Smoking? You must be joking!

“Smoking? You must be joking!”  – It’s a great slogan which I’m sure will catch the eye during this year’s Stoptober quit smoking campaign.

But quitting, let me tell you, was no laughing matter!

Last October, after a great deal of badgering from our public health team as well as my friends and family, I decided I would take part in the 28 day quit challenge.

Fast forward almost a year and I’ve not had a single cigarette since.

I no longer smell like a stale ashtray, I don’t cough my guts up all the time and my breathing is much clearer.

But it’s been hard work and I take my hat off to all those preparing to take part and those who successfully kicked the habit thanks to last year’s campaign.

Explaining the cravings of a smoker to a non-smoker is tough – it’s a compulsion that is surprisingly difficult to overcome.

Physical, chemical and psychological; it’s a three pronged attack on the senses when withdrawn that remains a battle to deal with.

For those preparing to take part the best reassurance I can offer is that feeling, once battled, does pass.

Sure, certain triggers can set it off again.

Alcohol, for me, can set the cravings off like a greyhound after a hare (part of the reason I’m also getting involved with the “Sober for October” campaign).

But “nicotine replacement therapy” – patches to you and me – can really help and if you ride out the storm, the cravings do settle down (quitting the patches is nearly as bad mind you!)

The biggest positive, meanwhile, (aside from not dying of lung cancer) is undoubtedly the amount of money you put back in your pocket by quitting.

I used to spend nearly 300 quid a month on the dreaded things and the difference that packing it in has made to my bank balance is quite remarkable.

Like all good stories there is a hero too – to be more precise a group of heroes – the Blackpool Stop Smoking Service.

They’ve been a great help, both in terms of the advice and support they’ve provided as well as the practical help they’ve given.

The de-normalisation of smoking that has gone on over the last few years from the smoking ban to the strengthened health warnings and hard hitting advertising campaigns has left smokers a lot ostracised, even attacked.

Like a child who’s told not to do something – there’s a temptation, believe me, to rebel against this and say “to heck with it” I’m having a cigarette.

But the smoking service have really helped me cope with this and deal with stressful situations without using tobacco to keep me smoke free.

They can help you too so I’d urge you to give it a go.