Everybody smoked at that time, all my mates smoked and a lot of my family did. People back then had been bought up being told it was good for them. The café round the corner from me sold two cigarettes for the equivalent of about two pence so it was just cheap and easy to start.

“It was a stunning day, not the kind of day you want to be at work, and I was outside having a cigarette with the guys when we heard a steel drum playing. We went to see what was going on and it was the Stop Smoking Service doing outreach. I signed up there and then and I haven’t looked back.”

The Hackney Stop Smoking Service ran a closed support group for construction workers on a site in Shoreditch for Stoptober 2016. Stoptober is Public Health England’s national annual campaign that encourages smokers to quit for one month, with the idea that if you can stop for 28 days, you can stop for good.

Alan had been thinking of giving up for a while, but seeing the Stop Smoking Service on the site where he was working was the kick start he needed to quit for good. Alan and 7 of his workmates attended the group weekly, shared their experiences and tips for staying smoke free with one another, and took Carbon Monoxide (CO) tests together to check for levels of the poisonous gas in tobacco smoke.

Alan was bought up in East London and started smoking as a teenager. 

Alan had successfully quit once before, aged 30, shortly after the birth of his daughter.

It was the thought of smoking around her and my wife, it wasn’t good for them”, Alan explained. “There was no kind of support to quit back then so I had to go cold turkey and it was awful. I was a nightmare to be around, I felt like an erupting volcano, you know it’s coming and there’s no way to hold it back, you just get so angry.

After nearly 20 years smoke free, Alan started socially smoking again about three years ago and gradually became a full smoker again. “I started having the odd one in the pub and before I knew it I was smoking again every day.”

She’s been full of encouragement. My stop smoking advisor gave me a laminated sign stating the reason I had quit, and she’s stuck it to the back of the front door so I see it every day. I know she’ll keep me strong.

Meeting his current partner, a non-smoker, prompted Alan to think about quitting, and she has been a massive source of support for him. 

Alan is convinced that he will remain smoke free for good now. “If I do start smoking again I’ll be really disappointed in myself, but I just can’t see it happening”, Alan said. “My sense of taste and smell have come back, and I can’t stand the smell of cigarettes now. I also love going to gigs and I used to find it really hard staying in the venue for a couple of hours without going out for a cigarette, I’d be thinking about it constantly, but now I don’t have that anxiety.”

Alan has some words of encouragement for anyone considering quitting.

Just do it! The way I see it, I might have 30 years of my life left, or I might walk into a bus tomorrow, but I’d like to have as much time as possible and giving up smoking has given me the best chance of getting my 30 years. Why not hedge your bets in your favour?

Hackney’s Stop Smoking Service offers free support groups to local workplaces who sign up to the offer. Groups are great for people who don’t want to give up alone. If one person is having a withdrawal side effect, someone else will be going through the same thing. Sometimes some healthy competition goes on, which makes people think twice about letting themselves and others in the group down by having a smoke after the quit date.

Quitting can make improvements to your lifestyle and health in ways you might not expect.

Smoking and your health›

Thinking about the reasons to quit is a great way to motivate yourself.

Why quit?›

Medications and nicotine replacement can double the chances of quitting smoking.

How to quit›