Giving up smoking

Gareth

Male
Age at interview: 58

Brief outline: Gareth, 58, gave up smoking a few days ago. Gareth is Welsh, works as an artist, and lives with his wife. He started smoking as a teenager with a group of friends, and became a regular smoker at college. Gareth mainly used to smoke hand rolled tobacco. Over the years he has stopped outright a few times, and is now trying again.

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Gareth started smoking when he was very young when he and a group of his friends used to smoke in the toilets at school. He mainly smoked with boys at his school and he became a regular smoker at college. He has memories of good times when they went to concerts in Manchester and Liverpool and smoked pot on the bus. He first stopped smoking in 1983 for about 6-7 years, and then he stopped again in 1996. He remembers being able to smoke at work when he was a social worker, and that he smoked in meetings; he comments that smoking ‘went’ with particular professions.

Gareth talks about certain ‘ritualistic’ behaviours concerning smoking, and particularly rolling your own cigarettes. He says that smoking can be about ‘taking yourself away’, particularly since the smoking ban. Now Gareth has given up for 3-4 days and hasn’t felt a ‘desire to smoke’. He thinks that the risk will come when ‘a few months from now somebody rolls up a cigarette’. Over the years he has hidden smoking from his mother and when he was at school. He tried not to smoke in front of people, especially in the street where there are kids about or people who have health conditions.

Gareth says that he is ‘aware’ of the dangers of smoking, even since the ‘early days’. In addition Gareth has diabetes type I. Sometimes he gets ‘pissed off’ with himself for smoking but then later thinks ‘what the hell does it matter?’ He started again last year and thought that smoking ‘interfere[d] with what [he was] doing’. His teeth have also suffered - he has periodontal disease that he links to smoking. However, as he has been rolling his own cigarettes since 1973 he says that the ‘memory’ of all these behaviours is ‘pleasurable’ and yet ‘the addiction is certainly present’. Gareth talks about feeling angry with himself when he smokes and says that smoking affects his self-esteem – he feels that he has ‘let [himself] down and allowed it [smoking] to restart’. He also likes the odd joint and he mixes cannabis with tobacco ‘which obviously [...] brings [him] back to smoking’. He has often thought that he is having a joint only ‘because [he] needs the tobacco’. However at some points he has been able to smoke joints without starting smoking tobacco again.

Gareth says that he is ‘thrilled’ about the smoking ban and that he would like the government to stop tobacco production in this country. He doesn’t even know whether he enjoyed smoking but says that he ‘linked’ it to other things that he did, like ‘having a cup of coffee in the morning’ or ‘having a pint’. Gareth went only once to the local pharmacy to see what products they had on offer to help him quit. However he says that the products - like patches, gum and inhalators - don’t work for him and that he doesn’t believe in ‘cutting down’. Gareth says that his main support comes from his wife, commenting that she doesn’t have to ‘do or say anything’ to support him but that she does get annoyed about the time it takes to have a cigarette before they go anywhere in the car. He believes that he has to think ‘further than himself’ in relation to smoking. In relation to his diabetes he went on a self-management course, and although he hasn’t thought about going on a smoking cessation course he thinks he may go and check it out. Although he has Googled other health conditions he has never looked up anything to do with smoking.

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