sue says that it wasn’t just a case of stopping smoking but also changing other parts of her as well – she says that she often met really interesting people outside having a cigarette. When she stopped she missed having breaks with her colleagues.
Sue says she gave up through ‘absolute necessity’ when she had a pulmonary embolism. She was in hospital, couldn’t move out of bed and was on oxygen. She said she ‘wasn’t smoking at the moment’ i.e. that she hadn’t definitely given up, for a long time afterwards. She felt that it might be hard spending time with one of her close friends who still smoked now she herself had given up. Sue says the last time she gave up the smoking ban wasn’t in force, so it was easy to have ‘the odd one’ in a pub and then find herself smoking again. People told her she would ‘taste things better’ and ‘feel healthier’ but this hasn’t happened. She thought she ‘broke the back of it’ in hospital. She ‘bristled’ when junior doctors told her she couldn’t smoke, as she thought she understood the dangers of smoking. Looking back now she thinks that women she knew gave up earlier than men, because they sometimes stopped when they were pregnant.
Sue thinks that health campaigns are targeted too much towards the individual and not enough at the tobacco companies. Sue thinks that although quit lines are helpful, she has noticed that some friends have replaced one habit (smoking) with another (patches). She thinks that smoking is a calculated risk that people take.
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.
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.
Sue’s husband was a reformed smoker who wanted her to quit.
No I felt that I had to really. My husband is what you might call a reformed smoker, I supposed he used to smoke when he was young, and when I met him he would smoke the occasional cigarette when we were out or in company. And just occasionally he’d have one of mine at home as well. And then I think, I think, when I stopped when I was pregnant, he thought that was it, I’d stopped. And he would carry on having the odd cigarette whilst telling me how terrible it was to smoke. And I’d think you hypocrite, you know, just, and oh he would point out that you know, it costs money and it’s not good for you and it’s not good for the soft furnishings. This is a man who hates cushions. But you know, suddenly it was bad for the soft furnishings and the books and I think I just felt pressured by him, in a way that made me think, oh well I’m not giving up. You know, it was almost like no, actually I don’t care about the soft furnishings. And, it was almost, it’s like the young doctors telling you it’s bad for you to smoke. It’s just that sort of low level, constant pressure that makes you think, oh go away and leave me alone. So his, in fact, he probably had the opposite effect to the one he was hoping to [laughs]. As I told him quite a lot.
When Sue was a child in the 1960s smoking was a normal habit.
Sue found it strange that the smoking ban meant that smoking was always on her mind because she had to plan cigarette breaks throughout the day.
The funniest thing is when you can smoke anywhere I think in a way it’s less ritualistic. You know, you’ve got your first one, your last one of the day, but if, if you can light up and smoke wherever you are, there’s, there’s kind of less pressure on you to smoke now. Whereas if you have to go out of the building to smoke, you begin to think, oh I haven’t had a cigarette for 40 minutes. Oh I wonder if, now if I stopped doing what I’m doing now, I can take a 5 minute break or a ten minute break. If I can a ten minute break I can smoke two.
So you’re, you’re planning all the time, you’re sort of, planning your day around your cigarette breaks and I think in a way it’s less productive, because it’s on your mind all the time. Is like if you’re on a diet and you think about food all the time, whereas if you’re not on a diet you don’t think about food at all. And it, it’s hard to give you a, a sort of what my smoking day was like from the days when you smoke anywhere, because it just wherever you fancied a cigarette. It was far more planned in the years since it became more difficult to smoke.
Because meeting breaks would have to be timetabled as well. You could no longer go into a meeting for a whole day and say, well we’ll just kind of finish when we finish. It would be well we need a break at eleven and another one at half twelve for lunch and then one at two and then one at four. And I do, one of my friends who smokes is, is a director of a company and she insists on building in cigarette breaks to meetings. Insists, otherwise she wouldn’t make it through the meeting.
In the early 1980s Sue could smoke in numerous places, including her place of work.
