A Cardross resident is backing ASH Scotland’s ‘Quit and Win’ campaign on national No Smoking Day (Wednesday 8th March 2023) after celebrating nine years of being tobacco-free.
Villager Alastair O’May is supporting the campaign which is highlighting that giving up smoking brings benefits to health, wellbeing and personal finances.
Alastair began using cigarettes as a teenager and, over the years, increased his use of tobacco to the point that he was smoking around 100 cigarettes a week.
Alastair said: “I started smoking when I was 15. I was hanging around with older boys who wouldn’t normally give me the time of day but, as I was a working a part-time job and had wages, they needed my contribution to buy tobacco to make roll-up cigarettes. That was my introduction to smoking. I remember trying to stop not long afterwards but it was already difficult to go without cigarettes. Being so young, I understood nothing about addiction.”
Alastair made around a dozen attempts to give up smoking before finally succeeding, following a health concern that proved to be a major turning point.
“I tried all sorts of half-hearted attempts at quitting but eventually had a reality check with my health. I was experiencing chest pains and an irregular heart beat so was referred to a specialist. Thankfully, it turned out to be absolutely nothing but I was advised in no uncertain terms that I should stop smoking.”
“As a young boy, I recall my mum stopping smoking in her 40s and she hoped it was in time to prevent any real health damage, but sadly she passed away with cancer soon afterwards.
“As I was 44 at the time of my health scare, I decided to seek advice from the NHS’s smoking cessation service. They supported me to identify and divert my attention from trigger points to help reduce my desire to smoke and, with some personal willpower, I finally threw my cigarettes away – it was the hardest thing I have ever done!
“I subsequently experienced something of an overnight transformation. I went to bed one night feeling grumpy because I could not get a cigarette but, when I got up in the morning, I felt different and realised that I could not even stand the smell of cigarettes, never mind smoke one. That was nine years ago and I have not smoked since.
Since giving up cigarettes, Alastair has noticed some real differences in his everyday life. He said: “I had developed a smoker’s cough, which was really annoying. It was particularly irksome coughing after stepping outside to take my first breath of fresh air in the mornings. Thankfully, the cough disappeared very soon after quitting, as my lungs started to heal.
“One of the other benefits of no longer smoking throughout the day was having much more spare time on my hands, so I bought a very cheap bike and started cycling just a couple of miles each night. That was ideal for me and I still cycle regularly. I can even cycle 100 miles now, so my health and fitness have hugely improved!
Following his own achievement in quitting smoking, Alastair is now backing a charity’s drive to encourage others to make an attempt to stop using tobacco too.
Alastair said: “I am pleased to be supporting ASH Scotland’s ‘Quit and Win’ campaign and urge anyone who is thinking about giving up smoking to find ways that work best for them as individuals. There are a lot of different options available and it’s up to each person to find a route that is most suitable for them.”
The ‘Quit and Win’ campaign is highlighting that quitting smoking brings health benefits such as decreasing the risks of coronary heart disease and lung cancer, after one year and 10 years respectively, by about 50% compared to people who continue to smoke tobacco.
Anyone who has the goal of giving up smoking is advised to contact the NHS’s Quit Your Way service by calling the free helpline on 0800 848484 or create a quit plan at www.QuitYourWay.Scot