Together we will beat cancer

Mark Van der Vord

Mark had a few tries at quitting smoking, but this time he's sure it's for good.

Today is National No Smoking day, led by the British Heart Foundation, when people all over the UK are encouraged to quit smoking.

Not only does smoking increase the risk of heart disease and many serious lung conditions, it’s also the leading preventable cause of cancer in the world.

Right now, smoking causes more than one in four cancer deaths in the UK and has killed millions of people over the past 50 years. 

But although quitting the habit is hard, there are lots of things that can help. We asked Mark Van der Vord, a 45-year-old database administrator from London, to share his story of how he packed it in.

“I started smoking when I was 18 – I suppose it was a classic case of the cool kids did it, and I wanted to join in what they were doing. It was nice to be associated with that group at first, and after that I got addicted.

“I decided to quit about three years ago, because I was fed up with being addicted and realised that the only thing I was getting out of smoking was the alleviation of that addiction. I didn’t want it to be a part of me, to be representative of who I am – that little voice saying “go on, have a cigarette”.

“I tried nicotine patches, inhalers, going cold turkey and various other methods but none of them really worked. Then I heard about a drug that stopped nicotine cravings, which appeared to be very successful, so I thought I’d give it a go.

“It worked for a while but unfortunately I started smoking again last year, mainly because when I went out with my friends for a drink they would be smoking so I would go outside with them for a smoke.

“I started taking the drug for a second time and I’ve now given up again, and I’m still taking the medication. It worked because it just stops you from wanting a cigarette and kills the cravings. This time round it’s been harder, but it’s still the most effective method I’ve come across for quitting smoking.

“I got a lot of support from the NHS and they’ve been excellent, and my nurse Katrina at my local clinic has been with me the whole way. My wife is also a massive motivator – when you’re in a partnership and one of you smokes and the other doesn’t, it must be very annoying for the person who doesn’t!

“Quitting itself hasn’t been that hard, mainly because I’m not having cravings. But the hard thing is realising that nicotine is really addictive, and it’s not OK to “have just one cigarette”. In my experience even having just one cigarette makes you addicted again, so this time round I’ve decided that no way am I going to have nicotine again.

“A lot of people pay lip service to the idea of giving up smoking because they feel it’s the “right” thing to do, but actually they don’t really want to give up and they’re quite happy smoking. I feel that if you want to give up, you have to be committed to the idea of never smoking again, and that will be the major motivator to become a non-smoker.

“I’ve definitely noticed a health improvement, although that wasn’t my main motivation. I also feel better within myself for having got rid of the addiction to smoking – I’m not listening to that little voice anymore.”

Mark is just one of the many success stories we hear about every year. But it’s important to point out that giving up is an individual thing, and what works for one person doesn’t necessarily work for another. Our tobacco control manager, Robin Hewings, offered his support, saying:

“It’s great to hear the Mark has been successful in quitting. It can be a very difficult addiction to break and getting support is definitely recommended.

“Research shows that using medication and group support through the NHS helps increase success rates by three and a half times. Speak to your GP or your local chemist for advice, but the best thing we can recommend is that smokers don’t give up trying to give up.”

Interviews by Kat Arney


Miko April 17, 2012

Well done, Mark… it’s me (your non-smoking wife). I am just posting to say that every time I see you popping outside with those pesky smokers, I am going to direct you back to your story here to remind you about why you shouldn’t!

RPS April 3, 2012

You may be interested in the Royal Pharmaceutical Society blog post on smoking cessation services available in community pharmacies:

chloe March 28, 2012

Hi there. New Scientist magazine says that the most effective way to give up smoking is with hypnosis could be worth a try?

Sharon Harvey March 14, 2012

Hello I smoked for almost 25 years,I gave up 2 years ago due to getting Asthma and rarely had a good nights sleep due to it, I had tried to give up so many times over the years, I had succeeded a few times but would just restart again, I knew this time was different, I felt different, I felt ready and I knew my health was important and I feel like I never was a smoker anymore. My kids always hated me being a smoker and it was the best thing I ever did not just because of my health but socially too because everytime I went anywhere smoking played a big part in what I did and I dont think people realize how much time gets taken up due to smoking. I would like to say to all those that think just because you have smoked for many years that it’s not worth giving up it is always worth giving up, It took me several attempts but I got there in the end and will never look back.

EKTherapies March 14, 2012

Well done Mark! What a great story, keep up the fantastic work.
I am a Hypnotherapist working with CBT & NLP and have helped many people to become smoke free. I really enjoy helping people to take the first steps to letting go of the power cigarettes have over them and giving them back their life.
Stopping smoking doesn’t have to be a hard slog, it can be a positive enjoyable path.

Sue Ward March 14, 2012

I wish everybody the best of luck and support, I know what this is like. I stopped smoking in July 2006 and since then, started running Races For Life, became a fitness instructor and nutritionist. I can truly say I have never, ever felt better and I would love it if everybody felt the same. Oh, and I play bat and ball too, I can’t call it tennis yet but I’m working on it.. Thinking of all of you today :-)

Carole Wilkinson March 14, 2012

I gave up smoking 20 years ago, on March 10th 1993. Something wonderful happened a few weeks later I fell pregnant with my only child. Jack was diagnosed with cancer at 2 and died age 12 because he replapsed 8 years later. I never smoked although I was tempted many times over difficult times of Jack’s cancer. I tried to become a volunteer on a lung trial last year in London but they couldn’t use me because my lungs were so clear and healthy. If losing our child didn’t make me smoke again and living without him nothing would. I’m a few pounds heavier than I was back then, when I lived on my nerves and my cigarettes but if I can pursuade one person to quit smoking with my story then please think about me for National No Smoking Day 2013. Thank you for reading. Yours very sincerely a sad, but very proud Mum who never smoked around her child.