Sheena’s Stoptober challenge – week one

Stoptober, the 28-day stop smoking challenge from Public Health England is back and is encouraging smokers to swap their fags for gags PICTURE BY JEFF MOORE
Stoptober, the 28-day stop smoking challenge from Public Health England is back and is encouraging smokers to swap their fags for gags PICTURE BY JEFF MOORE
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MOST people will be aware of the national campaign Stoptober – encouraging smokers to cut out the cigarettes for 28 days in a bid to quit.

Nationally, the campaign has been backed by a host of famous faces with the slogan ‘swap the fags for gags’.

What most people don’t know, however, unless they follow me on Twitter, is that I am also taking on the challenge.

It all started with a phone call from the press team at West Sussex County Council asking if anyone in the office smoked and would like the support of Smokefree to take part in Stoptober.

I had already been thinking about quitting – my 30th birthday is next year and somehow I never imagined myself still smoking by that age.

So I agreed to take part and, just for the added pressure, write about my experiences.

So, one week in, and it is going better than I expected.

When I have tried to stop in the past I have used willpower alone and, obviously based on the fact I need to do Stoptober, it hasn’t worked long-term.

This time, the team at Smokefree West Sussex has equipped me with nicotine patches – aka my new favourite thing – and lozenges in a bid to beat the cravings.

It has certainly made a difference – the irritation and restless sleep I have endured in the past have not materialised so far.

Although I have found myself reaching for the cigarettes it is more out of habit – after a meal for instance – than any need.

An appointment with Glen, my smoking cessation advisor, also proved motivational.

After just two days of stopping, my carbon dioxide in breath measurement was 1 – a non-smoker will normally be 5 or under. Before quitting my measurement was 18.

Glen also gave me some good tips, including putting the money I save in a jar to buy myself treats to replace cigarettes.

Knowing I will be seeing him weekly is also another incentive to keep on track and I have his number in my purse in case I need extra support.

So, so far, so good.

Tonight, however, I face my biggest challenge – going to the pub with a group of friends, several of whom smoke.

I must be the only person happy about the change in the weather as it means we will be sitting inside rather than in the beer garden.

I will be writing weekly columns about my challenge – hopefully next week will be 14 days clear and not an admission of failure.

Sheena Campbell is deputy content editor of the Observer series

@Obs_Sheena

Anyone who would like help to quit smoking can contact Smokefree West Sussex.