World No Tobacco Day: ‘I had two doses of pneumonia - I knew I had to quit’

The right support is vital to have the best possible chance of quitting tobacco

Mary Grogan: “Now I’m off the patches and just use the inhaler, and I continue to take one day at a time. The days are ticking by, and I am getting stronger and more able”

Mary Grogan: “Now I’m off the patches and just use the inhaler, and I continue to take one day at a time. The days are ticking by, and I am getting stronger and more able”

 

Dubliner Mary Grogan started smoking in the early 1970s. She quit this year, and says she can already feel the benefits of giving up.

“I started smoking when I was just 13 with the odd cigarette as you could buy one at a time in those days,” says the 59-year-old. “It was a cool and grown-up thing to do, so when I started working in a hairdressers at 14 I began smoking full-time, only giving up when I got pregnant with my first child 37 years ago – and only then it was because the smell made me feel sick [it had nothing to do with health reasons].

“But at the time you could smoke in the hospital, so as soon as my daughter was born I went back on them, and never stopped until 10 weeks ago as I smoked throughout my second pregnancy.”

Smoking takes 10 to 15 quality years off your life

There are now more people in Ireland who have quit smoking than habitual smokers (22 per cent of the population compared with 15 per cent), and Thursday, May 31st, is World No Tobacco Day.

Grogan may have continued to smoke for the rest of her days but she became ill last year and realised she needed to quit.

“I had two doses of pneumonia within the year which scared me, and I knew I had to give up the 20 to 30 cigarettes I was smoking each day. It was really difficult, but I took it one hour at a time. Then I saw an ad on Facebook for a women’s group in Blanchardstown [a support group for others trying to quit smoking] so I said I would give it a try.

“The support was great, and it was helpful to know there was someone I could ring if I needed to. We all had a sense of being in it together, and I felt I didn’t want to let the group down.”

For the first couple of months the mother-of-two used nicotine patches and an inhaler to help her beat the cravings, but she is slowly easing off these and feels triumphant and much healthier than she has felt in a long time.

“Now I’m off the patches and just use the inhaler, and I continue to take one day at a time. The days are ticking by and I am getting stronger and more able, and my advice to others would be to make sure to get support and use any help that’s offered, including patches and gum – whatever it takes to get you through each day. I am delighted I have got to this stage and feel so much better for it.”

Best possible chance

Kate Cassidy, tobacco co-ordinator with the HSE, says deciding to quit is one of the most important things you can do for your health, and it’s vital to get the right support to give yourself the best possible chance of success.

“Having the support of the Quit team [a free, personal support service to help quitters] in place as you make your attempt [to give up smoking] is very important,” she says. “Relapse at some point in your quitting journey is a frequent occurrence. Urges to smoke are often triggered by stressful situations, seeing others smoke or when socialising. When becoming a non-smoker, it is crucial that you feel positive and truly believe in your ability to succeed.

“The Quit team will prepare you for this. You are twice as likely to quit for good with our help, and you are four times more likely to succeed when you use medication and or nicotine replacement therapy in addition to our support.

“We know that quitting is difficult and there are many reasons why people may choose to put it off. Our new radio ads look at these reasons and how smoking and quitting make you feel - trapped, fearful of quitting and like a failure when it hasn’t worked in the past. But we also know that people can feel immense pride when they do quit.”

When you quit smoking...

  • Within 20 minutes your circulation will improve, your heart rate and blood pressure will get lower. This reduces your risk of heart attack straight away.
  • Within eight hours the carbon-monoxide level in your blood will drop and the oxygen level will go up.
  • Within 24-48 hours all the carbon-monoxide will have left your body.
  • Within a few days your sense of smell and taste will start to improve.
  • After 72 hours your breathing will improve, and your energy levels will increase.
  • Within two or three months your lung capacity can increase by up to 30 per cent.
  • Within one year your chance of heart attack drops by half, and within 10 years the risk drops to almost the same as a non-smoker.
  • Within five years the risk of smoking-related cancers will be greatly reduced.
  • Once you give up your lungs start to fight back by coughing up tar. A mug full of tar builds up in the lungs of a 20-a-day smoker over the period of a year. It is the toxic chemicals in tar that cause cancer.

Dangers of smoking

  • One in every two smokers will die of a tobacco-related disease.
  • Most smokers (83%) regret that they ever started smoking, and would not smoke if they had the choice again.
  • Smoking takes 10 to 15 quality years off your life.
  • Every 6.5 seconds someone in the world dies from tobacco use. This equals 1.5 million people dying needlessly each year.
  • Every cigarette a person smokes reduces his/her life by 5½ minutes.
  • In Ireland smoking is the leading cause of avoidable death. Nearly 5,500 people die in Ireland each year from the effects of smoking, and thousands of others are ill because of smoking-related diseases.
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