I have been a smoking councillor for about 10 years. I am happy to take on anyone and so far the age range has been 12-84 years old. The smoking cessation courses last for 6 weeks, although we, here in our pharmacy, would always support people for longer should they need it.
I suppose my typical client is probably about 30-40 years old and they have been smoking for about twenty years. They have come to realise that their health isn’t something that they can take for granted, as they did in their youth. Often there are children in the family and giving up is prompted by not wanting to expose them to second hand smoke or by slightly older children nagging them to give up.
So what do I want people to say when I see them for the first time? I want them to tell me that they are the ones who have decided to give up smoking. Not their doctor, not their partner, not their children but they themselves. My oldest client (aged 84) had made her own decision to give up. She was brought to each session by a family member and we were all so proud of her when she finally managed to stop.
Sadly I also see people who have already done damage to their lungs and it has been their doctor who has impressed on them the need to take urgent action. My young clients are those I worry about the most. The peer pressure must be huge and it takes a very strong teenager to be the only one in their crowd to give up.
There are two things I really wish for. The first is that that we could reach school aged children and somehow make it unfashionable to even start. The second thing I want is for people to understand that if you have been a smoker you should never ever take the chance of smoking again. I have seen too many people who need to stop for a second time as they didn’t think one would hurt. It does, believe me.
More than 400 people quit smoking every month with the help of NHS smoking cessation services in community pharmacies. For every two smokers who quit, one premature death will be prevented. I do feel that this is such a valuable service to public health and I hope I will be able to continue helping clients for a very long time – not only on No Smoking Day.