When Paul Horton faced the threat of redundancy, he took a closer look at his finances and was shocked to discover he was spending £50 every week on smoking, £200 a month, £2,400 a year!
Determined to cut back on unnecessary spending, the 47-year-old IT manager, from North Swindon, decided the 20-a-day habit which he got hooked on as a teenager would have to bite the dust.
Dad-of-two Paul said: “I had been doing it ever since I could remember, but the real costs never really hit me until I found out I could lose my job last January. I started reviewing the household budget and realised £7 a day was going on smoking. It was killing us financially – not to mention all the bad health effects. In hindsight it was just the trigger I needed to sort my life out.”
Having tried unsuccessfully to quit some years ago, he turned to the Swindon Stop Smoking Service for a helping hand. The service, which the council has tasked SEQOL to provide, offers help free of charge in more than 60 locations across the Borough, with appointments available in the daytime, evening and at weekends. One-to-one or group support is on offer, along with advice on stop smoking medications which Stop Smoking Advisors can help people get on prescription. Those who receive support are four times more likely to successfully quit.
Paul said: “I gave up the first time three or four years ago and used nicotine patches. It lasted for about nine months, but I was miserable as hell. People would joke about my mood and say, for goodness sake someone buy him some fags. I had a relapse and that was it, I was a smoker again – I still enjoyed it and hadn’t really got it out of my system.”
His experience was very different last January when he teamed up with a Stop Smoking Advisor.
“My advisor Gina really helped. We talked through what smoking did for me – in my case although in reality it increases your blood pressure, I associated it with calming down and relaxation. We looked at the possible medications and decided to give Champix a go because it is good at switching your mind off smoking,” he said.
“It certainly did the trick. When you take the tablets, you keep smoking but it tastes absolutely horrible. The buzz was completely gone and for the first time I really wanted to stop. There were no negative side effects and strangely I wasn’t even irritable like before.”
This week marks his first anniversary of being smoke-free and he couldn’t be happier with life.
“I didn’t lose my job in the end, so we have managed to save a lot of extra money. Last year it went on a family holiday to Spain and this year it will help fund the car insurance for my 17-year-old daughter,” Paul said.
“It’s not just the finances which have improved – I feel better too. To combat any weight gain, I joined the gym and pound the treadmill which I would never dream of doing, or be able to, before. One of the biggest benefits is not being ruled by cigarettes. I used to have to plan trips around my fag breaks. It’s just a real weight off my mind and I feel back in control of my life.”
Although smoking is no longer as prevalent as it was in Paul’s teenage years, one in five adults in Swindon still smoke, with many developing the habit from childhood. According to a report by public health charity Action on Smoking and Health 700 children in the Borough, aged 11 to 15, will experiment with cigarettes for the first time this year.
Fortunately, Paul’s two daughters Carmen, aged 17, and Emma, 15, are firmly against smoking and feel thrilled with their dad’s achievement.
He said: “They have always been very anti-smoking and were brought up to hate it. Their mum has never smoked and none of their friends do. So they’re all delighted I’ve finally stopped and certainly don’t miss me hanging out of the patio door creating that horrible smell. It’s only now, having given up, that I recognise just how bad and lingering it is. I definitely won’t be going back to it again – the grass is too greener on the other side.”
Last week saw the launch of a public health campaign called Be There Tomorrow, which spreads the message that smoking causes premature deaths and will kill one in two smokers. This year it is forecast that smoking will cost 260 lives in Swindon and some 1,700 residents will suffer from a smoking-related disease
Besides the health benefits of stopping smoking, there are also significant financial advantages which means more money in people’s pockets. According to Smokefree South West, since 2008 39million fewer cigarettes have been smoked in Swindon, which is an estimated saving of a staggering £11.7 million on cigarettes in the Borough, amounting to £6,405 per day.
Cllr Brian Mattock, Cabinet Member for Health and Adult Social Care, said: “It is really encouraging to hear that Paul’s children are so against smoking and that, after so many years of being hooked, he has at last managed to give up.
"Although smoking has become less socially acceptable over the years, it sadly still remains the single biggest cause of preventable illness, health inequalities and early deaths in Swindon. Helping people to stop, and encouraging them never to start, is an ongoing battle.
"Fortunately, there is lots of free advice and support on offer, so if smoking affects you or a loved one, it’s well worth seeing what the Swindon Stop Smoking Service could do to help.”
For more information and advice, contact the Swindon Stop Smoking service by calling: 0800 3892229 or (01793) 465513, texting 07881281797, emailing email@example.com or visiting www.betheretomorrow.co.uk.