National No Smoking Day is on Wednesday, March 12 and smokers are being urged to kick the habit for good. AASMA DAY talks to one Preston couple who spurred each other to give up smoking after decades of puffing away.
LIKE most parents, Karen and Neil McDermott would do anything for their children.
So when their nine-year-old son Charlie begged them to give up smoking after realising the danger to their health, the couple felt guilty enough to do something about it.
Karen, 33, who lives with Neil and their sons Charlie and Alfie, five, in Ribbleton, Preston, explains: “Charlie had seen a Stop Smoking campaign advert on the television and he asked us to stop smoking.
“He had also learnt about how harmful smoking is at school and was always nagging us to stop. He couldn’t understand why we couldn’t just stop.
“Neil and I have been together for 20 years and have smoked all the time we have known each other.
“I started smoking at the age of 13 and my mum and older sister both smoked and I thought it was the ‘in’ thing to do.”
Karen confesses that she was starting to get out of breath going up and down the stairs and she knew the time had come to give up smoking for good.
Karen explains: “I wanted to do it for the kids.
“My mum was a heavy smoker and she passed away from emphysema and I didn’t want that to happen to me.”
Karen says Neil was initially cynical when she gave up smoking as he knew she had tried to quit before without success.
However, after a couple of weeks, he was impressed to see she had stuck to it and he joined her by also contacting their local Quit Squad run by Lancashire Care Foundation Trust.
Neil, 38, says: “I really wanted to quit smoking but I had never had the willpower to go through with it.
“It is really easy to fall into a habit as a couple especially when you both smoke.
“It is almost as if you encourage each other or accept that it’s just a part of your life.
“I’d think about quitting when I got to the end of a packet and then before I knew it, I’d be on my way to the shop for some more.
“It was only when Karen spotted the Quit Squad being advertised that we thought “We can actually do this.”
“We started by attending one-to-one clinics with the staff to talk about what we needed to do to quit and the best methods for us.
“By attending the sessions together, we were able to encourage each other to keep going and stay on track when either one of us was in doubt.
“The staff were brilliant and made it clear that they were always available for support no matter what.
“It was great to know that help and advice was on the end of a telephone.
“Since the day we attended the session we have never looked back. We have now gone four months without a single cigarette.
“It is amazing how quickly your health improves and we started to notice within a few days.
“We made a promise to put any money that we would usually spend on cigarettes in a pot and we can’t believe how much it has added up in only a few months.
Karen adds: “Neil has arthritis and I am his carer. Stopping smoking has made a difference to his condition as cigarettes stopped the medication from working as effectively.
“We feel so much healthier and have been doing things like going walking and swimming.
“We are planning to spend the money we have saved on a family holiday - something we can all enjoy together.
“Life is so much better since we stopped smoking and I am determined I will never go down that road again.”
Lancashire Care NHS Foundation Trust’s Stop Smoking service is urging quitters to get in touch if they want help in quitting the habit. The Quit Squad is holding sessions at various locations in central Lancashire to allow people to book an appointment or simply drop in for expert help and advice.
Julie Trezise, Quit Squad service manager at Lancashire Care, explains: “People are four times more likely to succeed in stopping smoking with expert help and advice than if they attempt it alone.
“Our sessions are informal and tailored to the individual. People have nothing to lose by contacting us but a lot to gain. We are often told by quitters that they can’t believe how quickly they started to feel the benefits to their health.
“We are here to help anyone who wants to quit smoking and even if people are just considering it, we are urging them to get in touch.”
n The drop-in sessions take place every week at the following locations:
Minerva Health Centre, Preston - 5pm to 7pm
Chorley Health Centre, Chorley - 5pm to 7pm
Leyland Clinic, Leyland - 5pm to 7pm
St Mary’s Health Centre, Penwortham - 5pm to 7pm
Minerva Health Centre, Preston - 9am to 11am
A number of one-to-one clinics are also available for people who would like to book a specific appointment. Visit www.lancashirecare.nhs.uk and search ‘stop smoking clinics’. The Quit Squad can be contacted on 01772 644474 or at www.quitsquad.nhs.uk.