Giving up smoking


Age at interview: 47

Brief outline: John, 47, gave up smoking when he was 44. He is White British, works on the expert patient programme, and is a carer for his partner. John started smoking as a teenager. Later, when he worked in industry, he started to smoke more. John successfully gave up three years ago when he made it his New Year’s resolution.

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John was brought up in a ‘smoking household’, and describes smoking as a ‘rite of passage’. When he first started smoking he would have ‘one or two’ a couple of nights a week but he was also ‘quite keen on sports’. John can remember making a choice between a slightly ‘goodie two shoes’ group and a different crowd. He mixed with people for whom smoking was a ‘normal thing’ and feels that smoking has a lot to do with shared experience. He started working as a computer programmer in the mid 80s, and during this time he felt that nicotine calmed him down, so he started smoking more. He felt people were associated with the brand they smoked. When he then worked in industry, he found that smokers were a ‘native support group’. In the late 90s John developed back problems and he felt smoking was a welcome distraction when he was bored. He also remembers the ‘inconvenience’ of smoking as he had to clean his house when friends came around and had to have a clean shirt every day as his clothes smelt of cigarettes. Whilst he would never want to ‘persecute’ smokers, he felt that, when he had been a smoker, if it had been awkward to smoke this ‘did help’ him smoke less.

John can recall being able to smoke in cinemas and in restaurants and remembers all adverts from the 70s. At one point he started noticing that colds were ‘heavier’ and that they ‘lasted longer’. He felt that he was never going to be like the ‘wheezers’ and ‘coughers’ he saw because he was always so active. It was only when he had back problems that he started to notice the effects of smoking more. John found out that smoking constricted his blood vessels and made his muscles go into spasm, compounding his back pain. He tried going to a smoking cessation professional who gave him a nasal spray which produced an ‘awful body shock’ like having an ‘Italian espresso’. He gave that up very quickly and found there was no ‘upside [to smoking] anymore’. However, he realises that everybody comes at quitting smoking differently and what’s helped him won’t necessarily help them. John says that his partner gently persuaded him to quit. He tried some self-help books and felt ‘bored’ by them.

John gave up on New Year’s Eve and says that it was the only New Year’s resolution that he has ever kept. Now he can’t stand the smell of smoking and he has ‘flipped over to the other side’. He attended an NHS smoking cessation class as part of the tutor development programme for expert patients whilst he was still a smoker. He says that during a PowerPoint presentation a few facts stuck out, such as that there are 650 chemicals in a cigarette, and that cigarettes contain formaldehyde along with ammonia. He thinks that there is no excuse now for not knowing smoking is bad for you. John found that nicotine didn’t calm him down; in fact he now thinks it made him more stressed. The conclusion he reached was that smoking was an ‘emotional crutch’. Initially, he had a problem picturing himself as a non-smoker. John thinks that quitting wasn’t ‘as big a beast as he thought it was’. He says that the ‘final piece of the jigsaw’ was realizing that ‘you aren’t giving anything up, because it’s not giving you anything in the first place’. Occasionally he thinks about smoking, but these moments are less and less frequent. He thinks that it has to be important to you to give up smoking, and, if it is important, then you have to balance whether it’s more important to give up or to carry on. John thinks there is usually a trigger to stop smoking, but thinks you can make a trigger of your own. He tells other people that habits build up over time so they shouldn’t worry about ‘failing’. John now enjoys cooking and eating far more as he can smell and taste more.


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