A Lisburn couple who smoked a total of almost 80 years between them are urging others to kick the habit.
Leanne and Greg McClean, who quit the habit in November, thanked a specialist team from Cancer Focus and said they were proud to be quitters after giving up cigarettes in the run up to No Smoking Day.
Leanne, who smoked up to 20 cigarettes a day, starting smoking when she was just 10.
“My mum and dad were both smokers so it didn’t seem such a big thing, and there wasn’t the same publicity about how bad it is for you,” she said.
“You become much more aware as you get older, and having grandchildren makes you want to live a long life.
“The statistics show that if you get help from a stop smoking service you’re four times more likely to quit – and that’s exactly what made the difference.
“I’d wanted to give up for a long time, and I did manage for a year but then slipped back. It’s had a toll on my health. I have asthma and my chest felt as if there was a clamp around it. I notice a real improvement since giving up. I seem to have more energy too.
“The doctor advised me to stop but it was Greg who actually made the appointment at the Cancer Focus NI stop smoking clinic at our local health centre.
“We went to the clinic once a week for 12 weeks and stop smoking specialist was very supportive. We had tests to measure the amount of carbon monoxide in our blood and I was shocked to find that my reading was worse than Greg’s – I always thought he was a heavier smoker.
“I want to warn young people who smoke that it really can lead to a life-long habit that is very dangerous for your health. The biggest tip I can give anyone is to get help. It really pushes you along when you know you are going to the clinic every week.”
Greg, whose mother died of a heart attack, said that giving up is the best decision he has ever had to make.
“The main reason for giving up is my health - I have angina,” said Greg. “When I became ill about nine years ago I gave cigarettes up for a bit but was soon back to my old habits. When my mother died of a heart attack I realised I didn’t want to go that way.
“I found it more difficult to stop this time. It was a hard road but I did it.”
Greg said that he sees the benefits to stop smoking.
“I usually have to go to hospital up to four times a year but I haven’t had to go in once this year,” he said. “Food tastes better too. It’s the best thing I’ve ever done in my life – I’m really, really chuffed.”
Find out more about Cancer Focus NI stop smoking service, on 9066 3281,