Giving up smoking


Age at interview: 59

Brief outline: Keith, 59, gave up smoking when he was 58. He is White British, works as a Head Teacher, is married and has a son. He started smoking with his friends down the football field when he was 11. He smoked since he was a teenager, despite a few attempts to give up, but gave up for good when he had a TIA (Transient Ischaemic Attack or minor stroke) last year.

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Keith first started smoking when he was 11 and he says he tried to be ‘big’. He smoked on the football field after school so he couldn’t be seen. He felt like he was ‘one of the chaps’ and that smoking was a ‘rite of passage’ into adulthood. As he was the son of the village policeman, he didn’t want to get caught smoking. Keith says that his mother smoked until she was 50 and then decided that she would stop and stopped ‘suddenly’. He remarks that smoking was much more socially acceptable when he was a child and thinks he can even remember a GP smoking. Keith used to smoke after school and then later when he was working, as he had a lot more disposable income. He says he mainly smoked in social situations. The amount of money he earned affected the amount he smoked, but he remembers that even when he had a young family, and didn’t have that much money, he still smoked, albeit not as much. He says that he enjoyed smoking, and never stopped enjoying smoking. Keith liked the ritual of smoking and felt it became part of his persona. He felt that others too saw him as a smoker. However, he found that if he tried to break the routine of smoking it wasn’t easy, and that there was some informal pressure to continue. He says that when he trained as a PE teacher there were quite a few people at college who didn’t smoke. He says that he knew smoking was a ‘bad deal’ but that ‘knowing that’ was never enough to make him stop. He was convinced that nothing was going to happen to him, and now he doesn’t know why. Later in life he became a head teacher, and consequently had a more stressful workload and smoked more. He isn’t ‘absolutely sure’ that his smoking and stress were related, but he felt he wanted to smoke at this job. Keith tried to stop after college, and then later when his son was around. He says that the main influence on his attempts at stopping was his wife. Keith said that he would use ‘all sorts of excuses’, and would smoke further and further away from the house, but still carry on. Cutting down ‘seemed even more tormenting’, whereas stopping seemed like a ‘big hit’ and he ‘felt it’. Now he regrets smoking in front of his son, although he hid it from him earlier on.

Over the years he gave up smoking for one month, six months, and nine months, but always went back to it. When he was 58 he was smoking 10 cigarettes a day during the working day and around 20 a day in holidays. He then had a TIA (a minor stroke) and lost his speech for a short while. When in hospital he was given clear advice about how to improve his health and he says it was obvious that he should stop smoking. Giving up smoking felt like a ‘great weight off his shoulders’. He stopped instantly after seeing people who were worse off than him in hospital. He hasn’t smoked again since his TIA, although he has sometimes wanted to. Keith said that the first thing he did when he returned home was to get rid of all the paraphernalia to do with smoking. He didn’t discuss giving up with his wife but he knew that both his wife and son wanted him to give up smoking. Since he has given up smoking he has put on just over a stone but is now consciously ‘attacking that’ and is ‘trying to cut back on things and bring [his] weight down’. Since stopping smoking he doesn’t get a ‘claggy’ feeling in the morning, his clothes don’t smell and he doesn’t feel so guilty. He felt guilty because he was a teacher, even though he says he never smoked in front of children. He thinks that smoking has become less socially acceptable. In the past he tried nicotine patches, and says that despite itching slightly they did take away the desire to smoke but didn’t ‘have a long-term effect’. Previous to this, his GP had offered him ‘stop smoking’ support and this was ‘very good’ but not ‘overstated’.

Keith remembers that he could go all day at work without smoking, but had a ‘contextual’ habit and smoked on the way home from work, after sport and in pubs. Now he feels proud of not smoking and finds it interesting how many people in his friendship group are giving up. He thinks that the smoking ban may be contributing towards this. Now he says that in the back of his mind he thought the smoking ban would be a good way to help him stop smoking. He finds it easier to think of one thing and then to do it and wants to let people know that giving up is possible.


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