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Tamsin

Age at interview: 37
Brief Outline: Tamsin (also referred to as Tam), 37, gave up smoking aged 35. Tamsin is White British and works in a factory. She lives with her husband, has one child and is currently 7 months pregnant. She gave up during her first pregnancy. Tamsin was 15 when she had her first cigarette and used to smoke in the toilets at school. Over the years she had many attempts to give up but finally succeeded when she found out she was pregnant. Although it was hard, she is now very pleased she has given up and is pregnant with her second child.

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Tam was 15 when she had her first cigarette. Before this, she remembers flicking through magazines and finding adverts for the various cigarette brands she thought she might want to smoke. Looking back, she doesn’t know why she started smoking, and remembers that most of her friends actually didn’t smoke. She stole one of her Dad’s cigarettes and smoked in the toilets with some people she knew at school. After this at college she smoked roll ups because of the cost. She can remember offering to make the tea a lot whilst doing her Saturday job so she could have cigarette breaks. Tam can’t remember at what point she was actually ‘addicted’. She used to pretend to her parents that she smelt of smoke as she had been down the pub, but her Mum eventually found out and ‘went mad’. Sometimes she says she over-did it and had ‘raisin lung’ in the morning - in which her chest was painful. Later she found that smoking was always a good way of making friends, particularly when she went travelling in the States.

About ten years ago, she found she wasn’t happy with her job or her weight and wanted to make some changes. She would have ‘moments’ of trying to give up smoking. Then, when she met her current partner, she tried to give up again but failed. Tam talks about getting to a point in her life at which she thought she might not be able to ‘get away with’ smoking for much longer. She and her partner tried to give up together, but she found out her partner had a ‘few sneaky ones’ without telling her.

Tam actually started smoking again on the night the smoking ban was introduced ‘out of principle’ and found that she fell off the wagon at various other times whilst at the pub. She tried nicotine replacement patches and found they did help. She didn’t like the nicotine replacement gum and thinks it was ‘foul’. Tam tried to give up again after a bike accident, as she couldn’t walk to the shop. She found that because she had to walk for her rehabilitation she also didn’t put on any weight despite giving up smoking. On her honeymoon she found that she was able to walk up mountains and did not get as out-of-breath as she thought she would. She thought she had it ‘cracked’ as she even had a drink and didn’t end up smoking. However they had a ‘scare’ on holiday and she ended up smoking. Then when she came back from honeymoon she had a shut-out at the factory she worked at, and the boredom made her smoke more. She kept smoking, thinking ‘I’ll give up when I get pregnant’. When she discovered she was pregnant, she immediately went from smoking 15-20 a day down to a couple as it took two or three days to ‘get her head around it’. She tried to change her mindset, and knew that she would ‘get grief’ from her sister and mother if she smoked. Tam says that some days it was fine and other days it was ‘bloody awful’. She gave up drinking as well because she knew that would make her want a cigarette more. Now, nearly two years later, she thinks that she can’t afford to start again and would get the grief from her family if she did.

Most of her friends have given up now. As a non-smoker she is glad that the smoking ban came into effect, but she still doesn’t know how she feels about it overall. Tam feels like a ‘non-smoker’ now and classes herself as such on medical forms. Her message to others is that you have to fight it, and that if you need to eat, eat and deal with the consequences in a year when you’ve already given up.
 

Tam kept trying to give up, but gave up for good when she found out she was pregnant. Giving up was still a struggle.

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So I kept sort of, you know, I need to give up, but kept smoking, thinking oh well I’ll give up when I get pregnant. So yes, I kept smoking and drinking. We went to Barcelona and we bought a load of duty frees and it was like, “Right, once they’re gone, we’re going to give up.” But yes, it was a couple of weeks after that I found out I was pregnant.

So what happened then?

Shock, yes, big shock. Yes. Kind of that, God I wish I’d had a fag before I peed on the stick. I don’t know, they did that same day that we found out we were pregnant, [name of partner] lost his Mum.

I didn’t give up straightaway. But it was I went from probably 15, 20 a day down to a couple. Because it was. I mean [name of partner] he kept smoking at this point, and just sort of knew I couldn’t, knew I was pregnant, so I had… I couldn’t smoke. But I was, yes, I’d have, like when he went out for a cigarette I’d have a couple of drags. And I had probably about two or three a day at that point. It took me about a week to get my mindset right that I’ve got to stop this now. There’s more people involved now [laughs]. It’s not just me. It was, the thing is I can’t remember exactly when. It might have been that last Bank Holiday. May Bank Holiday that was, you know, that day or the day before was the last day I had a fag. Because I just, because I was sort of challenged. My Mum had said that she’d gone off smoke, she knew she was pregnant because she went off fags. I didn’t go off them I still wanted one, but I knew I couldn’t, because, yes, there’s more people involved. It’s not just me.

