Together we will beat cancer

Quitting smoking

Giving up is hard but worth it

Because, to misappropriate a phrase, there’s no ‘I’ in cancer, but there is a ‘me’ in smokefree (sort of), and July 1st is not only the one-year anniversary of the ban on smoking in public places – it’s also my one-year anniversary as a non-smoker.

Yes, a year ago I stubbed out my last cigarette. It was the fourth time I’d tried giving up, and I was fed up of being part of the 70 percent of smokers who want to quit.

Happily, I’m still off the fags a year later – and the fact that the UK’s now completely smokefree is a big part of the reason why.

15 years of smoking

I started smoking in my late teens, as many do – despite all the heath education messages we were immersed in (I even got an A for a no-smoking project at school). During my gap year, and four years as a student, my smoking steadily got heavier.

I tried to quit twice – but each time I gave in and started again, and by the time I left uni and moved back to the big smoke (pun completely intended) I was a fully paid-up 20-a-day full-strength fag smoker.

My third attempt lasted longer – a couple of years – and was driven largely by external pressures (such as working for a large cancer charity). And during this time I probably put in a lot of the hard psychological slog that’s made my current attempt feel so different.

For example, one of the funny things you notice after giving up is a sort of ‘phantom fag packet’ – you pat your pockets for your cigs and lighter before leaving the house. Over the two years of my penultimate quitting attempt, the phantom fag packet disappeared, I stopped measuring walking distances in terms of numbers of cigarettes, and all-but-erased the self-image I had of myself as a smoker.

And then, after all that hard work, one night (after a few too many beers) I started again, and didn’t stop for another two years.

Fourth time lucky?

But I was determined to give up. So I set myself a target date – 1st July 2007 – the day the new laws on smoking in public places came in, and told everyone about my plans (always a good idea).

I’d tried nicotine patches in the past, and they’d been really helpful (and, according to NHS Direct, using nicotine replacement therapy quadruples your chances of quitting), so I got a few packets of them (partly for the nicotine… and partly to fill that ‘phantom packet’ hole). And on the morning of July 1st, I smoked my last cigarette.

After two days of successfully using patches to keep the inevitable Incredible Sulk quiet, something funny happened.

During previous attempts, I’d avoided pubs like the plague for several months. So I was eager to check out this new ‘smokefree’ malarkey. Three days into my new life as a non-smoker, I joined a couple of colleagues after work for a swift one. It wasn’t so bad. In fact, I didn’t seem to want a cigarette at all. Must be the patches doing their job… so I thought.

When I got home and went to take off my patch…I discovered I hadn’t actually put one on in the first place. It wasn’t lack of willpower or alcohol that had scuppered previous attempts – it was the tempting aroma of cigarette smoke, pushing those buttons in my brain that said ‘go on, just have one, you know you want to’.

And that’s when the true impact of the smoking ban hit me.

Because it is now crystal clear in my mind that the most harmful effect of second-hand smoke, is that it stops people from giving up. Let’s leave aside the fact that it causes diseases in non-smokers (a fact the tobacco industry itself now freely admits). Second-hand smoke is the trigger that stops so many of those 70 per cent of smokers who don’t want to smoke, from quitting.

Record numbers quit

And you can see this in today’s figures. Over the last 12 months, England has witnessed the biggest rate of smoking cessation in its history. According to Professor Robert West, our Director of Tobacco Studies, if this trend continues it will prevent 40,000 people from dying from smoking-related disease over the next ten years.

40,000 people. This probably sounds corny – and perhaps slightly smug – but it feels much nicer being part of that stat (touch wood), than part of the 70 per cent who want to quit but – for whatever reason – don’t.

The smoking ban was trumpeted by our CEO, Harpal Kumar as a law that would “bring about the most significant public health improvements the country has seen in decades” – and working alongside the teams here that campaigned so hard to achieve this has been hugely inspiring.

But, just as the Government has to be vigilant to keep smoking rates in decline, I know I’ve only been a non-smoker for a year, and I’m certainly not out of the woods.

All that said, for me, 1st July is a personal milestone as well as a national one.

Happy anniversary, smoking ban.



Richard February 19, 2012

4 months for me now. Strangely enough, I have no problem sitting outside the Pub when others are smoking. The difficult time is still when I sit down with the paper and my first coffee in the morning. Habit, I suppose.
I did visit my local Smoking Advisor and she gave me patches and an inhalator. The patches didn’t seem to make any difference so I gave them up after a fortnight. The inhalator does help, whether or not it contains a nicotine cartridge (!) so it must just be something in my mouth. Ordinary chewing gum seems to help as well. I think I must have saved a lot of money after 45 years of a packet a day. January 16, 2012

congratulations henry . hope that it will encourage everyone to give up smokeing .

reneefrompalestine February 15, 2010

The best thing to do when you’re trying to quit is be easy on yourself. If you have failed before it doesn’t mean you won’t be successful in the future.

