Giving up smoking

Carol

Female
Age at interview: 54

Brief outline: Carol 54, gave up smoking at the age of 52. Carol is White British, a housewife with a background in marketing. She has three children and lives with her husband. Carol grew up in South Africa and started smoking when she was 20. She smoked heavily (35-40 cigarettes a day). Later, she started to develop bronchitis and her voice deepened. Carol eventually gave up with the support the NHS ‘stop smoking’ service.

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Carol grew up in South Africa and started smoking when she was 20 years old because she wanted to be ‘in with the in-crowd’. She says she was in fact comparatively a ‘late starter’ as most of her friends had started when they were 15-16 years old. However, once she ‘got the habit’ she says she got it ‘well and truly’ and smoked 35-40 cigarettes a day. Carol liked the ‘head rush’ smoking gave her and jokes that it was ‘better than doing drugs’. She says she knew the risks associated with smoking, but that they were not quite ‘spelt out’ in the same way as they are now. She smoked through all three of her pregnancies and felt she experienced no health problems related to this. Carol remembers that smoking in restaurants was commonplace. Later, when she lived in the UK, she remembers that she felt ‘ganged up on’ when the smoke-free legislation came in.

Carol said that she had to be in the ‘right frame of mind’ to give up smoking. She realised that she was spending £2000 a year or more on cigarettes, and at the same time she started to suffer badly with chest infections. She got bronchitis ‘every three to four months’ and her voice became deeper. Carol’s children were ‘constantly nagging’ her to give up and she wanted to have ‘full access’ to her granddaughter when she was born without having to ‘disappear into the garden to have a cigarette’.

Previously she had tried hypnosis and nicotine replacement gum - which she says almost gave her a peptic ulcer due to the acid build-up in her stomach. It was only when she tried Zyban that she found success. However, she started again after 9 months, and says that in that regard she was like an alcoholic as after she’d had her first cigarette she couldn’t stop. Carol felt she was giving up because her family wanted her to, rather than doing it for herself. However, she didn’t like the fact that her eldest daughter, who had asthma, coughed when she came into her house. The second time Carol tried to quit she had support from the NHS ‘stop smoking’ service. She learnt that having support through her journey made a difference. She was able to see measurable differences when she stopped, as she could see her lung capacity changing, and she found walking was easier. She also had support from a nurse who talked her through her motivations to stop and helped her get ‘into the right head space’ to continue. Now Carol thinks you must have a ‘very strong personality’ in order to quit by yourself. She also used NHS Direct and found that a ‘voice at the end of a phone’ was very important.

Carol has put on weight since quitting smoking, but has been told that her metabolism will balance itself out eventually. Her next step is to gain control of her weight, and she thinks that smoking is a greater risk to her health than her weight is. She thinks that giving up smoking is the best thing she’s ever done and says that if she could motivate even one person to give up she’d be pleased. She says that within the first week of quitting she was able to feel differences.

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