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Information & Advice

Phil's Stop Smoking Blog

Welcome to my stop smoking blog...

Phil's Biog:

Affectionately known throughout the cricketing world as 'The Cat', Phil Tufnell has entertained many television and sporting crowds over the years. During recent times, Phil has been able to combine his cricketing expertise and his slightly 'mischievous' reputation to be a much-loved television and radio presenter.

On TV and radio, Phil's current roles include being a regular captain on BBC's 'A Question of Sport' as well as a presenter on 'The One Show'. In addition this autumn, Phil was seen as contestant in the wildly popular Strictly Come Dancing.

Phil is delighted to be gaining support from Boots to try and quit smoking in January 2010.


My first post:

2010 and I am joining the masses by setting myself a New Year resolution to quit smoking. Through my years as a sportsman I haven't really ever taken my health seriously because I've known that as long as I was fit, I felt OK. But now, with my recent dancing stint over, I'm beginning to feel a bit wheezy, so I thought I would start 2010 with a challenge and see if I can - after 20 years and approximately 145,600 cigarettes (20 years of smoking approx. 20 a day) - quit smoking!

I have tried to quit before - I had flu once and thought it would be a good idea to quit which lasted about a week and then I even let some chap hypnotise me in an attempt to wipe all cravings for a cigarette - yet the need for a cigarette remained. I had a nice kip though!

When people have talked about the health risks associated with smoking I have never really listened - perhaps because I have never felt wheezy etc, I have always been relatively fit so haven't felt the effects I suppose. But now I am slightly older, just slightly, I am starting to feel them a bit and so have decided it is time to quit!

My issue is that when I am stressed, anxious, excited - well any emotive excuse or need to pass the time really - I smoke, so the thought of not smoking seriously makes me want a cigarette! As such, I need some support - and on this attempt, I am seeking support from the high street pharmacy Boots. I will keep you posted on how I get on!

Expert advice from Angela Chalmers:

It's never too late to stop smoking, even after 20 years so well done on making the decision that it's time to kick the habit! Health concerns can actually be a fantastic motivator, you are still a healthy young man and we want you to be a healthy older man in the future!

We will need to look at a backup plan to help you deal with any stressful or emotional situations, the more prepared you are the more likely you are to tackle a tricky situation without reaching for the cigarettes.

I think that Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT) will help you enormously. They contain nicotine and, although you will still require willpower, by taking the edge off the physical effects of tobacco withdrawal you will be more mentally prepared to deal with cravings. There is also a great range of NRT products available so we will be able to choose the right kind for you.

I'm already thinking that a combination of patch and an "SOS" product for breakthrough cravings will be your best option, so I am really looking forward to meeting you face to face to help get you prepared for your quit date!

Second post:

Today I met with a Boots pharmacist for my initial stop smoking consultation, which was remarkably enlightening. She talked me through the benefits of giving up smoking and how quickly my body will start to recover. Apparently within 72 hours as a 'non smoker', the nicotine will be completely out of my system and my lungs will start to come back to life from a constant nicotine induced spasm – hurrah!

The pharmacist ran a carbon monoxide test and I scored 16, which makes me incredibly polluted. To give you a better picture, my wife is also a smoker although she smokes less, and is attempting the challenge to give up with me and she scored 4. However, I have been encouraged that once I 'give up', I will quickly see my carbon monoxide count fall to 1 or 2.

We then discussed how to prepare for the dreaded D-day – the day when I will hopefully have my last cigarette – ever! Come on, we can do this!!!

Now as much as I want to give up smoking – this could be a real nightmare! But Angela, my lovely pharmacist, has assured me that the NRT – nicotine replacement therapy – that Boots provides will help with the challenge!

OK, I have my patches, I have my S.O.S gum and inhalator, I have my supporting pharmacist – it's off to a brave new world, starting tomorrow!!

Expert advice from Angela Chalmers:

The one thing I know after meeting you face to face is that you are really determined to quit for good...

Carbon monoxide is a poisonous gas that pushes oxygen out of your bloodstream so can explain why you have felt a little breathless...the good news? Well, your bloodstream will be clear of it 24 hours after your last cigarette so we have an immediate health benefit there already!

The 16-hour patch to be applied in the morning and then removed before bed will deal with the majority of cravings. It steadily delivers synthetic nicotine (which is less harmful and addictive than the real stuff) into your bloodstream so can help take your mind off needing a cigarette.

For those stronger cravings you have decided to go for a combination of gum and inhalator, which may help keep your hands occupied. I was able to give you lots of helpful advice on how to use the NRT and get the best out of it; this is one of the great benefits of the pharmacist-led NHS service, the advice is completely tailored to you.

Now the last thing to do is clear out any hidden cigarettes and start thinking of yourself as a non-smoker right now!

Third post:

I have reached three days – three days without a cigarette and I am feeling strangely proud of myself!

