Everyone should have NHS help to quit smoking
Chris has been tobacco-free for 4.5 years now, and quit with the support of his NHS smoking cessation support. But when they moved, his wife wasn't offered the same support.
I was 15 when I started smoking. Back then, cigarettes were everywhere, and there was a lot of peer pressure to be a smoker. By the time I was 17, I was smoking 20 a day. And that's how it carried on, from 1989 to 2014.
I tried to quit lots of times and had a lot of false starts. I’ve had asthma since I was 6 months old, so I knew it wasn’t helping. But every time I tried, I’d end up starting again. At one point, following a 2-week hospital stay, I managed to kick the habit and stay off them for the next 6 months. But then I changed job, and I started again.
I was diagnosed with COPD in 2011, and I knew it was time to quit smoking. The following year, I tried to quit using my local NHS smoking cessation advice at my GP surgery. But that didn't work, so I tried again the year after that. The nurse who offered the service was always really happy to hear I wanted to have another go!
Enough was enough
Finally, I decided enough was enough. In late 2013, I decided that I was going to have my last cigarette on 2 January. I didn’t want to make it a New Year’s resolution as I’ve always been bad at keeping those!
On the day, I went to my GP, and I picked up everything they could throw at me: patches, lozenges, sprays, and plastic cigarette inhalers. I also bought an electronic cigarette from the supermarket.
I’d go see my nurse in the surgery every single week. She was excellent. She'd have me use a carbon monoxide monitor to check my breath, which was really useful for me because I could see how much my results were improving week by week.
I kept using my nicotine replacements, and found the e-cigarette really helpful in particular for when I was driving. It gave me something to occupy that part of my journey to work and home again, when before I would just have smoked cigarettes constantly.
Having someone to talk to helped so much
Having a nurse to talk to about quitting smoking was so helpful. We’d discuss how the products I was using were beneficial, and how I was coping emotionally without it, as well as how to manage the fact that at the time, my wife was still smoking and I’d see cigarettes around the house.
She told me about this app for my phone I could use that tracked how much money I was saving too, which was great!
It was hard to quit. But I knew I really needed to do this. And my nurse kept on encouraging me, testing me on the monitor. Having somewhere to physically go once a week kept me on the straight and narrow.
5 months after I started, I was nicotine free. But things were different when my wife tried to quit.
Things were different for my wife
It was so good to have that level of support. But I know for lots of people, NHS cuts means that’s not the case anymore.
A little while after me and my wife moved to Swindon, she decided she wanted to quit smoking too. But she had a very different experience to me.
She saw the cessation nurse at her local surgery once, but when she tried to go back, the nurse wasn’t there any more. The service had been discontinued. They offered an alternative, but it was further away and it wasn’t practical. We were really disappointed that the service wasn’t there.
My wife had to give up using her own determination and willpower. I think if she’d had the support I’d had, it would have been much better for her. And I know that if it’d been me in her position, I would have got back on tobacco quite quickly.
Having that facility available to me when I was giving up helped me stay strong, and inspired me to keep on going.
Everyone should be offered that support
I’ve been tobacco free for 4.5 years now, and I noticed how much better I felt afterwards. It got to the point where even though I have bad asthma and COPD, I was able to go out for long bike rides every day, which was really nice.
I’d recommend everyone who’s thinking of quitting should go and speak to their GP. It’s good to talk to a real person.
I think everyone who is trying to quit smoking should be offered that NHS support, especially if you’ve already got a lung condition - that service is crucial.