Giving up smoking


Age at interview: 37

Brief outline: Abdul, 37, gave up smoking when he was 36. Abdul is British Bangladeshi, works as an outreach education officer, and lives with his partner. He started smoking with friends at school, and smoked mainly weed until university when he started smoking cigarettes as well. When he found his badminton was suffering because of his smoking he decided to give up. He thought of his identity as separate from smoking and is starting to look after his health more.

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Abdul’s remembers that his Dad used to smoke strong tobacco when he was young. Abdul himself smoked cannabis before smoking tobacco, and he started smoking cigarettes at university. He started smoking cannabis with his friends, hanging out in a car during the summer, smoking and listening to music. They didn’t have much money so they would all club together to get a £5 deal. When Abdul went to university, he started smoking cigarettes and was on ‘ten, fifteen a day before he knew it’. He also started drinking even though he wasn’t supposed to because of his cultural/religious background. He says that if he smoked a normal cigarette he could smoke three rollies. He mainly smoked cannabis in spliffs (with tobacco), and smoked skunk only when he was in parts of the country where he knew who to get it from. He smoked a lot of skunk during the period when his Dad died and he says that ‘it really messed up his outlook on the world’ as he couldn’t ‘function’. He wanted to block out the events in his family, but found he wasn’t ‘sharp enough in life and in work’.

Abdul noticed that he was playing sport with people who were less experienced than him, but much fitter, and he was ‘getting hammered’. One of the reasons he gave up was because he loved sport and thought he wasn’t allowing himself a fair chance. He started giving himself weeks off skunk at a time. Together with friends, he quit skunk and moved back to weed and he noticed the difference immediately. He knew the effect on his lungs had been ‘really bad’. Initially he couldn’t sleep and he said that in the middle of the night his brain would ‘go into some sort of real deep swirl’. He tried some herbal remedies which ‘weren’t any good’ for his insomnia. Soon he noticed that there was a good effect on his sporting abilities and he felt ‘clearer and healthier’. When he stopped smoking he didn’t get the munchies anymore, and so didn’t eat so many kebabs. He was still smoking rollies at this time. For a long time he enjoyed cannabis as it enabled him to de-stress from work and get some relief from a complicated family situation, but eventually he didn’t want to use that to deal with his issues. He did other drugs too but was never in danger of letting them take over his life in a way that he saw happening to others. He says that he and his friends have come out of doing ecstasy and speed ‘relatively well’ but others haven’t as they weren’t ‘built to cope with it’. He thought he came to it later than others. About three or four years ago he started to ‘calm that right down’ after days when his life consisted of going out, doing drugs, smoking pot, having a shower, and going out to work.

The first time he tried to give up smoking was just before Christmas during his MA year, but that wasn’t the right time, as everyone was going out and offering him cigarettes. Finally in September 2010 he was asked to do a 5km charity run for the victims of floods in Pakistan and as a smoker he was ‘really dreading that’. He stopped smoking for two days before the race and thought he should ‘give himself a chance’. He completed 7km and felt great. When he has been drinking he has since had ‘some lapses’ in which he has had the odd cigarette or rollies. He says he is ‘pretty certain’ that he has given up.

He built up to giving up by ‘demonizing’ the habit and was fed up with being ‘rubbish’ at badminton. He treated smoking like a ‘person’ or an ‘entity’. After he had given up he went to the doctor for a lung test and asked about what he could expect in the months to come, and the ‘best he was offered was a breath test’. He was told at the age of 37 that he had the lungs of a 48 year old and that was ‘a shocker’. He wasn’t sign-posted to any support. He thinks that men don’t go to the GP until it’s ‘too late’ and he doesn’t want to get into that situation.

Abdul has given up without Nicorette but says he has put on a bit of weight. He hasn’t talked with friends about his attempts to give up. He thinks that there are moments in which people have tested him, and he has had to remind himself of what he is trying to do. He doesn’t hold the health services in high regard and didn’t look up support on the internet. He thinks that men in general don’t hold doctors in very high regard. Abdul would like to have kids at some stage and thinks that he shouldn’t smoke as a parent. He thinks that smoking has led to the damaging of his gums and his teeth, with the result that he has had some teeth removed. He doesn’t want to look at too much information because he is frightened of what it might say. He thinks that now he is in a serious relationship he has to ‘fix himself’ and so is going to the doctor’s more.


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