I did not like being a smoker”, said Hanim. I hated to smell of cigarettes, to be known as a smoker. But I was under the control of nicotine. Now, I have more energy, am less tired and most importantly, I feel back in control of my life.

Hanim Boyraz is feeling proud of herself. After 27 years as a smoker, she has just become Hackney’s latest resident to be smoke-free for 12 weeks and receive her certificate from Hackney’s Stop
Smoking Service.

Hanim started smoking as a teenager, when she was living in Istanbul with her parents. “I would just smoke socially when out with friends. My parents didn’t smoke so I did it secretly. Then I got addicted and over time I increased the number to almost a packet of day.”

Hanim and her husband moved to the UK in 1989. Over time, the more she smoked, the more she saw it impact on her health. “I started to have really bad breathing problems and was coughing a lot. So earlier this year I went to see my doctor and they advised me to stop smoking. They then referred me to the Stop Smoking Service.”

Fortunately for Hanim, the Hackney Stop Smoking Service has a number of specialist advisors who speak Turkish. One of those is Zerrin Simsek who runs clinics in several GP surgeries across the borough.

Having Zerrin as my advisor helped a lot,” Hanim explained. “It meant I could express myself in my own language and develop a connection with her during our sessions. She understands my culture too.

Hanim saw Zerrin every week and was given patches and chewing gum to help manage the nicotine cravings.  When she went on holiday to Turkey in July, she took enough supplies to last her while she was away. 

“When I was in Turkey, I gave some of my patches and gum to my two brothers and brother-in-law to try. They were all heavy smokers on about 45 cigarettes a day.  I said to them ‘you don’t lose anything by trying’’. They were so impressed that I had stopped smoking that they went out and bought their own gum and patches and since July not one of them has touched a cigarette.”

Smoking rates are still high in the Turkish and Kurdish communities living in the UK, despite a decline in prevalence nationally. Hanim says culture plays a role. 

Smoking is seen as part of our culture. If friends come round, you offer them your cigarettes so they don’t smoke their own. It’s about sharing what is yours with them. It’s going to be hard to change that but I have told all my friends to not offer any to me and I hope they will respect that. I’m also trying to encourage those that smoke to come to the service and try and quit because it really helps.

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›