So why did you know you couldn’t….?

Because there’s nothing, there’s absolutely nothing that’s any good about smoking and to be pregnant and smoking is just, it’s wrong. It’s not doing… I made that choice to smoke yes. This little alien inside me hadn’t. So I knew I had to give up. I couldn’t make my, I couldn’t make the child be a smoker, you know, I couldn’t smoke whilst pregnant. It’s just, there’s nothing good about it. There’s no… all medical science tells you here is nothing good about it at all. And I couldn’t do it, because when I’ve seen two women smoking pregnant, I only disapprove. So I just knew I had to give up. I had to, you know, I wasn’t going to keep, I wasn’t going to be a pregnant smoker. Well… yes, it took me about a week of the odd couple of puffs before it kind of sunk in. Well not sunk in, that I could get my head round it more and do it. Some days I craved it. Some hours I craved it. But you just know that, I just knew I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t smoke. I was pregnant.
 

Tam was in two minds about the smoking ban, but while she was pregnant she enjoyed being able to go to the pub to meet friends without being exposed to smoke.

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It was nice through pregnancy to be able to still pop to the pub now and then to see friends. Because now, I don’t know, sometimes the smell of it sort of catches me as ooh that smells lovely, and other times it’s hideous. So it is nice to be able to sort of go out and not be, you know, smell bad.

I know you said the first time when the ban came in you sort of smoked that night on principle but…?

Yes, because it was the last time you could smoke in a pub, so in principle I was. I mean I am in two minds about it, but yes, in a way, it’s sort of we’re going with a nanny state, you know, if people want to smoke let them, but it has been nicer to be able to go down the pub when pregnant and since then and it not smell bad.

Because I don’t know, yes, I haven’t really gone not out that much, but I don’t really go anywhere where there is smoking now to know if I really miss it or not. Because it’s been gone for so long.
 

After over two years Tam considers herself to be a non-smoker. She might sometimes be tempted but feels confident she won’t smoke again.

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I was going to say, would you definitely, do you feel like you’re a non smoker?

Now I do. Yes, I’ve done two years now, two and a …it’s got to be three years next March, next May. So yes, I couldn’t go back to it now, not after three years. It would just be, you know, I can class myself as a non smoker on medical forms and things and I wouldn’t want to throw it away. I wouldn’t want to throw that time away. I couldn’t afford it now. Partly that. I want to throw it away.

And our neighbour smokes and any time you want one, just go and stand near our back door and listen to him cough his guts up. It’s grim. We both think thank God we’ve given up.

Because [name of partner] did manage one, he cracked it eventually. Because again, I mean all the times I could have used him as an excuse to go back on it. I didn’t because it’s your own personal battle. No one else’s, and it took him a little while. It took him three months, but he, he got his moment and went with it. He’s been given up I think a couple of years now. So it’s nice being in a non smoking house.

And do you feel sort of the image of smoking has changed over the years?

Yes. Well obviously it does change when you become a parent. You go from, I don’t know, when you see the cool kids, you know, the cool boys on their bikes, you go from thinking God when I was younger you think you’re cool to…. Oh gosh you’re not wearing a crash helmet [laughs].

Yes the whole smoking thing is horrible. I think I enjoyed it at the time, but I’m so glad that I’m not part of that now and not controlled by the [2 sec pause] … Because no there’s nothing good about it. It’s an expensive habit.

Are here any points now where you are really tempted to have a fag or…?

Now and then I still get it. The other week when I was seriously tempted to put little un on Ebay, but it’s just, it’s not going to cure anything. It’s not going to make anything better. It sounds pretty grim now, but I think if I got diagnosed with a terminal illness I’d probably go back on ‘em. If only I was going to die, you know, if I had six weeks I’d be back on them [laughs]. Because there’s no point not being on them. But other than that no. No because it is just… I still sometimes I’ll wait, you know, every couple of months me and the girls will have a night out and sometimes I think, ooh I can have a drink and cigarette. And then it’s like well no you can’t, you’re pregnant. But no I can’t. I don’t do that anymore. And I wouldn’t. I wouldn’t want to, I wouldn’t want to risk it, because it just takes one to fall back off that wagon. And I’ve got two and a half years under my belt, so I’m not going to risk it.
 

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.

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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.
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