Giving up smoking


Age at interview: 43

Brief outline: Mariam, 36, gave up smoking at the age of 43. Mariam is Asian, lives with her two sons and her mother. She came to England from Kyrgyzstan when she was 30. Mariam started smoking with Russian women at work. She started buying her own and smoked when she was lonely. Later, her son found her cigarettes and persuaded her to give up. She now feels much brighter and healthier.

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Mariam remembers that her father smoked when she was a child, and she would beg him to stop and even write letters to him about it. She then left a more rural area and went to university in Bishkek (in Kyrgyzstan). There she said there was a big difference between ‘city girls’ and ‘village girls’. She thought they city girls were more fashionable and that they smoked. She says that there is a prejudice against girls smoking in Kyrgyzstan. The first time she smoked was in 1996 when she did her MBA and she remembers feeling sick and dizzy.

Then when she was 30 she got divorced and, because of prejudice and discrimination against divorcees in Kyrgyzstan, she ‘ran away’ to the UK. She then started smoking as she worked with some girls from Russia who smoked heavily. Eventually she started buying her own cigarettes. She worked looking after someone who was very demanding, and the only way she could get a break was to have a cigarette. Working three jobs, she never had time for a social life and says that cigarettes became her friends. However, most people didn’t know that she smoked. Although she says that there was always the ‘nagging thought’ that it wasn’t healthy, she carried on. She has two boys and says that she thought she ought to set an example for her children. She believes that her brain tricked her into carrying on despite the fact she would see people with health problems, or was worried she would get yellow teeth and bad breath.

Mariam started ‘interviewing’ people about their experiences of giving up smoking. She also started ‘hating’ smoking as it was depriving her of people’s company as she always had to rush off. She started waking up in the morning always feeling tired. She felt as if she had a relationship with cigarettes but felt they ‘took more than they gave’. One time her son found her cigarettes and asked to talk to her about it. They spoke for two hours about the dangers of smoking. He took a ‘fatherly’ approach to her and was ‘interrogating’ her. She felt as though it should have been the other around. He showed her charts on the Internet about nicotine addiction and threw her cigarettes away. She hasn’t smoked since.

Mariam had attempted stopping smoking before at an Allen Carr clinic but she started again soon afterwards. When she did give up she felt proud of herself as well as brighter and healthier. She said she didn’t have the constant lethargic feeling as if she was ‘carrying something on her back’. She now feels free and remembers a message from Allen Carr’s clinic that there is no such thing as ‘one cigarette’, which was a belief she had fallen for ‘so many times’. She has used herbal cigarettes, listen to CDs, chewed gum, and read books recommended to her by others, but it was primarily the conversation with her son that she thinks helped her stop. She even wrote down on a calendar how much she was spending but said it ‘made [her] feel even worse than she did’. When she recently had a bad car accident the first thing she wanted was a cigarette, but talked to herself in the ambulance, telling herself off for feeling this. She said that she has started eating more healthily all of a sudden. Now she just knows she won’t smoke, whereas before she felt like she was ‘testing’ herself.


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