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Wednesday, 5 July, 2000, 11:31 GMT 12:31 UK
Giving-up smoking: Your experiences
A new anti-smoking pill, hailed as twice as effective as a nicotine patch, is to be made available on the NHS, bringing hope to millions of dedicated smokers who want to kick the habit.
The drug, Zyban, works by altering the balance of chemicals in the brain, to reduce the craving for nicotine.
Have you successfully given up smoking? Did you use patches, hypnosis or just good old willpower? Or maybe you've tried everything but still can't quit. Will you try this new drug?
This Talking Point is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.
If we make it too easy to quit then people will restart smoking.
In the long run, the suffering of cold turkey is a reminder of why we should never smoke again.
Having been a smoker for more than fifty years this is how I stopped. Following yet another increase in tobacco duty, I decided that I was no longer going to pay even more duty to leech-like politicians so that they could enjoy a standard of living that is hard to achieve unless you are in the millionaire income bracket. I was surprised how easy it was to give up smoking provided I kept thinking of how much money I was giving to politicians.
I quit with laser therapy. It worked brilliantly for me and anyone who really wants to stop smoking should try this method. Within three days I was happy not to go back and light up.
My boyfriend has just gone 3 days without smoking after nearly 20 years of puffing. He's finding it hell but I'm really, really proud of him. I'm hoping lots of hugs, kisses and support will help him quit for good. If he can do it anyone can!
Andy S, UK
I heard my baby's heart beat for the first time 2 month ago. I haven't smoked since and feel more alive than ever.
It's easy when you have a real unselfish reason to stop.
At the age of 36, I'm not a smoker. I never started because my parents never smoked. If I'd ever come home with the smell of smoke on me, my father would have commented. Also without cigarettes easily available in the house, just pick one up and try it. I would have had to buy a pack, to make anything of an attempt.
I wonder what percentage of smokers start in their teens, and of these what proportion are the children of smokers?
I had given up for 2 years but started again. I went to the gym, ate healthy food and cut down on my drinking and boy did I feel good, but every day of those two years I spent thinking about a cigarette as if it was like your first love. Well done to all those people who stay off it. Maybe instead of looking for a cure for smokers, they might just be able to come up with the "healthy cigarette".
Giving up is easy. I've done it five times already this year!!
I gave up 4 months ago and to be honest, apart from the odd pang (still) things have been quite easy. I decided that too many people whinge when they give up, that they need to be allowed to indulge in something else such as food or drink or some other crutch which invariably keeps the mental addiction still in play. I decided to go for gold by doing all the hard things at once. Going to a gym before work every weekday morning. Having an ultra low fat diet and obviously quitting smoking at the same time. It worked a treat. Doing three hard things at once made each individual thing seem easy
As far as I see it both smokers and non-smokers are victims. The real culprits are the tobacco companies and the retailers who sell the product. If you really want to see smoking disappear then we should not buy anything from retailers that sell tobacco products! Basically, if you sell tobacco products then you are as guilty as the smoker. I hope this new drug is as successful as it is claimed to be. It should be available on the NHS. People who drive recklessly and have a crash get free medical treatment so why shouldn't the reckless smoker.
I desperately tried to stop smoking for 15 years. It was awful. Sometimes I would succeed for two days, once even for three weeks, before tumbling back into bondage. When out of tobacco I'd find myself rummaging through garbage cans trying to find unfinished cigarettes.
Then one New Year's eve, five years ago, I confessed I was a sinner and asked Jesus Christ to come into my life as Lord. The first thing I realized was that I was totally free to smoke or not to smoke. I chose not too, and without any struggle it has been that way ever since.
I stopped from 4 packs a day for 6 months. Gained weight, 30 more kg's and decided to resume smoking on health grounds. (Die out of heart attack at 40 or possibly from lung cancer at 60. I merely opted for those extra 20 years and with luck some more) I would stop if it was possible without that lethal side effect.
Not many people will believe this, but I managed to quit smoking in a rather unusual way. I was a heavy smoker who smoked about 5 packs a day before I got married. However, now I am married and have 5 kids thus money is a little hard to come by. So what to do? I just cut down the number of packs slowly till I quit. I also hope others will do like me.
When we were young, we got caned if we were caught smoking.
Perhaps that is the answer. The old ways do work you know!
There's no denying that smoking is in part a chemical addiction, but it's also a psychological one. I found that any sort of change you can make to your daily routine to keep you away from the times and places when you smoke can help. Like the person who quit as she was moving jobs, I found that attaching my attempt to quit to some major lifestyle change (moving house, work, marriage, etc) helped a lot. If you find you can't have a coffee without wanting to smoke, give that up too, it doesn't do you much good either.
I have been able to stay away from smoking for the past eight months after using Zyban for about two weeks. It simplifies quitting by making smoking less enjoyable until the point of getting no satisfaction at all from the cigarettes. It also makes the cravings manageable with a bit of will power to resist.