The first day went really well, I was a bit nervous in the morning but got stuck into the day and it flew by. The second day was a little bit tougher and the third day tougher still, but the NRT gum has got me through – with some willpower – so am feeling pretty chuffed.

With every day and every hour I am feeling a little bit better, although we did have friends over for drinks last night which was really tough, but they were all very good and supportive – I think it is the support that is key.

On the whole it has been an interesting three days, I am not feeling too bad and I don't think the challenge is affecting my mood as yet, I still feel pretty much the same and haven't bitten anyone's head off. Although my support booklet mentions that after 72 hours the nicotine from cigarettes would have left my body – so we will have to wait and see how I start to feel tomorrow!! Wish me luck!

Expert advice from Angela Chalmers:

It is great to hear that your friends have been supportive, that makes things much easier when socialising. The patches and gum sound like they are doing their job fighting your cravings whilst giving your mind some space and focus to deal with staying positive and reminding yourself of why you are doing this.

Be very proud and congratulate yourself daily on being a non-smoker, if we were to check your carbon monoxide levels using the smoke-alyser you would be a 0 or 1, which is such an achievement!

Fourth post:

I hold my hands up...I fell off the wagon, but just for a second. On Friday, I was out for a few drinks with my mates and I don't know what happened but the next thing I knew I was smoking a cigarette! It was quite weird really! I had a couple of puffs and then caught up with myself and just thought, 'oh Phil what are you doing?' and put it out. It wasn't like I finished it and enjoyed it; in fact, I actually felt quite guilty. The pharmacist mentioned this might happen and that the important thing is to not beat myself up, but realise what has happened and get back on with the task in hand. So I am not really counting that minor set back and am back on it, which means I am approaching a week as a non-smoker – yeah!!

I am starting to feel it as well. The positive is that I am feeling a little less polluted – I am not feeling quite so tight in my chest and starting to feel a little easier, which is a nice little bonus. The not so good is that I am starting to get a little bit edgy – I think the best way to describe it is a feeling of slight impatience. Nobody has commented on a mood change in me as yet, but I can feel it creeping up on me – starting to require a few deep breaths here and there.

Once again, I can't express how important the support has been. It is amazing what it can do to help – along with some willpower and my nicotine replacement SOS products – the gum and inhalator are really helping me through!

Expert advice from Angela Chalmers:

I am glad you took my advice about not beating yourself up just because you had a blip in the pub. You will have some blips along the way; just move on from them and carry on with the great work you are doing as a non-smoker.

After 72 hours of not smoking your lungs start to relax because, when you smoke, the tubes in your lungs are in constant spasm. So enjoy the feeling of nice, relaxed lungs – you should try some gentle jogging to take advantage of this. You will feel that you are less breathless and can run for longer!

The edginess is natural, as your body is still missing the cigarettes. It will get easier, I promise, and do not underestimate the benefit of practicing those deep breaths to calm and re-centre youself when you feel you must have a cigarette.

You now know that you are much stronger AND wiser than these cigarettes! Just keep taking it one day at a time and use your SOS products and some willpower to get you through any bad cravings.

Fifth post:

A pattern is emerging and when I am out at a party of a weekend and having a drink I find it far harder to not have a cigarette. This week it was Saturday when I succumbed to the craving, but this time I wanted the cigarette and consciously thought 'I'm having one!', which is disappointing. I am going to pick up with my pharmacist to discuss ways to combat this social urge and see what she can recommend to help me. However, other than this second little slip-up, I'm smashing it!

This past week has definitely been much tougher. It has been much more of a struggle but I'm not sure why. I have been out and about, really busy with work and then, when I finish work, I want nothing more than a cigarette and it has been hard! I am not depressed with it but I am feeling much more down about the challenge in hand and it is much more of a fight.

I am upset with myself for having a cigarette again at the weekend – but you just have to learn from your mistake and get back to it! To think that I have gone from around 20 a day to one a week is still an achievement! I just need to learn how to cope with these slip-ups and find a way to mentally stop myself. I am by no means defeated though.

My wife Dawn quit this week as well, which was a nice little lift. She is doing well and, although this week has been tougher for me, I am certainly starting to notice the positives. My chest is easier – I am not sure if this is all in my head – but I think my taste is improving and the house smells better. I had never noticed the smell of smoke before, but now the house is clearing and I can really smell smoke on other people – yuk.

Plus, I am generally feeling a bit better in myself; I am not as sluggish, I am waking up fresher and sleeping sounder – which is all very impressive! So while I am a little touchy, I am fresher with it and feel much more able to cope with the cravings.

I think I just need to keep going and do this at my own pace. If I slip-up, I just have to think, 'oh well that's that and on we go'. I just need to keep trying to combat it, slowly, slowly – 'Rome wasn't built in a day!'

