Giving up smoking

Sue Y

Age at interview: 48

Brief outline: Sue, 48, gave up smoking when she was 44. Sue is White British, works as a lab manager, lives with her partner and has two children from a previous marriage. Sue smoked her first cigarette very young as she grew up in a pub. She gave up when she was pregnant but started again afterwards. Sue didn’t smoke in the company of people she worked with and certain friends. She eventually gave up by reading the Allen Carr book.

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Sue says that because both her parents smoked it was ‘almost inevitable’ that she would smoke. Sue’s grandparents kept a pub that was very ‘smoky’. However, even though her parents smoked, they had banned her from smoking. The first cigarette that she smoked was her dad’s cigarette stub. She started trying to ‘smoke properly’ with her friends and went down to her park when it was raining. She kept ‘trying’ to do it, and was eventually ‘stuck with it’. She ‘properly’ started when she was 16-17. Sue mainly used to smoke down the pub where she played darts with a group of friends. She used to smoke 5/6/7 down the pub but used not to smoke every day.

Sue found she ‘didn’t like’ smoking when she was pregnant so she gave up. Just after she had her first child she was ‘stuck in the hospital’ and got ‘bored’ so started smoking again. She wanted another baby and just stopped smoking and then didn’t smoke again for seven years. She resented the fact that her husband was still smoking so she says it was ‘easier to start smoking than have rows about it’. She was ‘really, really stuck’ then, until she packed up four years ago ‘properly’. She had ‘years of sneaking around’ and ‘never smoked at work’. She never smoked or drank pints of beer in front of her parents until her mid twenties even though she was brought up in a pub. Her paternal grandfather died of lung cancer when he was 63, and her dad died 8 years ago of lung cancer when he was 64. She says that her dad’s death actually ‘made her smoking worse’ for a while. Sue’s daughter was tolerant of her smoking and ‘never argued’ but Sue knew it upset her. One day she bought the Allen Carr book and it ‘almost made her stop but not quite’. Then her friend recommended that she read it again, so she came home and read it and has never smoked since. Reading the book helped her realise that she was ‘addicted’ and it ‘wasn’t her fault’. Now she has no urge to smoke and doesn’t miss it. She kept the book for a little while in case she ‘slipped off the wagon’. One of the reasons that she didn’t give up as soon as she should have done is that she couldn’t imagine visiting her mum without smoking. One of the sayings in the book that helped her was that ‘if you are in a bad situation, smoking makes it worse, not better’. Sue thinks the book wouldn’t work for her mum, as she doesn’t read books.

Sue says that she thought she was ‘immortal’ when she was younger, and she didn’t really seriously think about the health risks until her dad died. At that time her mum was going through chemotherapy and so the mortality of her parents came into focus. After that her ‘whole life’ went ‘a bit weird’ for a little while. She found out only at that stage that her Grandfather had died of lung cancer. Occasionally she worries that ‘something will happen’ but she now ‘has to put that to the back of her mind’. She mainly didn’t like the fact that she was ‘lying’ and ‘sneaking around and doing it [smoking]’. She says she had a different identity with people from work, as there she was a ‘safety officer’, whereas outside she was ‘one of the lads’. She thinks that when her children left home she probably smoked more. If she didn’t have any money, people would always give her cigarettes. She smoked ‘Lights’ cigarettes, as she thought it would be easier to cut down, but that it wasn’t. Sue says that cutting down had ‘no effect whatsoever’. Her daughter was ‘adamant’ that she never smoked, but she knows her son has tried it. She says that she has never touched anything illegal, though she did buy alcohol and cigarettes when she was under age. She says that she doesn’t consider herself a ‘stupid person’ but ‘dealing with it’ wasn’t easy. Sue tried ‘just stopping’, then bought Nicorette gum. She once talked to her GP about giving up smoking, and was given an appointment for a support group, but this met in work hours. Sue said that the GP was ‘very dismissive’ of her attempts as well as he was ‘not very tolerant of people’s weaknesses’. Now Sue says she doesn’t go to the pub so much, and this was initially related to stopping smoking. She says to others to ‘give it a go’ and not to be scared of trying different methods. She says that ‘everybody smoked’ when she was a kid, and now since the smoking ban people don’t go out so much.


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