Gerard Rogan, from west Belfast, is an electrical and mechanical engineer at local manufacturing company, Montupet. With the help of Cancer Focus NI’s Stop Smoking service, Gerard successfully stopped smoking after 12 years.
“I had my first taste of cigarettes when I started secondary school at 11 years old. My friends were a few years older than me and had already started smoking – it was an unwritten rule that I’d start too. On the way to school we’d stop in the local newsagents to buy our lunch. We’d also buy a packet of 10 cigarettes. I started with a drag or two of a mate’s cigarette. The first few times it made me vomit and feel light headed but my friends told me not to worry and that it’d pass.
“Soon enough I was chipping in with another two friends for a packet of 10 so we’d get three cigarettes each. It progressed from three people sharing a packet of 10, down to two people, and then eventually having my own 10 pack to smoke.
“It very quickly became a part of my everyday routine: I’d have a cigarette on the way to and from school. Although I knew my mum would have killed me had she known I was smoking, I didn’t worry too much about it because my dad smoked.
“When I moved into senior school smoking became much more accessible and I started to smoke during break and lunchtime as well.
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“When I left school and started to work I could afford to buy packets of 20 cigarettes. I soon started to smoke 20 a day. For me, it was less about craving a cigarette and more about how it was ingrained in my everyday routine. I’d wake up and have a cigarette, have breakfast then a cigarette, on my tea break I’d have a cigarette and so on. I tried to stop a few times, once using e-cigarettes, but after two months I was back on the real thing.
“In November my boss organised Cancer Focus NI’s Stop Smoking programme to come in to our workplace and help employees who wanted to quit. Over 20 employees signed up. It was a 12 week programme that involved a Cancer Focus NI Stop Smoking specialist, Bernie, coming in on a weekly basis to support our attempt to quit.
“Bernie made the time to get to know everyone taking part. She became familiar with our smoking habits and then advised on making changes to our habit before we set a quit date. After speaking with Bernie, I realised that I smoked a lot in my car especially on the way to and from work so she asked me to start with breaking this habit.
“Although I was still smoking, I had made my car a ‘smoke free area’ and that gave me the confidence to take the next step to quit completely. Bernie was also able to advise on and supply us with suitable Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT) that would help each individual quit.
“Each week Bernie carried out a health check to measure the amount of carbon monoxide in our lungs. The drop in my carbon monoxide level was amazing to see, even after one week of cutting down or stopping smoking altogether. I found being able to see evidence of how I was making a difference to my health really motivating.
“Our quit attempts became a bit of a challenge among the staff. We started to keep each other updated on our progress and offered encouragement whenever it was needed. It was like a joint effort.
Effects of smoking
“The programme made us think of all the effects of our smoking. Not just on our health, but also on our pockets. Typically I would have spent £70 a week on cigarettes, that’s £280 a month and over £3,600 a year. To think what I could have bought with the money I’d have saved after 12 years of smoking!
“I stopped smoking in December 2013 and managed to stay off them even over the Christmas holidays – I didn’t even let a sneaky draw pass my lips! To be honest I’m not really missing it. Once I managed to break the habit of smoking in my car I realised that I could stop smoking anywhere.
Step by step
“I feel I really benefited from the programme and that it helped me to look at my quit attempt in a different light. By breaking it down into manageable steps it made it seem more attainable.
“Without question the professional advice I received through Cancer Focus NI resulted in my successful quit attempt. I used to think ‘once a smoker, always a smoker’ but now I know differently because I managed to stop after 12 long years.”