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Alex quit smoking for COVID

"I took control of the habit"

Exeter University student Alex returned to his parents Dorset home when lockdown started. Three weeks later and he is a non-smoker. This is his story.

"I was at uni in Exeter, living with two other smokers. I was smoking ten to twenty rollies a day, depending on if I was going out or not. I was noticing how it was affecting my breathing. It meant I wasn't doing as much sport. I know more than most about the effects of smoking on the body as I’m studying Human Biosciences!

When lockdown started, I came back home to Dorset. Mum and Dad didn't approve of my smoking. They gave me the space to make my own decision but did encourage me to quit, especially considering that coronavirus is a respiratory illness.

Cold turkey

Three weeks ago, on a Saturday evening, I just said to myself - when I wake up tomorrow, I'm going cold turkey. My morning routine for a year and a half had been to have a rollie and coffee. I made the decision to break that habit and it wasn't as hard as I expected. 

Keeping busy through work and study has been helpful. It's been tricky when I've had a drink, but I keep reminding myself that I don't need it: I am in control. It's been nice to have something I can control during lockdown. I found it helpful to chew peppermint gum - something to keep my mouth moving. And I fiddled with pens – something to keep my hands moving.

'Don't smoke alone, quit together'

My mum showed me a slogan on social media - 'don't smoke alone, quit together', and that made sense for me. After seeing me quit, my smoking housemates also quit - one went cold turkey last week and the other switched to eCigs. They were surprised as I'd usually be the first one to say, ‘let's go out for a smoke’. It's been good to quit together - when we go back to uni we'll be a smoke-free house! Even though we're not living together we’ve still quit together. 

Take back control

Taking control was massive for me. The week before I quit Mum asked if it would help if she took my baccy away – “yeah you can try” was my response, but then the cravings kicked in. It was when I got control of it for myself that I got a handle on it. I said to myself; I am strong enough to not smoke; I am better than nicotine. 

Mum and Dad are pleased. As is my bank account! I'm no longer spending £14 a week on baccy – that’s nearly £750 a year up in smoke. It was inspiring to hear of family members who've quit in recent years. Hearing how they’ve managed to do it banged it home for me. 

Alex with his Dad and rugby team, first from right

I'm seeing the health benefits already. I've family members who work in the NHS so know first-hand the strain it's under. Wouldn't it be brilliant to ease the strain on the NHS as much as possible by quitting smoking? It will take so much pressure off our amazing NHS. 

My throat has been sore, but on the upside, my body has been clearing out the chemicals and toxins. It’s made me realise just how toxic it is. 

Better already

Rugby is still massive for me. I've played since I was four and play for a local club at uni. Smoking was starting to impact my playing, so my teammates will be pleased! I'm out for a walk every day and the occasional run, and my chest already feels lighter. After smoking for a year and a half - to feel this much lighter just three weeks after quitting - I'm looking forward to seeing how I feel by the end of lockdown."

Alex, uni student

"Don't be overwhelmed: now is a good time to break the habit. Give yourself a chance during lockdown."

FREE NRT packs for smokers in Dorset

We’re providing 8-10 weeks of NRT free of charge to help smokers quit smoking. Stopping smoking brings immediate health benefits particularly to the heart and lungs. Reduce your likelihood of added complications from coronavirus. Smokers who register for our smoking cessation support will be able to choose one of three different options available for smokers who would like support to quit smoking:

  • 6 x 30-minute telephone coaching sessions with your dedicated smoking cessation coach
  • 6 x 30-minute telephone coaching sessions with a dedicated smoking cessation coach AND 8-10 weeks of funded NRT
  • Regular email support with a dedicated smoking cessation coach and a 30-minute call four weeks after your quit date AND 8-10 weeks of funded NRT

Our coaching sessions will help you to become smoke-free by supporting you to identify the things you think are preventing you from quitting and working out how you can overcome them. You will also be encouraged to set a quit date as part of your quit attempt.

Our smoking cessation coaches will work with you to work out the right strength of patch and gum for you and will run through how to use each product you are sent. 24-hour patches and gum are on offer for clients who require it to help them quit and will be sent directly to your home from us. 

Start your stop-smoke journey

If you are new to LiveWell Dorset, welcome. We support adults in Dorset to take steps to a happier and healthier life. Our free advice and coaching is provided by your council.

Pick up the phone if there’s anything we can do to support you. You can call us on freephone 0800 840 1628. Register to receive our support. Once you’ve registered we'll call to discuss your stop-smoke plan.

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How does this work?

The tailored approach LiveWell Dorset uses to come up with solutions to the things that are stopping us achieving our goals, is based upon work done by University College London developing the COM-B model of behaviour change. In this model, all behaviour is influenced by understanding a person’s capability to change, their opportunity to change and their motivation to change. By understanding which of these is the biggest barrier to change, we can tailor support accordingly. This model of behaviour change is at the centre of the support we offer, online and in person.

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