Giving up smoking


Age at interview: 66

Brief outline: Roger, 66, gave up smoking at aged 64. Roger is White British, is a retired local government officer and has two daughters and a son. He quit smoking two years ago when he was diagnosed with COPD. Roger first smoked when he was a teenager. Over the years he has tried a variety of ways to quit smoking including hypnosis, acupuncture, nicotine replacement patches and an inhalator. He finally quit with the help of Varenicline when he was diagnosed with COPD in his sixties.

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Roger had his first cigarette in his early teens, when he found some cigarette papers on the way home from school and pinched some pipe tobacco off his grandfather. He remembers that he managed to set his hair alight in the process, and that he didn’t really know what to do with a cigarette. The next cigarette he had was from his grandmother at her house. He remembers that the first time he tried to inhale smoke from a cigarette he threw up, but that he still persisted with smoking. He says that cigarettes were ‘dirt cheap’ and that ‘everyone smoked’.

Roger started off smoking untipped cigarettes and remembers thinking that ‘real men’ had nicotine stains burnt onto their fingers. He even remembers that a doctor told him that ‘the death rate from breathing fresh air was 100%’. His grandmother, who was a heavy smoker, used to come with them on family holidays, and he remembers that everything used to smell of cigarettes and that she ‘chain smoked’ in the car. Roger remembers getting up in the middle of the night in his late teens to buy cigarettes, being convinced that he needed them. After leaving school, he nearly always had jobs where he could smoke at work, and said that people used to smoke in council offices.

Roger acknowledges that he always knew that there was a link between smoking and lung cancer from the 1960s, and kidded himself that he was going to give up soon. He thinks that the worst time to quit smoking is at a New Year, as ‘you quit when you’re ready, not when it’s New Year’. He says that everyone knows someone who is old and who has smoked all their life, which helps people minimise the risks. In order to help him quit he went to hypnosis, but didn’t complete the course, because without thinking he accidentally smoked someone else’s cigarettes on a train journey. Later he had acupuncture and felt that it helped slightly, but found that nicotine replacement patches and an inhalator didn’t work. He has also tried nicotine replacement gum (which he found ‘totally useless’) and bupropion (Zyban) (as some friends had recommended it). Neither worked ‘because he wasn’t ready’ to quit at that time. He knows people who have conquered addictions by will power but knows that he himself couldn’t go ‘cold turkey’.

In his sixties, Roger was diagnosed with COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) and was told that part of his lungs had been damaged by smoking. He was advised to quit in order to halt the damage to his lungs. He went to the nurse at his GP’s practice to get Varenicline (Champix). After taking it, he said he felt sick when he had a cigarette and that he threw the rest of the packet of cigarettes down the toilet. Now that he has quit, Roger says he can now smell flowers or go to a restaurant; he enjoys meals more and thinks it’s brilliant. He is also pleased he isn’t giving his money to a large corporation anymore.

Looking back, he talks about the influence of his daughters on his decision to stop smoking. He said that the GP was very supportive and the smoking cessation nurse was ‘superb at motivating’ him. She taught him techniques for suppressing the urge to smoke. Although he hasn’t smoked for two years now, he still has moments when he thinks about smoking. He asks others to think about the risks they are taking when they have the option of ‘playing [it] safe’. However, he thinks it’s hard to quit and that he himself ‘ignored all the warnings’.


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