Stop smoking and reap the financial and health benefits for years to come, as our three ex-smokers have found.
How quitting gave Allen more time with his family
Before he quit smoking, Allen Champion, 53, from Cambridge, was doing two part-time jobs as a taxi driver and a bus driver, on top of his full-time role as a Park and Ride site coordinator, just to sustain his 50-a-day addiction.
Allen has now packed in smoking, and given up both of his extra jobs, giving him more family time.
“My daughter Roxanne was delighted when I quit,” says Allen. “Even from an early age, she’d complained about my smoking.” Roxanne was over the moon when, on 26 December 2009, Allen reached a year of not smoking, and now the day serves as an annual reminder of his achievement. “She has a big grin on her face every Boxing Day,” he says.
Allen now classes himself as a non-smoker. “It’s made a huge difference to my life,” he says. “I don’t have to work 14- to 16-hour days, six days a week, which means I have more time to spend with my family. That’s more precious to me than money.”
If Allen hadn’t quit smoking just over four years ago, he would have needed to earn £27,147 just to carry on funding his smoking addiction up until now. That’s a lot of extra miles he would have had to clock up on his taxi meter.
How Andreena and Stefan quit for their kids' sake
Andreena Bogle-Walton, 31, from Walthamstow in London, says she has more money since quitting her 15-a-day habit, some of which she spends on enjoying extra time with her daughter, Renée.
“I was always broke when I smoked. Now I have more money to take Renée out,” says Andreena. “We go to the cinema, we go out to eat and I’m able to buy her more clothes and books as she really enjoys reading. Plus, if Renée comes to me asking for help with her homework, we’ll sit down together. I no longer tell her to go to her room because I’m smoking. That’s gone now.”
I was always broke when I smoked. Now I have more money to take Renée out
Andreena decided to pack in cigarettes when Renée, who was seven at the time, came home from school having learnt about the risks. “She said, ‘Mummy, you’re going to die.’ She just wouldn’t let it go. I did it for her,” Andreena says.
Similarly, Stefan Klincewicz, 41, resolved to quit when prompted by his eldest daughter, Eva, when she was seven years old. “She would ask me why I was smoking and say I was going to die. Her asking me to stop made me take action – I did it for her sake,” he says.
How Stefan turned from a smoker into a marathon runner
Stefan joined an NHS Stop Smoking Service for support, where he says he learnt “a few golden nuggets” about how to use patches and gum properly.
He also started running to take his mind off his cravings. Soon he was enjoying it, running longer distances and even competing in 5km races at his local park in Guildford. He became a regular and someone suggested that he join a running club.
In April 2011, he ran the London Marathon. It was the first of 15 marathons, and he is about to take part in the gruelling Marathon des Sables – a six-day, 151-mile race, which will take him across the Sahara desert.
“I have never felt as well as I do now,” says Stefan. “I feel razor-sharp, full of energy, more positive, more alive.”
I feel razor-sharp, full of energy, more positive, more alive
In Andreena’s case, quitting smoking was a career-changing decision. After being smoke-free for five months, she resigned from her job as a hospital administrator to retrain as an NHS stop smoking adviser. “I felt if I could take on smoking and conquer it, I could do anything,” she says. She is now a specialist stop smoking adviser for City and Hackney.
Not everyone who stops smoking will run a marathon or change their career, but giving up is still the single best thing you can do for your health. After just 20 minutes, your blood pressure and pulse return to normal and, after 24 hours, the carbon monoxide is eliminated from your body.
Quitting also reduces your risk of dying from coronary heart disease. One year after giving up, your risk of dying from coronary heart disease is halved and, after 15 years, your risk falls to the same level as someone who has never smoked cigarettes.
Help with giving up
Still, quitting isn’t easy.
“Every smoker knows the dangers, but until it really affects them, there’s just no real reason to quit,” says Andreena. “I know what it’s like to have one cigarette left and not be able to smoke it at night because you know you’ll need it in the morning.”
Andreena used a combination of patches and gum to help her quit and was supported by a stop smoking adviser who helped to keep her on track whenever she felt tempted.
Quitting was hard for Allen, too. “My father and his brothers were all smokers and died through heart-related diseases,” says Allen. “Over the years, I’ve tried every possible method of quitting.” The breakthrough came when his GP recommended he try the drug Champix, which reduces the cravings and helps with nicotine withdrawal symptoms. The medication helped Allen quit successfully.
11 March - No Smoking Day: set the date
Setting a quit date and preparing for it makes you more likely to succeed. Every year, three-quarters of a million people attempt to give up on No Smoking Day. Since the campaign’s launch in 1984, No Smoking Day has helped more than 1.5 million people stub their cigarettes out for good.
“It’s brought our family closer together,” says Stefan. “Sometimes when I’m running, my daughters come out with me on their bikes. We’re all having fun and they’re spending time with their daddy.”
No Smoking Day facts
750,000 the number of people who make a quit attempt on No Smoking Day
1984 year of the first-ever No Smoking Day
11,500 number of people registered on the stop smoking online forum
£7 average cost of a packet of 20 cigarettes
£2,555 cost of smoking 20 cigarettes a day for one year