Stub it out: Three ex-smokers share their stories

John Sked, from Muirhouse, is feeling the benefits after stopping smoking. Pic: Phil Wilkinson.
John Sked, from Muirhouse, is feeling the benefits after stopping smoking. Pic: Phil Wilkinson.
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MORE smokers than ever are stubbing out cigarettes with the help of support services across the Lothians.

A dozen people a day are kicking the habit while 70 per cent of remaining smokers also say they want to quit.

The rising cost, better help and the impact of the smoking ban are behind the increase, according to three people who share their stories in the Evening News today.

Successful quitters say there has never been a better time to take the plunge – which is why 13,000 people have already quit in the Lothians over the past three years.

John Watson, from Ash Scotland, said: “Things are obviously a lot better than they used to be. Youth smoking is at its lowest level since we started doing surveys in the 1980s.

“I think the big shift we have seen in society is that it is the less normal thing to do. That’s why more people are choosing to access the stop smoking services available to them.”

Smoking rates are falling by 0.5 per cent a year. But nearly a quarter of people still smoke in the region and we hope to drive that down towards zero.

The encouraging statistics apply to quitters who were still smoke-free after a month. But now NHS Lothian has set itself even more challenging targets – with success measured after three months. Dr Dermot Gorman, public health consultant for NHS Lothian, said he was confident this can be achieved.

The joint campaign with NHS Lothian and Community Pharmacy Scotland has won support from across the board.

Green Councillor Chas Booth said: “As a father of young children I’m looking forward to them growing up in a city where people have chosen to put smoking behind them and have been supported to do so.”

I didn’t realise I was putting my dogs in danger

HARDENED smoker John Sked would never spark up in front of his wife Bet, particularly as the health dangers became increasingly apparent over time.

But he thought nothing of having a cigarette in front of their two pet dogs Rosie and Charlie – until he took them to the vet one day and saw the devastating consequences it could have. At the time he was smoking 20 to 30 a day and had done from the age of 14 back when it was “the done thing”.

A leaflet about the dangers of passive smoking and how smoke can cling to a dog’s coat made John, 78, realise he did not want to risk his pets’ – or his own – life any more. Now he has been smoke free since August 2012 – and bought another spaniel with the money he saved.

He said: “I never thought twice about smoking in front of the dogs. I didn’t realise that passive smoking was so dangerous for them.

“The smoke clings to their fur and when a dog washes themselves, they’re obviously licking it and taking in all the harmful chemicals.

The retired oil pipeline worker also had a few health problems related to his smoking. He had an oral cancer scare and was diagnosed with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder (COPD). It took him four attempts to pack it in for good but is now using his own experience to help others at a support group in Craigroyston.

“I can’t stand the smell of stale smoke any more – I think to myself that that’s what I used to smell like.

“I still go to a support group once a week, not for myself, but for the people that are starting out. I find that having people there who have already experienced it is a big help. If I can stop just one person from smoking by sharing my story, it’s worth it.”

I smoked 50 a day but cancer diagnosis made me quit

HEARING he had cancer was the biggest shock of Alan Mann’s life.

The grandad-of-two from Broxburn was desperate to see his grandchildren grow up and needed no more encouragement to kick the habit – despite smoking about 50 cigarettes a day.

Alan, 56, a heavy plant operator, was diagnosed after he went to the doctors to get a cough checked out. He was horrified to discover he actually had neck cancer.

Further tests revealed he had two tumours, which were later removed at the Western General Hospital last year.

Following the surgery he underwent chemotherapy and radiotherapy to fight the life-threatening disease.

He said: “There were a lot of factors that made me quit but going to the Western was certainly one of them. I’m not the sort of person that would go to group sessions and talk it out, I’d usually think it was a waste of time, but it made the process of quitting so much easier.”

Since stopping smoking a year ago, Alan has noticed huge benefits not only to his health but his family too.

He is especially enjoying the time he can spend with grandchildren Connor, three, and Grace, six months.

He said: “We’ve had more money than we did before and we’ve managed to redecorate the kitchen and noticed that the walls are a lot whiter for longer.

“When I smoked, I would have the heater on full when I drove anywhere as my feet were always cold. But now the circulation in my hands and feet is much better.

“Everyone’s benefited from me giving up.”

Losing my brother to a smoking-related illness made me give up for good

DOCTORS noticed Alistair Flockhart sounded wheezy and asked him to get his breathing checked by a nurse.

The 64-year-old was shocked when he could only breathe in and out for one second, both ways, when tested on a special machine.

Having suffered bronchitis when he was younger, Alistair, of Milton Road, thought his shortness of breath was down to that.

But doctors diagnosed him with asthma, brought on by his habit of smoking a 25g pack of tobacco a day, and he thought he needed to do something.

Unlike most smokers, Alistair took up the habit when he was 26, having gone to a friend’s birthday and liking the smell.

It soon became a habit until, nearly 40 years later, he lost his brother to a smoking-related illness.

He said: “My brother had been a smoker and I thought I’ve lost him to it, I’m not using myself to it as well.

“I’d already started to cut down and had been attending classes but this was the real trigger that made me give it up for good.

“I couldn’t believe it when I threw all my papers, tobacco and lighters in the bin but that was it.

“I found the group meetings really helpful as we were able to share tips with one another and see how everyone else was coping.

“Some of my friends have also seen that I’ve managed to quit and are doing the same.

“There was no reprimanding for anyone that had slipped off, we’d just tell them not to do it next time.”

Alistair said he had experienced huge benefits to his health, his breathing vastly improved and it had even helped him deal with his bipolar disorder.

He found the best method was using nicotine patches and attended regular smoking cessation sessions in Leith.

Now smoke-free for a year, Alistair has treated himself to a pet cat to take his mind off any old cravings.

“I’ve just got a cat which is a great companion for me as well as a distraction to smoking.

“My bipolar episodes are less severe too.

“When I walk past smokers now, I realise I don’t want to smell of smoke any more.”