So we often would go out for lunch there’s a little pub over the road, so we’d go out for lunch and there were three or four people there who smoked and so we’d smoke at lunch time, breaks, meetings, and then sort of when I went, oh if I went out in the evening, smoke in the pub or wherever. And there was a time when you could smoke in cinemas as well so… [Laughs] so you could just smoke everywhere.
Sue’s GP had been advising her to quit on and off over 30 years period, but he recently forgot that she had already stopped smoking three years ago.
No. In fact I saw my GP a couple of weeks ago and he said, “So how many a day are you smoking now?” I said, “I haven’t smoked for nearly three years.” And he went, “Oh.” I said, “This is the third time you’ve asked me that in three years. It should be on my notes.” “No, I’m just so used to you saying yes.” And I thought that again that says something, he sees me as a smoker, even as a medical professional whose been advising me for 30 years to stop smoking, he’s forgotten that I don’t so it’s, yes, it’s very odd. I mean when he looked it was on my notes that I’d stopped but he just kind of, he’s remembering the past.
And how would you manage that, you say he’s been advising you for 30 years to stop smoking…?
Oh it’s all a bit lack lustre. Yes. And at one point, I think I went and said, “Oh I think I’ll stop smoking soon.” And he went, “Well you don’t want to cause yourself too much stress. You don’t really smoke enough to be a real problem.” So, okay, that’s given the green light then, thanks very much. I can go home and tell my husband that my doctor says I should carry on smoking. But I think he was thinking that if you’re not smoking very many, which I wasn’t, then the giving up smoking can be stressful. You know, I’d started smoking because I was stressed and I think he probably thought that it would add to my stress to try and stop. But then a while later, he sort of said, “You should stop smoking.” I said, “But you said it was…” He said ‘Well’ but I think it depended on what course he’d been on recently [laughs] to be honest. His continuing professional developing seems to throw him at all sorts of things. And oh, but he was quite lack lustre about it. He’d sort of say, as he said to me the other week, “So you’re still smoking then?” And until three years ago, I’d say, “Yes.” And he’d say, “How many?” And I’d say, “Well five, ten a day. And no more than that. And usually sort of at the lower end.” He go, “Hm. Well it would be better not to.” And that would be it, you know, pass on…
Sue had been unsure about announcing she had given up smoking and also about losing a rebellious side of herself.
I don’t, I think one of the reasons that I kept saying to my husband in particular, “I’m not smoking for now.” Was because I didn’t want to feel pressure from him, because if I said, I’d given up completely and then had a cigarette, I knew that he’d being saying, “Oh you’re started again.” So I felt I wanted to keep that element of control. Again, I think not having given up in the past, I think I said earlier was a little bit about control as well that I was doing something that I wanted to do, so I was keeping control of it. But we don’t talk about it now at all actually, but I didn’t throw out my smoking paraphernalia. My lighter and things for ages because I wanted them there just in case. In fact I kept a couple of cigarettes in a packet. They would have been foul, but for absolutely ages, I had a couple of cigarettes and a lighter in my car, so that I could if I wanted to.
And it, I was quite proud of myself that I didn’t give into that actually. Because I think years ago I would have done. So, I think, people kept saying I’d taste things better and I’d feel healthier and I don’t do either of those things. I can smell things more and that’s not always a good thing [laughs]. We’ve got cats, and sometimes they come in smelling very catty and you think ooh I never would have noticed that in the past. So, yes. But in terms of sort of the, I think, I felt as if I was losing a slightly rebellious side of myself. And maybe I just felt old enough to let that go this time. I don’t know.
Is there anything else you want to add at all?
I don’t think so. I suppose I’m one of those awful people now that are saying, the sort of people I hated when I was smoking, when they said, it’s really easy to give up. But I, was surprised, I genuinely was surprised at how I didn’t find it difficult. And I didn’t have the cravings that I thought I would have, or the sort of desperation if you like to break into my emergency pack [laughs] which got, I changed my car and I threw it out along with the rubbish without even thinking about it. So, yes, I think, you know, the bottom line message is it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be.