My problem now is that I regret having quit smoking! Nothing is as enjoyable and with hindsight, I believe I made the wrong decision. The health concerns are over-stated since you will die from one thing or another at some point. Smoking may reduce your "quantity" or longevity of life, but it certainly adds a lot in "quality".
I guess the bottom line should be for non-smokers to never start, since you cannot miss what you do not know.
Mike Cooke, UK
I had smoked for 17 years and how I regret that. I quit smoking 24 years ago cold turkey. For me that was the only way to go since I had tried to cut down with hopes of quitting smoking several times without much success. I gave myself the best present ever. I was a heavy smoker and thought that I could never quit. What I like to do is encourage friends who smoke with my experience on how I quit and how wonderful I feel. My last line is, "If I can do it, so can you."
My experiences with giving up smoking?
Well, "Argh. Argh. Argh. Argh. Argh. Gasp. Needasmoke. Argh. NeedacigaretteNOW. Argh." [repeat]
Bizek Musarinya, UK
I chain-smoked about 40-50 a day for 10 years. Gave it up last year. Believe me, quitting chocolates it probably more difficult. If you want to get away from nicotine, you just have to make up your mind. Good luck!
A friend of mine smoked 30 a day for years. Sometimes he would wake up in the middle of the night wanting a cigarette. One day his father, who was also a regular smoker, told him he'd give him £1000 to see him quit forever. My friend said no. His Dad thought for a bit then said he'd give him £2000. He said yes. He hasn't had a fag since. Saving money is an incentive, but sometimes it helps to get the cash up front!
The place where I work is moving towards becoming a non-smoking site in the next year or so. I decided to take up the offer of the medical centre here at work to help smokers who wanted to give up. We were given counselling and either patches or gum (I believe that hypnosis will be available soon). Personally I had patches and I haven't smoked now for nearly 4 months and don't miss it one bit! Together with the health benefits I'm also £400 better off!
Smokers in this country cost the NHS £1.7bn a year in smoking-related illnesses. They also raise £13bn a year from tobacco duty. I think that makes them more than entitled to receive this new treatment on the NHS.
About a year ago, a colleague
at work made an announcement
that he would quit. This spurred
me to do the same. I was sure
I could stick to it, though, and
Howard Bell, Belgium
I gave up 7 years ago using patches but only after years of trying without success. It doesn't really matter whether you use tablets; patches; gum or will-power the important factor is the existence of a large enough incentive. If you don't really want to quit then no amount of assistance will help.
My father gave up smoking after 33 years. One day he just said: "I've
had enough" and stopped. He hasn't touched fags in 7 years now but he admits that he misses the smoke with a coffee.
I am still trying very hard to quit!
I believe sport is the key here, start with long walks will reduce it good luck to you all and to me!!
I finished my exams yesterday and in one final glorious smoking binge managed to polish off 80 fags - it was a terrible thing and I have resolved to rid myself of this menace as soon as possible. I'm still young and really shouldn't be ruining my youthful lungs in such a manner - it's a shame.
Rahul Dhir, United Kingdom
I finally quit by making a bet with two friends of mine. If any one of us smoked we would have to pay £100, grow a moustache for a month and not shower or brush our teeth for the last week of that month. The bet was for one year and, at about nine months in, we have all held. I know that if I have just one smoke after dinner or during an office break I'll be back at a pack a day within a week. The bet is keeping me from that initial casual cigarette that inevitably leads to the full on habit coming back.
Roger K, UK
I gave up smoking two years ago after smoking 30 a day for 30 years. The main reason was that I, at last, accepted that to continue was a particularly unpleasant form of suicide. No aids were involved and the first few days were difficult. As your nose and mouth clean themselves, however, it becomes increasingly easier not to start smoking again. I have no objection to other people smoking, having been there myself. However, with each release of medical evidence demonstrating the damage smoking can do, I am finding this tolerance harder to sustain. It should be much more difficult and expensive to obtain tobacco.
I developed pneumonia during my college finals, and was unable to smoke at all for a three-week period. When I was finally able to smoke again, I found I couldn't be bothered and haven't smoked since.
Michael Townsend, England
The Government knows that increasing duty on tobacco won't make many people give up. Smokers will put up with a certain amount of tax, then, like any other drug addict, they will break the law (smuggle or receive smuggled goods) to get their tobacco. Anti-drug legislation will never stop people taking drugs, be it tobacco or heroin. On the other hand, I think that offering help to people who want to give up is an excellent idea.
I quit smoking June 1st 1993 and have not touched a cigarette since. However, even now, I still have recurring dreams in which I have started smoking again. If I were to take a drag on one cigarette, I would be back to one pack a day. You can stop smoking, but the urge will never go away. Smoking is very similar to alcoholism in that respect.
Colin Butts, USA
I stopped smoking 5 years ago having smoked 20 a day for 30 years. I gave myself a month to mentally prepare and had nicotine gum ready. I have not smoked since, but am still using the gum! I was not prepared for the depression that followed; the blues as I call it. I think the smoking kept me apart from a lot of my feeling life and it takes time to adjust.
