After 47 years, Ealing North MP Steve Pound has given up smoking. He is writing a diary of his highs and lows for the BBC News website.
THE FIRST FORTNIGHT
No fags... but terrible toothache
From the age of 10 to the age of 57, cigarettes have been my constant companions.
Consumption grew from a modest half dozen Player's Weights in my schoolboy days to the 50 per day that I was killing myself with until 11.01pm on Tuesday 14 February 2006.
It is hard to explain to the younger reader how glamorous and exciting smoking was to the impressionable child of the 1950s and 1960s.
I switched to Rothmans because of the advert running in the cinema that showed a bronzed airline pilot park up his BOAC Stratocruiser and relax with a soothing fag and his feet up on the controls.
Although many of my contemporaries switched to Bachelors in puberty, I was tempted by Gauloises and Gitanes as I slumped in the Golden Egg on Fulham Road while wearing a black polo-neck sweater, shades and a beret and waiting for Francoise Hardy to wander in and seduce me.
Cigarettes were an essential part of sexual activity.
Oh, oui, je t'aime: was it all Francoise Hardy's fault?
The impression given was that seduction was commenced by the man lighting two cigarettes and passing one to the awed female and matters proceeded to consummation and the post-coital puff.
I have to admit to smoking pre, post and during the act, but that all ended on Valentine's Day.
From 50 to zero is a lot easier than cutting down and I hit the gum big time.
I thought that it was a bit crunchy and then realised that the concentrated mastication had pulled all my fillings out, so the next week will see the introduction of super-strength lozenges.
Gum, patches and lozenges can take care of the craving with no trouble, but breaking the habit is hard.
I still reached for a fag on waking in the morning and couldn't take a phone call without a Silk Cut, but habits can be broken as well as formed.
- £80 saved, £60 spent on gum and a dentist's bill looming.
- Comfort eating? Nil, as I can't eat with terrible toothache.
- Temper? None of your business!
Are you giving up smoking? Have you any tips, words of encouragement or advice for Stephen Pound?
I gave up smoking a week ago now. Like Paul from Glasgow, I read Allen Carr's Easy Way. This book is amazing. It has given me so much confidence to stop smoking and not use any substitutes like gum or patches. Why is it we treat an addiction with another addictive drug? Why do we stop smoking and put more nicotine into our bodies? This doesn't stop you smoking, it merely prolongs the withdrawals. Read this book and you will realise why the only way to stop smoking is to just stop completely. Hope it all goes well.
Chris Sewell, Rotherham
Stay the course, it is an addiction, but can be beaten in time. Your lungs are already starting to heal themselves, and moderate exercise will help to keep the weight off with smell and taste returning. Keep going!
Candace, New Jersey, US
Stephen, You can cut down on your spend for nicotine gum - sign up with your local stop smoking service and you can get free personalised advice, along with free nicotine patches or gum (only a one off prescription charge of £6.50 to pay). Hope your willpower stays strong!
Anne, Harrow, Middlesex
I'm a child from the 50's and I quit smoking February 19 2006. Funny how talking about your smoking debut brought me back to memory lane. Tried the patch for two days, forgot to put it on the third day and did not notice any difference. I have strong cravings with or without the patch from the moment I get into my car to go home after work. I also tried the gum, and yes I also notice that I have a few feelings that need to be replaced. The way I cope with it now is, every time I get a strong craving, I remember how sick it made me the first time I had a smoke. I think of all those mornings I would wake up and cough for about 30 minutes and so far this works for me, and if that does not work, I suck on a pretzels not the nice soft one, the dry classic style. The biggest side effect to quitting smoking is the need to have something in your mouth all the time, and of course food is the first thing that comes to mind. I feel like I'm trading one addiction for another one. Good luck!
Bibi, Brampton Canada
I have stopped with the help of liquorice root. Suck it when you want to smoke a cig. The taste is revolting. Liquorice root detoxifies your body and the feel of the root in your mouth is like a cig. Try it, it worked for me.
Keep going! I gave up two months ago and it is the best thing I have ever done. This time went cold turkey with the help of the book by Allen Carr and would recommend it 100% and definitely won't ever smoke again. This method has been much better than gum which I had a similar problem with in a previous quit and cost me hundreds in dental treatment. My advice is to get the damn nicotine out of your system rather than keep topping up with gum then after a week its down hill all the way.
Fiona Hannah, Essex
I have been fag-free for just over a year now and the only thing that kept me going was origami. Every time I had the urge for a ciggie I folded something complicated and by the time I had finished folding the craving had passed. At first I had a house full of frogs, cranes, ducks and goodness knows what. But I only have to resort to it on the odd occasion now.
J, Hertford, UK
My other first quit when his daughter was born and quit for two or three years but then started again while doing a stressful job. He quit again using Zyban a couple of years ago, but I didn't so eventually he came back to it. Six months later we both quit together and succeeded for three months to stay off them. Then we got made redundant at the same time and restarted. A year later we tried again, this time using the Allen Carr method and again got to three months and restarted at New Year. One month later I discover that I'm pregnant and have to stop. I have to ask the question - can he do it on his own?
