‘Stoptober’ got off the ground on 1 October, and I am one of hundreds of thousands of smokers who will try not to smoke over the next 28 days.
It’s the fifth year of Public Health England’s initiative to get smokers across the country to quit. Last year, 2.5 million smokers took up the challenge in October, and 500,000 – that’s 20% – were successful.
In my case I’m cheating a bit, because I’m also attending smoking cessation sessions with a nurse at my GP’s practice. For the past couple of weeks I’ve been taking Zyban tablets, which aim to reduce cravings for nicotine. For the first seven days, I was allowed to continue smoking if I wanted to, but after that I have to bite the bullet and officially become a non-smoker.
- Visit the Stoptober website for more information and support
I hesitate to say this because this is about my fourth attempt to give up, so I won’t really believe I can do it until I’ve managed to avoid temptation for at least a few months.
The reason for my cautious approach to this month’s attempt is that I have tried all sorts of methods to give up nicotine, but with limited success. A hypnotherapy session with a professional therapist – which helped me to have an ‘inner voice’ reinforcing the message that I was a non-smoker – worked for just a few months. I have tried Paul McKenna’s Quit Smoking Today book and CD, but found I fell asleep listening to his mellifluous voice. I have also read Alan Carr’s Easy Way to Stop Smoking – a bestseller that ex-smokers have raved about, but it made no difference. I have worked my way through nicotine replacement therapy, sticking on patches, chewing gum and inhaling foul-tasting sprays, but soon started to cheat with the odd fag until, before I knew it, I was back on 20 a day.
I’m a bit of a hypochondriac, so it’s surprising that the thought of developing throat or lung cancer hasn’t been enough to deter me. According to the British Lung Foundation, about 85% of lung cancer cases occur in smokers or ex-smokers. The risk of getting lung cancer increases with the total number of cigarettes you have smoked, but if you stop smoking the risk reduces over time.
While I literally want to breathe easy, the other reason I’ve given up is to save money. My 20-a-day habit costs about £9.60 a packet, so my weekly spend on cigarettes was £67.20 a week. Over a year, my nicotine budget would be about £3,500 a year.
Even as I write this, I am shocked to think that I’ve been spending £3,500 a year, risking my health in the process. If, for example, I save just £300 a month from my ex-nicotine habit into First Direct’s Regular Saver, which offers 5% interest, next October I would earn around £97 in interest and would have around £3,700.
That’s enough to book a week’s holiday for two in an exclusive resort in St Lucia, or I could buy an Apple Macbook Pro and still have change for a week’s holiday in Crete – and make a donation to the British Lung Foundation.
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