Giving up smoking


Age at interview: 47

Brief outline: Anna, 47, gave up smoking when she was 40. She is German and works as a film development executive. Anna is married and lives with her husband and daughter. She started smoking on a school trip when she was 12. She developed into a ‘dedicated smoker’ quickly. Anna first gave up in her early 20s when she went to an Allen Carr group. She has given up and started again many times, but now hasn’t smoked for 6 years.

Audio & video

Anna grew up in Germany; she started smoking on a school trip at the age of 12. She was very ‘anti-smoking’ but she wanted to smoke so that her friends didn’t ‘cut her out’ of what they were doing. Her Mum hated it, and she wouldn’t let Anna or her sister smoke at home but she ‘couldn’t really stop them’. She remembers feeling sick a few times but developed into ‘quite a dedicated smoker’ fairly quickly. She used to bring cheap tobacco to England, where she was at boarding school. She smoked when she was an undergraduate in the UK and she says that her husband has memories of her smoking and he says that she always looked really cool. However Anna says her identity was more ‘rollies and Greenham Common’ than ‘evening gown and golden-tipped cigarettes’.

Anna talks about the decision to give up smoking the first time and says that it was in the context of her trying to ‘get some control over certain things’ after she had finished an MA and didn’t know what to do. In addition her Mum’s godson, who was a really heavy smoker, managed to give up smoking. By this stage Anna thought it would be ‘quite nice not to smoke’ but knew she ‘couldn’t just stop’ and thought that if the godson could give up smoking ‘it must be possible’. It turns out that the person he was going to see to help him stop was Allen Carr, who at this time was just ‘operating in his own home’. She went to an Allen Carr group and talks about how they were allowed to smoke throughout the session but that at a certain point he told them ‘okay, this is your last fag’ and then she thought ‘this is just not going to work’. She says she thought it was going to be hypnosis, but that she didn’t feel hypnotized, just that he had ‘talked to her for a few hours’. She was about 23/24 at the time and gave up for ‘quite a bit’ after that. She says ‘he does this thing where he basically gets you to realise that actually you only feel good smoking because you’re withdrawing from nicotine’. Anna says that she discovered after that ‘if you haven’t smoked for a while and you have a cigarette, it makes you feel quite ill’. She found some surprising things when she gave up smoking, such as that she could drink more without getting a hangover. She used to be prone to getting throat infections and realised this didn’t happen when she didn’t smoke.

Anna gave up and started again several times over a period of years. When she moved back to Germany, Anna sort of ‘drifted back into smoking again’ as people were ‘really offended’ that she wouldn’t smoke dope with them. As a result of smoking cannabis together with tobacco she moved on to start smoking just tobacco again. She did give up once more and thinks she may have re-read the Allen Carr book. Then she quit for ‘quite a long time’ but afterwards went to film school where ‘absolutely everyone smoked’. She thought she could just go outside with the others and not smoke but she says ‘smokers do like other people to get… hooked again’. By this time Allen Carr had turned himself into a ‘big guru’ and had a Berlin office. She went to see him again as she thought she couldn’t give up by herself and ‘went through the whole thing again’. She thought it was the combination of going to Allen Carr and being ‘sick of it’ that helped her give up. She remembers that she started smoking again when she was working in England and recalls that her colleagues were shocked when she went from smoking nothing to 20-30 cigarettes a day. She wanted to make herself ‘sick of it’ and realised that she wasn’t using the ‘Allen Carr method’ but was trying to figure out how she did things to find a way of ‘dealing with her addictive tendencies’. The final time she started smoking again was when her Dad died. Various members of her family were ‘really heavy smokers’ and they all sat around ‘crying, smoking and occasionally drinking’ and she just joined in with them but knew she was only doing so for a short period of time. In between her father’s dying and his funeral she found out she was pregnant. She thought to herself ‘this is quite a shock’ and had one last cigarette on a balcony. She remembers this very clearly. Now she knows very few people who smoke and lots of people find the fact that she used to smoke ‘totally bizarre’. She finds it annoying that her GP still checks that she isn’t smoking after such a period of time. Now she doesn’t smoke she says she finds it ‘very liberating not to always have to have all these things [lighter, tobacco, papers]’ saying ‘now I just have to check for my key and my money’. She found that the key to quitting was turning ‘not smoking’ from a ‘you shouldn’t’ to ‘I don’t want to’. She thinks that ‘having someone say it’s not actually that hard felt good’


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