“I hate the smell of cigarettes now, to me it’s disgusting”. This is how proud quitter and long term Hackney resident Sarah Pluck feels after 10 months of going smoke-free.  Sarah stopped smoking when she discovered she was pregnant with her second child Dean, and hasn’t looked back since.

“I’m determined that I’m going to stay smoke free now,” said Sarah. “Once I’ve made it to a year I’m having a party”.  

30 year old Sarah started smoking whilst at primary school because “I wanted to be rebellious” and the habit gradually escalated as she got older. “I used to sneak a cigarette from my dad’s packet and go to the park to smoke it,” she explained. 

Once I got to secondary school, I was buying packets or getting other people to buy them for me and I saw smoking as a way of making friends

Sarah has quit smoking before, when she found out she was pregnant with her first child Louise, who is now 4. However, she found it difficult to remain smoke-free as she was living with smokers at the time and experiencing symptoms of post-natal depression.

I just felt really down and I would sit up crying. The people around me had cigarettes so I would just have one to calm me down and then with time I was fully smoking again
As soon as I found out I was pregnant with Dean, I contacted Carolyn. She was amazing. She’s really understanding but also firm with you when you need it

Sarah was supported by Carolyn Bovelle, a specialist stop smoking midwife from the Homerton who runs a stop smoking clinic every Friday morning at Daubeney Children’s Centre on Daubeney Road throughout both pregnancies. 

Together Sarah and Carolyn came up with a quit plan and found the best medication and techniques for Sarah to use to fight the nicotine cravings. 

Carolyn told me if I’m craving a cigarette, fill a cup with water and drink it slowly, concentrating on that instead of my cravings. She also told me to go out and do something interactive with my daughter or do some housework to take my mind off it
Once you’ve missed that first patch you might allow yourself to have one cigarette and then from there it can escalate

Sarah found that changing her routine was one of the strongest factors in her successful quit attempt. “Before, I would have a cigarette within a few minutes of opening my eyes in the morning and then smoke between 20 and 25 a day. I swapped my morning cigarette for a nicotine patch and then by the time I’d dressed and had breakfast I’d already made it through an hour without a cigarette”. She also knows how important it was for her to stick to that new routine.  

Sarah also found the support of friends and family was really important to her throughout her quit journey.

My husband Mark has been really supportive of me. Whenever I was feeling stressed from the cravings he would tell me to just shout at him to get it out!
My daughter calls cigarettes ‘no nos’ now and whenever he comes over she tells him ‘go outside for no nos granddad!

Sarah still has smokers around her, like her dad, but makes sure she always asks him to not smoke near her.

Sarah is enjoying a happier, healthier life without cigarettes, and has also noticed significant benefits to her bank balance. “I’ve got a jar on my bedside table and I’ve put in the money I would have spent on cigarettes each day. I’ve now got around £1000 saved up and we’re going to use it to take the kids on holiday over the summer.”

Sarah’s advice to anyone who is trying to quit is that changing your routine is key.

Keep at it and take each day at a time. First thing in the morning go and get a drink instead of reaching for that first cigarette, set a new morning routine and then you’re starting your day right. Set your body to your new routine without cigarettes, and your mind will follow

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

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