Darkbear, Chard, UK
Do not give up giving up! Try Neil Cassey's book 'The Nicotine Trick' and take any nicotine replacement available to you. Nothing is as bad as smoking and it will be the best day's work you ever did. I gave up using this method three years ago and I have never felt better. It will save your life. The book is great. Read it several times and mark out the good bits that are relevant to you. You will do it. I am a specialist cardiac nurse from Cornwall and have seen cigarettes destroy far too many lives. Don't let it be yours.
Chris Duffield, Redruth, Cornwall
I gave up my 20 a day habit of 18 years on 30th December 2005. Used the patches and they seemed to stop my cravings and the habit, don't know whether it was psychological or not. It's hard but worth it. Never stop trying to stop! Well done and keep at it.
Jayne Camps, Rochdale, England
I think that giving up smoking is something that you can only do when you are truly mentally ready. You have to really want to stop. I myself was a smoker for 15 out of my 31 years and previous efforts of 'cutting down' and all the gum in the world didn't help me to quit. Until June 3rd 2005 - I simply decided I'd had enough and so walked away. I owed it to my partner, family and myself.
Jenni Todd, Rickmansworth, UK
I stopped smoking on the 13th January 2006 after my partner came home and told me he was being made redundant. I smoked all my tobacco in one morning and put the lighter, papers and filters into the bin. I haven't looked back. However I do still twitch when in a pub or restaurant with friends who smoke. Stopping is easy, it's breaking the cycle that takes ages.
Terry , Brighton, UK
Well done that man!
Tom Knight, London, UK
Hi - try Allen Carr's book - it is particularly excellent for the heavier smoker. The key with the book though is to continue to read it - I must admit to lapses back into smoking when I have not read it for some time!
Jane Robinson, UK
I recently quit smoking on 14th September 2005 and I have to say I tried numerous times before. What did it this time was a book I was recommended. Alan Carr's Easy Way to Quit Smoking. It has a different approach to the age old 'it's going to kill you' (which we already know) and focuses on the benefits derived from quitting and most importantly, tricks to stop you from having that one cigarette that will start the habit all over again. Good luck to you.
Richard Holland, Loughborough University, England
Nicotine patches, gum, lozenges, etc. are all available on NHS prescription, so save yourself even more money than buying over the counter. The only way that worked for me was cold turkey... no cigarettes, no patches, no gum... you are only drawing out the process otherwise.
Stuart Thompson, London, UK
I gave up on the 1st January 2006 after 16 years. I used patches, but the best advice I was given was to exercise - something to do with endorphins?? Anyway, I now run every other day and can feel the difference already, no more lungs like shrivelled walnuts. I also weight train and the two combined seem to work in totally getting rid of the cravings and habit part. Never thought I'd be able to do it, but two months in and still going strong.
Steve , Ipswich
Stephen, Just wanted to say that I loved your comments in the House of Commons - didn't know MP's had such a good sense of humour. As an unsuccessful giver-upper I'll be watching your progress with interest and wish you all the luck in the world!
Maureen , Croydon, England
I found attending an NHS smoke stop group really helped me! It's good to share how you are getting on with others. Lozenges do remove the craving but it is hard to reduce the amount you are taking. I am now only taking roughly four 4MG lozenges a day but I have now learnt how to forget about when I am going to take another one. My tip would be when you are finding it hard take deep, bottom-of-lung breaths and concentrate on them. Also think about the reasons why you stopped in the first place.
Ian, Poole, UK
I've quit five times. The longest was for seven years. My last cigarette was 16 months ago. Quitting is easy, but staying quit is a bit trickier. You just have to remember that you are a complete liar and can't be trusted. Cigars aren't the same as smoking is one I usually tell myself, or, I'll just have one cigarette (and what harm could that do?). The gum, patches, lozenges and other things are junk, though. If you have the strength to quit with them you can easily quit without them and you'll break your addiction to nicotine quicker. Toss that rubbish in the bin, throw out all your smoking paraphernalia and get a punch bag for those rocky moments around day three.
Mike, London, UK
Keep going and failing all else try the inhalator - I have been using it more to break the habit than the actual nicotine intake - it tastes awful but is working and eventually, so I'm told, I will just phase it out without actually realising it! Good luck... as for my temper... Don't even go there!
I just wanted to wish you well in giving up smoking. It is never too late to stop smoking. I am 32 and smoked for twelve years. I have given up smoking for approximately seven months. I found the first two weeks the hardest. Gradually, it has become easier and, as Steve has said, it is all about breaking the habit. I wish Steve well in giving up smoking.
Stephen, Bury, Cambridgeshire
I would like to wish Mr Pound luck and say I cannot imagine smoking 50 in a day at all, never mind every day. I get through fewer than ten a day in the week and have maybe 25 or 30 over the weekend, and that is enough! Hope it works - keep at it.
