Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Smoking. Part II  Data from the HSE shows that one in every two smokers will die from a smoking related illness. 

On January 10th this year, ex-Marlborough Man Eric Lawson died from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.  He was 72.

At least four of the Marlborough Men have died from smoking related illnesses. 

In March it will be 10 years since Ireland introduced the ban on smoking in work places.  Currently legislation to ban smoking in vehicles carrying children has been approved by Health Minister James Reilly and will be enforced before the Summer. 

In Part II of Smoking I speak with an older person who has seen the changes and influences of smoking down through the years.  I chat to the social smoker and to someone who has successfully kicked the habit.   You can catch up with Part I here.

Eric Lawson

The Older Smoker.  Aine, aged 61

Have you been smoking all of your life?
“I started when I was about 17.”

How many would you smoke a day?
“I smoke 5 a day at the moment.  When I was smoking more I never had more than 15 a day.”

Have you ever tried to quit?
“Yes, but not too hard.  Maybe 5 or 6 times.”

Why weren’t you successful?
“Because I didn’t really want to quit, I suppose.  The way I looked at it was I am only smoking 10 or 15 a day and I am going to enjoy them.”

Do you think smoking has decreased in popularity over the years?
“Yes, I do.  I think teenagers today are more aware of the dangers of smoking.”

What do you think of Gerry Collins and the current HSE non-smoking campaign?  Do you think it will work?
“My heart went out to him!  I think it will work because he is very genuine and it is heart-breaking to watch him and hear him talk about dying.  Plus the devastation his illness is causing is family.”

What about the packaging on cigarettes today?  Do they deter smoking?
“I don’t think they (the pictures) will make any difference to those who are already smoking but they might stop someone who is thinking about it.” 
What would you say to someone today who was thinking of starting?
“Don’t!  Just don’t!”

The Successful Quitter.  Liz aged 37

How old were you when you had your first smoke?
“I took my first drag at around 13 and I was grand, wasn't spluttering or anything and I think that was because my lungs etc. were used to smoke as my parents smoked for as long as I can remember.”

What influenced you to take that first cigarette?
“Probably other kids/teenagers also having them - it was "cool", I know that sounds pathetic, but it was and in a gang, if you didn't smoke, you kind of were different and no one likes to be different. So yeah, I'll have a smoke, fit in with the gang and all that!”

Did your parents know you smoked?  How did they find out? 
“In the end yes, but not when I was in school. I got questioned a few times about the colour of my fingers (from holding it wrong) but I never got caught by the smell.”

What was their reaction?
“Disappointment, that I was wasting my money and life on them.”

Did your parents smoke?  Do you think their smoking had an influence on you starting?
“Yes.  Yes as my body was used to smoke.”

Did you experience any peer pressure to smoke?
“I said before that I started to be cool, but there was no peer pressure to start, probably cos I never said no.”

What do you think about the current HSE non-smoking campaign with Gerry Collins?  Do you think it will have an effect?
“Honestly, if I was a smoker and watched it and still enjoyed smoking, I don't think it would influence me to stop. I always knew that smoking kills and I saw the pictures of lungs etc. and if I wanted to still smoke, it would not make me stop. It is a good campaign though and may work on others.”

What made you quit? 
“Two things that happened at the same time - I stopped enjoying smoking and I needed a new (2nd hand) car. So I looked at the amount I spent a month on 25 cigarettes a day and how much I would need for a car loan and the car loan was less than a month’s smoking. The penny dropped - I needed something to go off in my head to trigger the need to stop. So I read Alan Carr's 2nd Easyway book (its bigger with smaller print) in 3 days and it worked. On the 3rd day I got the box with about 10 left in it as I finished the book and threw them in the bin.”

How long did it take? 
“3 days - I think that it will either happen immediately or won't. As in if you wean yourself off with less and less each day, you are still a smoker…whether you smoke 1 a day or 40. You smoke!”

Were there many attempts before you succeeded?
“I had tried about 2-3 times previously but I know now that nothing went off in my head, and I was fighting a losing battle, its mind over matter. There is a switch in there and that has to click for you to give up.”

How long are you “off them?”
“10 years - but in those 10 years, I have had 2 drunken cigarettes and after the 3rd puff, I was feeling ill, so I had the desired effect. I definitely don't see myself ever becoming a smoker again.”

How do you feel now?
“Great - I just wish I could find the switch in my head for weight loss!”

Do you think packaging makes a difference? 
“No, I don't think it matters - for me personally, I would still smoke and you can always come up with your own box to use instead of the graphic ones if they really put you off. If you want to smoke, you will always find a way around any upsets or issues.”

What would you say to someone today who was thinking of starting?
“Don't...cos no one cool smokes these days. I would also say that giving up is one of my greatest achievements. I know that sounds absolutely mental to a non-smoker, but to me it is something I never thought would happen.”

The Social Smoker.  Dee.  In her thirties.

When did you start?

“When I was about 14, I wanted to be cool like the older kids in the theatre group I was in. I didn’t inhale for at least another year though! I went through stages, in university I was a very heavy smoker 1-2 packs a day when I could afford it and even when I couldn’t. Was about half a pack a day as a younger adult and the day I found out I was pregnant with my first I was 22, I threw my pack out the window on the way home from the doctor and vowed never to smoke again. I quit throughout the pregnancy and then started again with the odd one here or there at night. This continued until my next pregnancy where I quit again and continued to stay off them while I breastfed for about a year after. Again I started having a few sneaky ones at night when the kids were in bed. This continued for 6 years until I was pregnant again, same story. Back to the sneaky fags after I finished breastfeeding.”

Do you ever smoke at home or elsewhere?

“Yep, outside at night when the kids are in bed. If I’m out without the kids I would smoke a lot more. Have never smoked in front of them. Would also smoke more when drinking.”

How do you avoid the addiction to nicotine?

“Try to distract myself.”

How do you prevent withdrawal symptoms or do you experience any?

“I just deal with them really.”

Do you buy your own cigarettes?


Regarding the graphic packaging on cigarettes, how does this make you feel?

“Honestly it doesn’t bother me. Kind of silly really, all smokers know what they’re doing, a graphic package isn’t going to change a damn thing, they need to WANT to quit.”

Do your family know you have the odd smoke?

“Himself does because he’s my partner in crime. The wider family know we used to smoke but have no idea we still do and would not approve at all. I still get nervous about my Dad catching me smoking as if I’m a kid again.”

To speak to a specialist cancer nurse, Freephone the national Cancer Helpline on 1800 200 700. Monday – Thursday 9am – 7pm & Friday 9am – 5pm.

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