The back problems that Carolina Peters was suffering with were so bad that she needed surgery.
But when her consultant found out she was a smoker, he refused to operate until she kicked the habit as there was a risk of thrombosis.
It was a shock, but gave her the incentive to quit three months ago – and she hasn’t had a cigarette since. Now she’s booked in to have that operation later this month.
The 56-year-old, from Somers Town in Portsmouth, is among those who have received help to stop smoking from PompeyQuit, a city-based service run by Solent NHS Trust.
Carolina says: ‘When I spoke to my consultant, he asked me how many I smoked a day. I said about 20 and that I’d been doing it for 38 years. Then he said he wouldn’t operate because of thrombosis (formation of a clot in a blood vessel). If I wanted the operation, I had to give up smoking.’
She had a particular reason to give up. But for many people, stopping smoking is extremely hard. They want to, but don’t know how to or simply don’t have the willpower. Some may well try to give up as a new year resolution, but lapse back into smoking.
Meanwhile, others just ignore the health risks and carry on regardless. According to PompeyQuit’s Sian Howells, nationally 21 per cent of the adult population in the UK are smokers. But in Portsmouth that figure jumps up to 30 per cent – an estimated 57,000 people.
PompeyQuit has more than 50 free stop smoking clinics running each week throughout the city. Studies have shown that you’re four times more likely to succeed if you don’t try to quit alone.
PompeyQuit offers one-to-one support, quitting with others, drop-ins, specialist help for smokers under 18, plus support for pregnant women and new mums trying to quit and help for patients awaiting surgery to quit.
Carolina says: ‘I spoke to the people at PompeyQuit and after four weeks I managed to stop smoking. Now I’m due to have my operation on January 25.
She adds: ‘I feel so much better because I don’t smoke any more. I’ve noticed my teeth are getting whiter. I feel a lot fitter and I can spot a smoker as soon as I see them.
‘It’s extremely hard to give up and you need determination. You have to think ‘‘I’ve got to do this’’.’
Starting off by using Champix tablets, she eventually quit by just using nicotine patches.
But Carolina’s 16-year-old son. Tom, still smokes and she says she’s particularly worried about the amount of people smoking at a young age.
She explains: ‘We both had a cold before Christmas and I got better, but he’s still got symptoms. He’s had two lots of antibiotics and two chest infections.
‘I told him he should quit but he doesn’t really want to. It just shows how much it can affect you. Smoking can cause so many problems.’
Quitting can have rapid effects on your health. After eight hours, your chances of having a heart attack already start to fall and in 24 hours the build-up of carbon monoxide will leave your body.
But other benefits are much slower. It can take up to nine months for your lung efficiency to increase by up to 10 per cent and 10 years for your risk of lung cancer to fall to around half that of a smoker.
Sian, who is the clinical team manager at PompeyQuit, says: ‘Stopping smoking is not just about the health benefits, but the cost. Smokers on average spend £50 a week on cigarettes.
‘All smokers are different and we try to match to their individual needs. They can get 12-weeks’ worth of nicotine replacement therapy (patches, gum etc) for the price of one prescription charge (£7.40).
‘A lot of people have to try many times before they give up for good. So no matter how many times you’ve tried previously, give it a good go in 2012.’
· For more information about PompeyQuit, call (023) 9236 9234, go to pompeyquit.nhs.uk, or text POMPEY to 88020.
Nicotine gum – nicotine is absorbed through the lining of your mouth when you chew the gum. It gives nicotine on demand, but any that is swallowed is wasted.
Nicotine patches – 16 and 24-hour patches give a constant supply of nicotine. The 24-hour patch means no cravings and is useful if you get up for a cigarette in the night. The 16-hour patch is ideal for regular smokers.
Microtab – a small tablet that dissolves underneath the tongue. It should not be sucked, chewed or swallowed as it will reduce the amount of nicotine.
Lozenge – a sweet you suck slowly. Gives nicotine in a similar way to the Microtab.
Nicotine nasal spray – the strongest replacement therapy available.
The nicotine gets absorbed into your body through the lining of the nose. Especially suited to people experiencing severe withdrawal symptoms.
Inhalator – a plastic device shaped like a cigarette with a nicotine cartridge inside. It releases nicotine vapour into the mouth and throat.
Zyban and Champix – tablets which reduce your desire to smoke and any withdrawal symptoms. A course lasts 2-3 months and these are only available on prescription. Your full medical history must be talked through with your doctor before starting a course.