I had my last cigarette at 7.00am on the morning of the birth of my child after reducing my smoking habit from 20 to 5 a day during pregnancy. I had a caesarean and having to deal with the recuperation of this and looking after a baby at the same time, I never even thought about smoking! The answer is - "have a baby".
I have a couple of smokes after work with a beer in the pub. I've tried to quit but can't do it. I now prefer to refer to my smoking habit as "recreational suicide".
Forget pills, patches, filters, hypnosis. 12 years ago I chain-smoked 40 to 60 a day. I quit one payday and calculated the money I spent each month. I then used this to buy a "luxury" so rewarded myself in advance for not smoking and had spent my fag money for the month anyway. It worked for me. I haven't smoked any cigar, fags or pipe for 12 years now.
Andrew Limbert, UK
I recently gave up -using nicotine gum - after 15 years of smoking 20 a day. I suffered no withdrawal symptoms. What this brought home so clearly to me is that one smokes cigarettes because of an addiction to nicotine. It's just a chemical addiction to a drug.
If you can find a nicotine replacement substitute which works for you then giving up is really easy and being free of the need to smoke is fantastic.
I gave up with hypnotherapy. One session of feeling like I was floating in the bath, for the same
cost as 400 cigarettes (20 days worth at 20/day, as I then was). It worked for me. I would be interested in why the NHS fund Zyban treatment which tampers with the brain chemistry (with 30% success) but does not assist with non-invasive orthodox therapies at a similar cost.
To Rachel who makes the glib comment about the NHS not paying for those who smoked by choice, starting smoking as a child and then becoming an addict is not such a simple matter. Circumstances are different for individuals and the "I hate smokers they don't deserve anything" attitude, doesn't actually help. If money can be spent whether through advertising, education at schools or providing a drug for extreme cases, then we are going to reap the rewards of people no longer spending time away from work either smoking or being ill. The benefits far outweigh the initial costs.
I smoked for 17 years close to two packs a day and finally quit on the 8th of November 1999. I decided to quit on that day because I was starting a new job and consequently changing the atmosphere (the habit of smoking certain times in certain places). I also used patches to help with the chemical dependence. Another thing I did that helped a lot was to buy something that I always wanted and never did because of money. I calculated how much I was spending in cigarettes every month and for the same amount of money every month I bought a motorcycle. Every time I felt like smoking I went to look at the motorcycle, go for a ride and think how much money I was spending in cigarettes. Today I don't smoke but ride every day.
I've been smoking since I was sixteen, mainly due to peer pressure, but now I'm addicted. I've seen my grandad have 3 strokes due to smoking and he will never be the same again. I'd love to give up and see this new drug as a way forward. Although it may cost the NHS a lot of money, just think of all the money it would save if less people smoked.
Godfrey Joseph, UK
Smoking is all in the mind. If you focus and apply your mind to quitting, it can be done. I used to smoke 20-30 a day. For weeks, if not months I kept convincing myself that smoking was ruining my health. One day, I woke up, felt my lungs were about to collapse and decided then and there I was going to quit. And I did, just like that.
I recently quit smoking. Every time I think about it, I work out how much money I am saving. I was on 20 a day, which adds up to over £2000 per year, which means that giving up means that I can travel, something I have always wanted to do.
I gave up smoking over 10 years ago, and I was surprised how easy it was considering the general perception that withdrawal is hell.
It was perhaps made easier in that I had mentally realised that I only occasionally enjoyed smoking, and the rest of the time I was simply following habit.
Why should the NHS pay yet more money to help people quit smoking? It was their choice in the first place, and anyone can quit providing they have the desire to do so, as opposed to trying because it is seen as being the "right thing to do".
You have to really want to quit. People who keep trying the gimmicks like patches are not convinced in their own minds that they want to quit, otherwise they would just do it. I believe that the only way to stop is to know that you want to stop.
Mark Dickinson, England
I think I would want to know something about the side effects before taking this new drug. Having said that smoking itself has many side effects. At the end of the day I think its all down to willpower. But I have noticed that those who have managed to kick the habit then become members of the most strident "anti-smoking" loby.
I smoked through most of my 20's and made 2/3 attempts to stop, none of which were successful. I finally gave up last year as I approached 30. On the earlier occasions I tried to give up because I thought I should rather than because I really wanted to. I was successful when I decided I didn't want to smoke any more rather than I thought I shouldn't.
The difficult part was getting past the first few days/week of craving. Far more difficult was retaining the willpower not to start up again after a month or so.
Brian Milner, UK
The only thing that would stop me smoking is to tax it out of life.
As a smoker myself, I would welcome ANY solution that can help me to quit. I have been smoking for 20 years on and off and will use any method to get around the addiction. Putting up the price of cigarettes just ensures that I travel to Calais every three months to buy at 40% of the UK price, banning smoking in the work place just makes me stand out in the rain ten times a day.
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