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Stoptober: How I gave up smoking for good

October each year marks Stoptober, the 28-day stop smoking campaign from Public Health England, which encourages thousands of people across the nation to quit smoking.

Research shows that if you stop smoking for 28-days, you are five times more likely to stay smokefree for good. Here, Simon, talks about his journey to giving up smoking and how the support helped him curb his habit for good.

It’s been three years since I quit smoking and it’s safe to say it’s the hardest but best thing that I’ve ever done.

I had my first cigarette when I was at school and I’d walk up to the local park with my friends on our lunch and break times. I’d like to call it peer pressure, and even though I wanted to fit in with my friends who had smoked, it was completely my choice to inhale that first breath from a cigarette.

And so it stuck. Before I knew it, I became a full-time smoker. I found myself making excuses to get out of the house to have a cigarette and avoid my mother finding out about my habit. I would have to hide around the corner when smoking where we both worked so she wouldn’t see me, and at home, I’d take my dog for a walk and use that as an excuse to get out of the house and have a cigarette. I also worked long hours in the local nightclub on a weekend when smoking was legal inside, this meant I could smoke all the time - it was safe to say, smoking became an essential part of my daily life.

The smoking ban came into force on 1st July 2007, which meant no more smoking inside. This was when I first thought this could be my first step to quitting my smoking habit and trying to get healthy. I’d try going cold turkey but I could never go a day without smoking and so I continued to smoke.

In 2009 I made the big decision to move 110 miles from my parents and go to university in Newcastle where I studied animation and special effects. I loved it and met some amazing people – who all smoked, making it even easier to smoke whenever I wanted, especially now I didn’t need to hide it.

This made the idea of quitting smoking even more difficult. I always found that while the dangers of smoking were pretty clear, the best way to quit is not. In fact, there was no single best way and I always managed to find a reason why it was ok to just have ‘one more’ cigarette.

It was then January 2016 and I was about to set off on one of my longest journeys where smoking was not an option. It was my once in a lifetime trip to Vancouver where I had to go almost 14 hours on a flight without a cigarette. It was terrible.

But that was it, that was the turning point and I decided at that moment I needed to stop smoking. I was heading to a new city on the other side of the world where no one seemed to smoke and I loved it.

What got me through this?

If you’ve tried or are trying to quit smoking, you’ll know there’s loads of different things you can try and advice you’ll receive, but ultimately what might have worked for someone, might not be the case for someone else. It’s all about finding what works for you. I’d tried everything to stop before and nothing worked; from the plaster style nicotine patches to chewing nicotine gum, it just didn’t seem to make a difference. This time around, I decided to try a flavoured e-cigarette (also known as a vape) with low nicotine and no tobacco. It worked and for the first time in over 15 years, I didn’t crave an actual cigarette!

When I returned back to the UK, I wanted to carry on in my bid to quitting smoking for good and looked for help online. The NHS Stop Smoking services page provided lots of support options and recommended e-cigarettes as being twice as effective at helping you quit smoking as opposed to other nicotine replacement products.

It has now been 3 and a half years since I’ve stopped smoking and I’ve never felt better. I still vape but I’ve lowered the nicotine content to hardly anything and I would consider myself a non-smoker.

Giving up smoking was the best decision I’ve ever made. I would be lying if I said it was easy, but it’s worth it. It’s now Stoptober and the best time join with thousands of others in taking that next step in quitting smoking for good. To find out the support options available to you, click here.