Last month, two staff members at the Leader stubbed out for Stoptober.
Did they manage to make it to the end of the month, and have they given up for good?
Emma Roberts, 28, of Caergwrle and Heather Hall, 26, of Flint pledged to keep diaries of their attempt, but not everything went to plan.
“I did start the diary,” admitted Emma. “But I got a bit bored of having to write the same things over and over again – it didn’t change much from day to day.”
From week to week, however, it was a different story.
In the days before the challenge, both of our intrepid volunteers cleared their surroundings to rid themselves of temptation.
Heather said: “I made sure I had enough fags to last me the weekend. I smoked up to 11pm on the Monday and I had two left in my pack. I chucked them and made sure I didn’t have anything in the house. I ripped them up to make sure I couldn’t salvage them. I got rid of all but two lighters, which I used for candles.”
Emma, who smoked roll-ups, went as far as cleaning her handbag of any stray strands of tobacco and hiding the papers and filters from herself. She said: “I put them away. My partner smokes, so I didn’t think he’d be pleased if I got rid of them all together, but it was out of sight out of mind.”
Both ordered the Stoptober help pack offered by the NHS, but Heather’s didn’t turn up.
She said: “That wasn’t a good start, but I had Emma in the office to show me what was in it.”
Emma, who signed up for the postal pack and email updates, was sent an ‘addiction test’, advice, gum and patches and a stress toy, which ended up being well-used by both participants.
Week one began on October 1.
She said: “The mornings were the worst. A few times I found myself halfway through rolling a fag before I’d remember that I’d quit.
“At work I tried to break the habit by going to the canteen for a coffee instead of going outside for a cigarette. I knew on the first day I was going to find it difficult.”
To give herself an extra incentive, Emma asked friends and colleagues to sponsor her Stoptober, and has raised more than £140 for North Clwyd Animal Shelter.
Heather, on the other hand, had a physical reason to quit.
Heather said: “To be honest, the first few days I was struggling with a chest infection, so I didn’t drink or smoke anyway in case it made it worse. I’ve been ill for nearly six-and-a-half weeks.
“For the first week, I basically sat down and watched TV. That wasn’t great because you get bored, but in a way it helped because it meant I wasn’t in my office routine of going out for a cigarette at certain times.”
Heather’s illness masked the cravings, but Emma bore the full brunt in a matter of days.
“I ate,” she said. “Everything. My body wanted something so I ate thinking I could trick it into not asking for any more. I was agitated. I’d just sit there twitching.”
By the second week, Emma started experiencing taste sensations she hadn’t had in years.
She said: “It was really weird. My sense of smell started coming back and my tastebuds started working again. Food I’d been eating for years and thinking ‘this tastes nice’ was suddenly different. Tea tasted like tea, meat tasted like meat. It was a bit of a shock, but eventually I readapted.”
Meanwhile, Heather’s husband was making his own adaptations.
Heather said: “He stopped speaking to me in the mornings. I’m not a morning person anyway, but after I gave up smoking I started snapping at him for no reason. I don’t know how he’s still with me! But that settled down eventually.”
A calendar was included with the Stoptober info pack, and Emma took great satisfaction in ripping out the pages one day at a time.
At the start of the third week, she realised she was half way through.
She said: “That was a good feeling.
“By now, I’d started noticing the smell of smoke. If someone went outside for a cigarette, I could tell.
“I was definitely more aware of it, and it’s disgusting, from the outside. I’d still want a fag, but the smell made me feel almost physically sick.”
Heather and Emma agreed that the challenge was getting easier.
By the fourth week, they were looking ahead to the future.
Emma said: “I started thinking could I just have the one cigarette on nights out after Stoptober? Is it possible for a full-time smoker to become a social smoker or would it just be the start of a slippery slope?”
She said: “I did have a blip early on when I was ill. A friend came round and I had a drag from her cigarette.
“Because of the cold I haven’t been going out, and my husband doesn’t smoke. He hates the smell of cigarettes so he hasn’t been moaning about it, which is good!”
Passing the finishing line this week gave the former smokers a sense of triumph.
Emma said: “I’ve been boring people to death telling them that it’s been seven days, then 14 days, then 21 and so on.
“But to me it’s a big deal. This is the longest I’ve gone without smoking in more than 10 years and I wasn’t sure if I could do it. I’d like to keep it up.”
Heather went cold-turkey while Emma used nicotine substitutes, which are allowed on the Stoptober programme.
In the past, they admitted to going to extremes to get their nicotine fix.
On one occasion, Heather taped together the last cigarette in the carton when it snapped, and scrabbled around the house for spare pennies to pay for a pack, while Emma laughed about having picked her own cigarette butts from the bin to recycle the last shreds of unburned tobacco.
She said: “I could smoke 10 right now, but knowing what it was like at the start, I have no desire to smoke again and go through the ugly cravings.
“I’m not planning my day around the smoking breaks now. It’s not in control of me, I’m in control of it.”
Heather, on the other hand, could see herself as a social smoker: “But I’m going to carry on not smoking for as long as I can, and hopefully that will be for good.”