After nearly 60 years of smoking, 74 year old Thomas O’Reilly successfully quit on 3rd June 2015. A Hackney resident for most of his life, after having moved to the borough from his home town Dublin when he was a teenager, Thomas started smoking at 16. As with many smokers, Thomas’ habit began after being encouraged by friends to try a cigarette.

Every smoker knows it’s bad for them, but after a glass or two of wine it’s easy to think ‘I can just have the one’.

Thomas soon became a regular but fairly light smoker, smoking about five cigarettes a day, which progressed to much more with time. Thomas’ smoking gradually went up to 10 a day and then he started buying 20 packs. By the time he was 40 he was on 30 or 35 a day. Thomas explains that by this point, smoking wasn’t even something he enjoyed, it was more of an instinct and impulse.

When I first started I would feel a buzz like having a glass of whisky or something but then it started to become more of a habit than a pleasure. When I felt down or upset over something I would go to the cigarette packet and smoke one, two, maybe three in a row

Following the passing of two of his sisters in close succession last year, Thomas turned to smoking as a way of coping and began smoking around 50 a day.

I started feeling depressed and I wasn’t eating, I was just drinking tea and smoking, it made me feel better. I would wake up at 4am and then from maybe 4:30am I would be smoking until I went to bed at 1am

Thomas has been working in construction for many years and his job is really important to him. Thomas decided that it was time to give up for good after a serious health scare earlier this year at work.

I was about 60ft up the scaffolding with a cigarette in my mouth. I dropped the cigarette and reached down to pick it up and my leg went and then my speech went and I had to lay down. I thought I was having a stroke. I got taken to hospital in an ambulance and taken to the stroke clinic. They told me that it was an aneurism in my brain caused by a blocked artery. I was told that the smoking had not helped this and the doctor told me “you’ve got to pack it in!” I went to see my GP to get help to quit and he sent me here.
The first two and a half weeks were hard but now I don’t crave them. Ela’s been really good too, she’s told me off a few times but she’s really helped!

Thomas had tried to give up smoking several times over the years using nicotine patches, spray and lozenges but none of these had worked. With the help of Ela, his stop smoking advisor at the Lawson Practice, one of eight GP hubs in Hackney that run stop smoking clinics, Thomas found medication that worked better for him in the form of nicotine gum and an inhaler. Thomas also found that having someone to talk to and support him through the process has really helped him to remain strong.    
Thomas is certain that this time is different to his previous quit attempts and that he is not going to start smoking again.

I’m determined this time, I’m so determined. If I do feel like I want to have a cigarette, I will replace it with something. I chew gum [not nicotine gum] instead. I used to like to smoke all day at work but now if I feel like I want one I reach for my chewing gum.
They’re all really proud of me, they tell me they can’t believe I’ve done it and how quickly I’ve packed it in after smoking 40 or 50 a day. They’ve been told not to smoke around me but it doesn’t actually bother me anyway. I don’t have the cravings anymore.

Although a lot of Thomas’ work mates smoke, they are really supportive of the changes that he has made and they are helping him to remain smoke free.

Since giving up smoking, Thomas feels generally healthier and is getting more sleep. However, the main way that Thomas has seen his life improve is in the money he has saved. He was spending £18 per day on cigarettes as a smoker and has already saved around £500 since he quit. Thomas has 12 grandchildren and two great grandchildren and he says the money he has saved will be spent on treating them.

They’re my children as far as I’m concerned and I want to look after them. Everything I save I will give all to them.

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›