Information & Advice
Want to stop smoking? Read these real-life stories and get tips to help you quit
Mary Underdown started smoking at school, while she was in her teens.
"All the naughty ones smoked behind the bikesheds," she recalls. "It was just a way of being one of the crowd."
By the time she reached adulthood, the administration assistant, originally from Dundee, was smoking 40 a day. Attempts to quit would last only a few months.
Mary finally decided to ditch the cigarettes for good earlier this year after counting up how much she was spending on her habit.
"I decided I just couldn't afford to smoke any more but, when you're addicted, it's very difficult to just stop," she says.
This time she went to see her GP, who prescribed a prescription drug to help reduce her craving for nicotine.
That's not to say Mary's quest to quit was easy - far from it. There were times - notably, when she ran into business difficulties and struggled with family illness - that she longed for a cigarette.
But, thanks to her will power and determination, she has not smoked a cigarette since April.
Mary was also helped by a nicotine replacement inhalator. "I would have a few puffs in the morning and after my evening meal - the times when I most missed cigarettes," she says. "It really did help. It gave me something to do with my hands and I didn't feel quite so deprived."
So how is Mary finding life without the cigarettes?
"I feel much better - and not quite so breathless," she says. "Even going upstairs used to be such an effort. And my bank account is a lot healthier! After I quit, I found I actually had some money left over at the end of the month. That was a nice feeling!"
Mary's top tip: "Make a list of all the benefits of giving up to help you stay focused. And use the money you save to give yourself a special treat. I'm saving about £150 a month and was able to use that money to go on holiday."
It was his family that got Keith Pearson into smoking... and it's his family whom he also credits with helping him quit.
Offered a cigarette by his two older cousins while still a teenager, Keith was smoking as many as 60 a day at the height of his addiction.
But the 54 year old site supervisor from Nottinghamshire was persuaded to quit by his children - then aged three, nine and 14.
Keith has now been smoke-free for more than 20 years - but says he still occasionally feels tempted.
"Smoking becomes a routine you get into. As soon as you've had your dinner, you want a cigarette to finish your meal off. You just have to tell yourself, 'No!'"
Prior to quitting, he had tried numerous ways of giving up the habit including herbal cigarettes - and even hypnotherapy. But nothing worked. At one stage, he thought he wasn't ever going to be able to quit.
In the end, he went to see his GP who suggested he put chopped carrot sticks in a little bag and carried them around with him to crunch whenever he got the urge to smoke.
"As daft as it sounds, it did help me!" he says.
He also chewed gum that contained nicotine to help reduce his cravings.
Quitting was tough - but Keith had the wholehearted backing of his family.
"I was a bit grumpy when I was coming off the cigarettes but my friends and family understood why," he says. "It was really important to me that I had their support."
Initially, Keith put on weight, going from 11 stone to more than 15 stone.
"When you stop smoking, food that you previously haven't been able to taste properly becomes delicious, and the tastier the food, the more you eat," he says.
But nowadays he has lost that extra weight and enjoys a fairly active lifestyle, walking his dog three times a day, for an hour at a time. Quitting smoking has, he says, been a springboard for a new, healthy existence.
"Your clothes don't smell, your breath doesn't smell. You feel much better and not so lethargic," he says. "If you incorporate it with a bit of exercise - it doesn't have to be much - you can soon get into a healthy rhythm."
Keith's top tip: "If you want to stop smoking, you will, but I would say it's more than 80% willpower. You have to want to do it, in order to be able to do it. Set yourself a time-frame. Decide you're going to quit on a certain day - perhaps a special day, such as a birthday - and work towards that. Tell yourself, 'On that day, I will finish'. If you say, 'I'll try quitting and see how it goes,' that's not good enough. You need to be committed."
Like many smokers, Trevor Hall was deluged with messages about how bad the habit was for his health. Even his own children would tell him he should give up.
But it wasn't until he found a personal motivation to quit smoking that he was actually able to stub out his cigarettes for good. That motivation came when his son became seriously ill. Following the illness, Trevor promised him he would give up.
"Giving up smoking is a decision you have to make by yourself," he says. "People tell you all the time that you should give up but, unless it's something you choose to do, that can have very little effect."
It wasn't that Trevor, 46, from Watford, hadn't tried to cut down before. A smoker for more than 30 years, having taken it up while still at school, Trevor switched to mini cigars in 2005 as a means of trying to reduce his nicotine intake.
"Unfortunately, because the cigars were so strong, it probably didn't make much difference!" he says.
Meanwhile, Trevor's wife Lisa had managed to give up her smoking habit. Encouraged by her success, he sought the advice of his GP who gave him a prescription for stop smoking products. He was impressed by the helpfulness of the pharmacy team at his local Boots, finding them encouraging without being pushy.
"I didn't go in there specifically to get advice but they came over to me and were very clued up," he says.
He opted to use nicotine gum, being a gum-chewer anyway. One Sunday night last September he smoked his final cigarette and, on the Monday, he started on the gum.
Quitting had its tough moments. As an audit manager, Trevor spends many hours driving up and down the country. In the old days, he'd have had a cigarette to pass the time. As a quitter, he had to stick to his gum.
"The gum really did help though," he says. "I was on it for about three to four months and it did help take away the immediate urge to smoke, although you still need willpower."
And he has been encouraged by the benefits of quitting.
"I have to climb two flights of stairs to get to my desk and it used to leave me feeling slightly breathless," he recalls. "Within two to three weeks of quitting, that had stopped."
Trevor and Lisa have also found giving up smoking has saved them money. In fact, Lisa finds it a good excuse for a shopping trip.
"She'll tell me what she's bought and, if I say anything, she'll reply, 'Yeah, well - I did give up smoking,'" he jokes. "It's been seven years since she quit and she's still using that excuse!"
Trevor's top tip: "I didn't miss smoking as long as I kept busy... it was every time I stopped that I wanted a cigarette. So, if you're quitting smoking, it might be a good idea to make a 'to-do' list. Write job lists for when you're at work or hanging around the house."
Find out more on BootsWebMD:
See our smoking cessation health information centre
Stop smoking without gaining weight
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