Expert advice from Angela Chalmers:

The social cigarette is often the most tricky one to give up, so it is normal that you are finding this the hardest craving to deal with. The 'after-work' cigarette is what we call a 'reward', as you have been working hard all day and you want to treat yourself to the reward of winding down with a cigarette.

If we look at when we smoke and why, you can see the pattern and why the brain uses these situations to trick you into smoking. I like the analogy of "Rome wasn't built in a day" – this is so true! You have only just started breaking habits that you have been in, day in and day out, for years.

These urges will die down eventually, going from big voices in your head to little whispers that you know are there but that you can brush aside and ignore. You are already reaping some amazing health benefits, so you have those incentives to maintain. You and Dawn are on this journey together – but you have a head start, so you can provide the extra support that she may need.

I like the mental attitude you have, especially about not going back to smoking as normal just because you had a blip at the weekend. Many people think they have to be 100% perfect when quitting and, if they cant, then "what's the point?".

You are doing brilliantly!

Sixth post:

I am really pleased with how this process is going. I started out this challenge with my eyes wide open, knowing it was going to be tough, and it really has been. But with the help and support from Boots, as well as my friends and family, I would say 'I'm nearly a non-smoker'!! Now I am not going to lie to you – I find social situations, where my mates are having a cigarette, very difficult not to join them and have a cigarette, but as I see it – one cigarette on a Friday night is far better for me than over 20 a day!!

And I am feeling it; I am sleeping better, waking up brighter, I have more energy – although granted I am not running a marathon every morning – but I definitely feel more like I could give it a go! My chest is clear and I generally just feel a lot more positive – which I didn't think I would! I re-tested my carbon monoxide levels and I am down to 1 from 16, which is great, and my blood pressure and everything looks good – so I am not just feeling less polluted, I am less polluted! I went through a stage of coughing a lot, which my pharmacist explained is the lungs healing themselves and clearing themselves of the rubbish that smoking leaves behind. She also advised me to regularly brush my teeth and to use a mouthwash, as your gums also work to get rid of the smoke, which can cause mouth ulcers – so, luckily, by taking her advice I haven't been too bad.

Mentally I am really, really positive – it is an ongoing process after all. Don't get me wrong, it is still a battle, but with the odd cigarette here and there – I know I will eventually be able to knock on the head. When I do have one on a Friday/Saturday night, I don't even finish it – I'm not really sure why I smoke it, I tend to smoke half and put it out – but that is that, and then I move on and get back to my challenge. It has been tough – I have definitely been a bit short-tempered, a bit ratty – but that is starting to dissipate now. Now I am just getting on with it. It is like a constant conversation in your brain trying not to have one. I got quite frustrated trying to work out 'When am I going to be a non-smoker?' – it is like a full-on fight in your head. But I don't think for me it is going to work like that – I think perhaps I will always be an occasional smoker, but I would be happy with that. I have not gone to buy any cigarettes since quitting, but when it's around you it is very hard not to ask 'Can I have one of yours?'

I haven't yet had a day where I haven't thought about cigarettes – obviously when I am busy at work I am fine, but when you get home in the evening – it is then when I think a cigarette would be lovely! And this is when my pharmacist's advice of snacking smart comes in handy, because I do find myself looking for a snack to replace the craving! So I have a piece of fruit – tangerines have been a real help. The nicotine replacement therapy from Boots has been fantastic. I am now on a lower 'dose' patch, which sees me through until mid-afternoon – they really deal with the craving and then from mid-afternoon you just need a little bit of willpower to get you through – and if you need them, the SOS products such as the gum are really handy just to have in your pocket.

So – to all you smokers that have thought perhaps it is your time – I say give it a go, but take it at your own pace – don't smash yourself in the face with it – because then it can become too much of a battle in your head. Just go with it and take each day at a time and if you fall off the wagon, brush yourself off and get back on. Set yourself little individual goals and celebrate each victory. For me now, the challenge is social smoking – so for example, if I had four last weekend, this weekend I will aim to only have two and take that as a step in the right direction – and not as a failure. Everyone is different, so work out what works for you and do it at your own pace. As I see it – from smoking 20 a day for far too long, to the odd cigarette at the weekend is a real plus – and I will keep working at it and hopefully I can eventually address and eradicate the social few.

It is not an easy task – get support! Go and speak to your pharmacist today – this doesn't mean you have to give up today but it sure is a step in the right direction!

Expert advice from Angela Chalmers:

I couldn't have said it any better myself Phil!

I hope that by sharing your story you have managed to allay most of the fears people have about stopping smoking because, once you bash through those initial fears, you realise that quitting those cigs is something that anyone can do – as long as they have the right initial support plan and attitude. It may be a bit rocky but keep on going and you will get there.

So anyone reading these blogs and thinking, "I can do this"...you are so right! Pop in to see your local pharmacist to get on the NHS Stop Smoking Programme and get the best possible start!

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