In order to quit smoking you have to change the way you think about smoking. You have to plant the seed in your head that you dont want to smoke anymore, and then wait for it to grow–think of all the bad things you know smoking causes. Think of the way you will be once you dont smoke anymore.

Eventually, you will create a new perspective on smoking–and you wont want to do it anymore. Then your new mindset will be reflected in your actions. One day you will wake up and you just wont want to smoke anymore. You wont need nicorette and you wont need a support group. You can change your own mind. It just takes time and concentration. Good luck!

Samantha Sinclair November 6, 2009

Congratulations to all of those that have kicked that awful habit!
I too have given up. I had been smoking for 27 years, and at age 43 and 5 failed attempts, I decided to quit *Cold turkey* Something I couldnt of possibly done years ago!

The smoking ban is great! As it help a lot. As when I was a smoker I felt like an outcast anyhow. And its much easier to stay motivated when there is no-one smoking around you!

I havent quit for long yet, but I know I am not giving in this time, as I am enjoying my better tasting food, my whiter teeth and that fresh clean smell that now fills my home, without the use of air freshners to cover that stale smoke smell.

I would advise anyone who smokes to consider giving up, the health benefits outweigh the buzz you get from that cigarette!

Cath Lawson June 15, 2009

Congratulations on quitting. I completely agree that the smoking ban is helping people to give up.

I quit fourteen weeks ago. I’d had several attempts but as you say – when folk are smoking around you, it makes it much harder.

Also, being older made it easier for me. I’m 40 this year. When you’re in your twenties – death seems so far away.

I used several aids to help me stop including the Silva Life system and nicotine patches.

I also read the Allen Carr book. It’s a must read for anyone who believes they actually like smoking.

Sue Kipling May 5, 2009

I have given up smoking after 40 years. I found it easier than I ever thought. I read the Allen Carr book and liked his refreshing approach to stopping and after reading it I stopped. I only wish now that I had stopped years ago.

Emma Dolan December 29, 2008

hi i’m interested in stopping smoking for good and have plans to do things that smoking would make extremely difficult so it’s great to have other options (the Allen Carr plan)… good post x

Mand December 28, 2008

I gave up smoking on the 1st July 07, and am still a non smoker.!! I would suggest you keep an open mind about where to go for help, and certainly not just rely on what the NHS can offer. I gave up cigarettes using the Allan carr method and after previous methods using patches, help lines and pure willpower found this way an absolute breeze.. in fact enjoyed it as felt I was being liberated!!

My message is look at everything out there that exists to help you. Allan carr method is an option that you may not find on NHS or other mainstream websites, so don’t exclude it.

Wish you well in your journey and being a non smoker is a wonderful label to have X

Alanna December 18, 2008

Very good post, thanks!

Kat September 10, 2008

Hi Darren – try the NHS Stop Smoking services or QUIT. There’s plenty of info here:

Your GP will have lots of information to help you stop smoking, and can put you in touch with the NHS services to help.

Good luck!


Darren Brown September 9, 2008

I have read these testimonies and I am very impressed! I desperately want to give up! I have been smoking since I was about 14 and I’m now 37. I really need to know where I can get professional help and support, please help!


Henry Scowcroft July 17, 2008

Thanks everyone! And well done to all of you who’ve also managed to quit. Onwards and upwards.

Emma Leeks July 7, 2008

Congrats Henry! I too also gave up just before the ban. It’s hard work but the ban is a fabulous thing. We just have to hold our breath as we walk into bars now, to avoid the smokers that are freezing outside!! ;-) keep up the good work!

jim July 3, 2008

Yes well done. Keep it up!

I agree with your point that the most harmful effect of 2nd hand smoke is stopping people giving up. As an ex-smoker myself, I have had exactly the same experience and love the smoking ban because of it. Smoking is predominantly a social habit (like alcohol) and the ban has gone a long way to marginalising smoking from the major social locations – pubs, bars, restaurants.

Ann July 1, 2008

Congratulations ! When my boyfriend gave up smoking, he also gave up pubs for the good part of a year, because seeing other people smoking, especially when he’d had a drink or two, was too difficult to resist. And he’d probably agree that a year probably isn’t enough for you to start relaxing about being an ex-smoker but hopefully you have got out of the habits you had when you smoked.

Keep it up !