Chris Sheppard, London
I gave up two weeks and three days ago. I am in the marathon and really don't need to smoke alongside training. Plus I could burn a fellow runner on the day! Just take each day at a time and try the inhalators, they have helped me. Go for one of them rather than a 'real' cigarette. Good luck!
Nina , Colchester
Hi Steve, I gave up in November 2005 so I am ahead of you and I know that should be enough incentive for you to carry on.
Malcolm Cantwell, Harrow
I gave up after six attempts with the aid of a hypnotist on the 28th January 2004 and can say the first two years are the worst. Never think just one will make me feel better because as soon as you have had a smoke again you will feel a lot worse because all the hard work you put in to give up is lost and you loose that smug look when others are outside in the cold lighting up.
David Brown, Peterborough UK
Keep it going, you're doing so well and sound really positive! Breaking habits was certainly the hardest thing for me. What helped me was the mindset that I was ditching a parasitical influence on my life rather than losing my best friends. Tip: Wash/dry-clean all your clothes and have your car valeted. More expense, I know, but the sweet clean smell certainly kept me focussed. You'll certainly notice how the smokers smell. Yuk! Good luck Steve.
Jennifer Nicol, Peterborough, UK
I quit on January 4th after smoking from the ages of 12 to 25. So many psychological associations to get over, for example I'd never had an alcoholic drink without a ciggie in the other hand. It's hard but it'll be worth it. I've taken to my sick bed with flu this week and my chest hurts so much, but just think how painful it would have been if I was still puffing away!
Felicity Matthews, Sheffield, UK
Keep going. I gave it up in May last year by reading the Allen Carr book and I know that I will never smoke again. Try it - it's cheaper than gum, patches and dentists and I promise it's easier too. It just helps adjust your thinking - it is that simple. Good luck.
Allen Carr's Easy Way To Stop Smoking (ISBN:0141026898) is seriously easy without any props like nicotine replacement therapy etc. My wife and I bought a copy each & read the book on holiday in the Canaries and nearly two years later we are still smoke-free without any effort at all. We both used to smoke 20 a day. Her mother, a 30 a day smoker, finally succumbed to our nagging and read the book - a year later still no smoke. If you are serious about quitting smoking, read this book. So many other friends of ours are putting off reading it, making excuses. We believe they are scared of the thought of not smoking again... it is a daunting prospect to the cigarette addict. But read this book & you will become an ex-smoker, free of nicotine addiction, instead of a gum/lozenge dependant stress ball.
Eddie Cooper, Gloucester, UK
I have recently given up smoking, and I have to say that I have quickly noticed a real difference in my general health and appearance. I have had a couple of slip-ups, but it really is worth it, so stick at it!
Lauren Faith, London, England
Stopped smoking on Friday 10th February, had to go to Kenya for a week on business, and vowed that I would not start again following a twelve hour journey. Feel really good, cravings yes, but smugness overcomes them. Not substituted cigs with anything. I know that I will never smoke again. I almost stopped 18 years ago for seven years, and knowing both sides of the ashtray, I am determined that I will smoke no more.
Richard Clemo, Preston - Lancashire
I suggest Stephen gets pregnant. Other cravings replace those of nicotine and morning sickness does the rest. I gave up smoking on September 25th 1992 - the day I found out I was pregnant for the first time.
Jessica Gooch, UK
Smokers are a unique group in society - by a single action they can do more to benefit their health than any other group - by stopping smoking. Stopping is easy I did it dozens of times - until in June 1995 I stopped for good after having smoked for 40 years. I am 65 next month and would be dead if I had not given up. It is the very best thing a smoker could do - give up the dammed curse of tobacco.
Ian R, Scotland
I am now on my tenth day as a non-smoker. I started at school around the age of 13-14, and I am now 42. I have been getting my head around stopping for some time, especially when my 17 year old daughter took up the habit (but has stopped thankfully) and my youngest daughter reminds me how much it effects her health when I smoke! I have used the patches. I have found they take the edge off, which is good, but like you say its the habit of reaching for a ciggy, in the morning, after meals, in the car, a quick break at work to recharge the battery. Am I stressed? Yes, a little. Do I want to kill? Yes, I think I could. I haven't told many people at work as I am in the minority of about 50 work people and only three of us smoke, so we are frowned upon as unclean! I am determined to stick at it this time and I really can recommend the patches, tried the gum before and did not like it. I went to my first help group at my GP yesterday as you can get the patches on prescription! They were very good and gave me some good ideas on what to munch on instead. Good luck, Steve.
Sarah Bradley, Solihull, Birmingham
Give the NRT a miss and read Allen Carr's Easy Way to Give Up Smoking. This book should be handed out on prescription since it has such an amazing success rate.
Paul Brown, Glasgow
Good luck to you, sir. I salute your efforts.