TODAY, about 130,000 people (and counting) will stub out what might be their last ever cigarette.
Stoptober, a national quit-smoking initiative, encourages smokers to make it to the end of October.
If a smoker can hold out for a month, the campaigners claim, they are five times more likely to quit completely than someone who lapses after just a few days.
Two members of the Leader staff volunteered to take part.
Heather Hall, 26, of Flint, and Emma Roberts, 28, of Caergwrle, agreed to put away their fag packets and pull out their diaries in a bid to beat the cravings.
Emma has been smoking on and off since she was 15.
“I was a bit of a teenage tearaway,” she laughed. “I think it was just peer pressure.
Everyone else was doing it. I never thought I would be addicted.
“I’ve heard about Stoptober before. A girl I worked with tried it and she’s still quit now.
“I’ve been trying to cut down for the last six months and I’ve been trying
e-cigarettes. I’ll do really well for a week and then I’ll go out and have a drink and it’ll just happen.”
Although her friends might have started off puffing away merrily at their nicotine-fix, as time went on, more people around her dropped the habit.
She said: “Quite a few people I know have quit. Since the smoking ban came in it’s become a lot less socially acceptable. Even people I know who smoked for a while gave up.”
Of course, it’s easier said than done.
Cigarette use results in a physiological and psychological dependence, but Emma has several reasons for stubbing out her cigarettes.
She said: “The first reason is that I don’t like the fact I’m addicted to anything. I have to time everything around the cravings. I find myself thinking ‘I can’t go there because I’m going to need a fag later’, or ‘I have to nip to the shops for a packet’.
“It controls me and I hate that.”
Emma is also concerned about health, with cigarette use linked to cancer risks and respiratory problems.
She said: “Also, the thing I’ve been noticing is that it’s started affecting my teeth. I really don’t want my gums to start receding or have my teeth fall out.”
Her cravings also cause problems, affecting her concentration, mood and how well she gets on with people.
“I’ve warned everybody in the department in advance,” she said. “My fiancé also smokes, but I’m not going to pressure him to take part. He has to be ready to take that step by himself.”
Heather, who started smoking outside school at 14, began because her family smoked.
The habit quickly became a major part of her life, blending into her routine.
She has a cigarette instead of breakfast, one in the car on the way to work to ready herself for the day, one at 10am on break, one after lunch and then at regular times throughout the day.
Breaking the mental patterns will be as tricky as fighting the physical habit, and she has already planned some changes, like making sure she snoozes in bed as long as possible to delay the morning craving.
She said: “I’ve tried to quit before too. I just kept getting hooked back on them. I moved house and got married recently, which was good, but all a bit stressful. I think things will settle down from now on.”
She added: “Sooner or later, we’re probably going to want to start a family, so stopping smoking would be for the best. I wouldn’t want my child to grow up in a smoky household.
“I also suffer with chest infections if something is going round. I don’t want that to keep happening or to get worse.”
After a few quick calculations, Heather worked out she spends £6.66 per pack of 20 cigarettes, and probably spends between £20 to £30 a week on her habit.
Over the course of a year, that would quickly add up to more than £1,500, money that could be used for more practical things, like paying off the overdraft, or, better still, for healthier treats and even a holiday.
Heather said: “My friends don’t smoke so much, and even my dad has cut down. I don’t think quitting will be as hard as it was before.
“If I can get out of the habit then I should be alright.
“I also know I do have the discipline. I was at Slimming World until recently and I shed two stone in three months to fit into my wedding dress. If I have a goal, that’ll help, and Stoptober is a goal.”
Emma and Heather will be noting down their experiences in a diary, which we will look at over the next few weeks. Both have signed up for a Stoptober support pack and email tips and help. You can find out more by visiting www.stoptober.smokefree.nhs.uk
Check back over the coming weeks to see how the duo are doing.