Giving up smoking


Age at interview: 31

Brief outline: Andy, 31, gave up smoking when he was 28. Andy is White British, works as a courier, and lives with his partner. He started smoking when he was a teenager and enjoyed the social aspect of smoking with friends. He thought he could give up anytime, but when he tried he found it hard. He had several attempts but gave up through will power and now thinks he will never smoke again.

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Andy started smoking when he was a teenager and would spend his time smoking at the local Little Chef with friends, accompanied by endless cups of tea. Whilst some of the other people at school would spend their money on alcohol, he would spend his on cigarettes. Andy always associated cigarettes with relaxing with friends - having a smoke with a beer or watching a DVD. He remembers his first cigarette was horrible and that he said to himself that he would give up if ever he felt addicted, but three or four years later he found himself smoking constantly. His friends and he would be particular about the brands they smoked, and he remembers seeing somebody like Samuel L Jackson in a film smoking Lucky Strikes and thinking it looked cool. On the whole, he would strike a balance between the price and taste of the cigarettes, but found there was always a brand he would go to on ‘special occasions’. Smoking ‘defined what they did’ as teenagers and they would go down to the local petrol station, get some Royals and sweets, and sit up by the canal. Their evenings revolved around smoking but now he thinks it was more about chatting with your mates.

Things changed when Andy went to university and smoking became more of a ‘ritualistic’ thing. He started to smoke roll-ups as they were cheaper and he could get cheap tobacco from his friends. His best friend at university was a fairly heavy smoker and Andy now wonders if he would have continued smoking if he hadn’t had friends that smoked at university. He can’t remember whether he tried to give up at this time, as he was struggling for money, but he didn’t have any desire to give up. After university he lived at home and his parents disapproved of his smoking. He thinks it defined a lot of what he did after university as he would make excuses to go out and see his mates because after 3-4 hours without a cigarette he would start getting irritable. He spent more money as he went to the pub to have 1-2 pints. He associated smoking with freedom - ‘doing what he wanted, when he wanted’.

His first attempt to give up was when he moved in with mates, and he was standing on his ‘own two feet’ financially, and so tried to give up. He says that ‘technically’ this attempt to give up smoking lasted 18 months but there were lots of excuses to smoke. He would occasionally say ‘let’s have a cigar’ at the pub, making the excuse of a celebration, and said to himself ‘this isn’t really smoking’ as he was only having the ‘odd’ cigar down the pub. He thinks this 18-month period was a ‘farce’ and he would go out with some mates, at a time when you could still smoke at pubs, and then would tell himself ‘I’ll only smoke while I’m drinking’. He would then buy a pack of ten ‘just for the night’ with friends, then by himself and then smoke the rest the next day. He gave up ‘four, five, six, eight times’ over the course of a couple of years , and each time he would stop smoking for a bit. He says that it was quite easy to ‘find yourself’ smoking again when you were convinced you’d stopped. Sometimes he would set a specific date and get rid of all his smoking paraphernalia, or just wake up and say he wasn’t smoking. Each of these attempts was ‘equally as unsuccessful as the others’.

Andy now thinks that if you have a proper reason and want to give up, then you will. When he failed, his heart wasn’t really in it. He knows that now if he just has ‘the one’ it will be horrible. He now thinks he is past the point where smoking would give him any pleasure whatsoever, despite his having enjoyed smoking in the past. He says that it gets easier to ignore and he is quite happy it is in his past. At the end of his smoking he didn’t enjoy it anymore and says he felt ‘enslaved’ to smoking. As he approached 30, he was getting to the point where he would have smoked for half of his life, and also he began thinking more about his health. He noticed that colds were getting ‘more difficult to shift’. He hasn’t found any significant health benefits to giving up smoking, although he says his ‘wallet feels better’. He did wonder if he had still been in a group of friends who smoked heavily if he would have given up so easily. Since he has given up, lots of things have become easier. He found the cravings for a cigarette intense and annoying and wonders if they were the same for everyone. He didn’t have nicotine patches as he felt that would just have continued his nicotine addiction. He thinks the first three days are the worst, and ‘absolute hell’. He says that if you can just get through those three days it becomes easier. He put on some weight when he gave up and saw this as ‘unavoidable’. He sees it as a series of small obstacles: ‘initially the cravings, then breaking the routine, breaking the habit, you know, the cigarette after dinner or leaving the cinema’. He says that there were a couple of battles that he ‘refused to fight’: for example when he went to Glastonbury, where he smoked for the duration. He prides himself on the fact that he doesn’t ‘give in’ anymore. He now realises just how it must have been for non-smokers to be around smokers. Even as a smoker he wanted the smoking ban to come in as he thought it would be ‘an awful lot easier’ to give up. He had always associated the health risks with older people and thought he would have given up by the time it had done him any harm. He never sought out advice about how to give up, but was aware of the general advice. He didn’t use any of the help lines.


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