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

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.