Cancer Focus Northern Ireland urged thousands of local smokers to stub out their cigarettes and become ‘Proud Quitters’ on No Smoking Day, Wednesday, March 9.
Grandmother, Tammy West, 49, from Lisburn, had a 35 year habit and smoked up to 20 cigarettes a day.
She successfully quit a year ago after her grandson asked her to stop – and now she feels like a new woman.
“I started smoking when I was 13, round the back of the bike shed at school. Everyone was doing it. Back then there wasn’t the same information about the damage you can do to your health,” she said.
“I’d never told my grandchildren that I smoked but obviously I didn’t hide it very well. My grandson Jayden, who was three at the time, said one day ‘Nana please don’t smoke’.
“It played on my mind - I really wanted to set a good example for them.
“Cancer Focus NI came to my workplace with a stop smoking service for employees, so I joined in. I was a bit sceptical.
“Then the stop smoking specialist pulled out a jar of the tar that goes into your lungs, and she had me. A light clicked on in my head.
After cutting down on the number of cigarettes she smoked, and changing her habits slowly, one by one, Tammy finally stopped in June last year.
She said: “I joined a gym and made myself too tired to go outside in the evening for a smoke. It was really intense for the first three weeks and then got easier.
“It was hard – smoking had been very much part of my routine and life for 35 years – it controlled me, no matter where I went I was constantly thinking about where I could go for my next smoke. It’s lovely to be free of it.
“The new me is more relaxed, I’m fitter and healthier and have more money in my pocket. I can’t think of a single thing that would make me smoke again.”
Gerry McElwee, Head of Cancer Prevention at Cancer Focus NI, said: “Stopping smoking can be difficult, but help is at hand. Studies have found that smokers are four times more likely to succeed in quitting with help from stop smoking services than if they go it alone.
“Cancer Focus NI staff will help you assess how addicted you are to nicotine, overcome the fear of quitting, cope with cravings, manage stress, avoid weight gain and adjust to a healthier lifestyle.
“If you stop for 28 days or more, you are five times more likely to stop for good. Why not make today the day you stop.”