“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.
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.”
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.
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.