Giving up smoking


Brief outline: Tom, 32, gave up smoking when he was 29.Tom is White British, a software consultant and lives with his wife. He smoked for fifteen years before he cut down and then gave up smoking altogether. Tom did not use any ‘stop smoking’ aids, and feels his change in attitude and determination to quit were important factors.

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Tom, 32, a software consultant, was 14 when he first tried a cigarette as a result of peer pressure. When he was 16 he started to smoke more regularly, sharing packets of cigarettes with friends. Tom says that, whilst he was aware of the health implications of smoking, he did not really consider them applicable to him, and admits to this being partly because he and his friends thought of themselves as a bit rebellious as teenagers. Tom went to university and became friends with people who smoked, and smoked 20-30 cigarettes a day himself. He says that he also smoked cannabis regularly. He kept smoking a secret from his parents; however his father, who smoked occasionally, found out, and it became a ‘shared secret’. He reports there being an experimental and competitive culture amongst his friends. After university, Tom lived with one friend who smoked and also worked at the same company as Tom. He said that neither enjoyed his job, and smoking tobacco and cannabis moved from being ‘fun’ to a ‘nice release’ or escapism from their situation.

Tom remembers that his attitude began to alter when he moved in with his girlfriend (now wife), to a flat where smoking was not permitted. His then girlfriend smoked only occasionally, and Tom began to cut down the amount he smoked. At this time the smoking ban was introduced in pubs. Tom became increasingly aware of his own health during his mid-twenties, experiencing a ‘robust smoker’s cough’ and was once told he had high blood pressure. Tom had what he calls a number of ‘false starts’ in giving up smoking, during which he always had an ‘excuse’ to smoke. He reports that the major shift for him came in his changing his attitude – he decided he wanted to give up smoking, and was doing so because it was good for him to do so, even though he still enjoyed it. He also realised that smoking was not only a physical addiction but also a habit. Circumstances helped Tom in giving up, such as his girlfriend and Dad no longer smoking, and he had a new job where not many people smoked and he wanted to impress his boss. He set himself a deadline of his 30th birthday, and in fact gave up aged 29. Within a year of stopping smoking tobacco, Tom stopped smoking cannabis as well. He reflects that smoking tobacco and cannabis ‘served a purpose’ for fifteen years of his life, but that eventually not giving in to the temptation of smoking was more rewarding than the quick rush of having a cigarette.

Tom cut down his smoking gradually, using willpower alone, to 2 or 3 per day before stopping completely. He did not use any ‘stop smoking’ aids, but thinks that these may be helpful for some people. For Tom, the most important factors were his change in attitude and determination to give up smoking.


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