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There are many different reasons why people become addicted to cigarettes but if you ask smokers why they started most will admit they fell victim to peer pressure.
We all like to feel we belong, especially when we’re young, so when Waterford woman Frances Walsh decided to light up for the first time she wasn’t thinking about any consequences her decision might have.
“I started smoking when I was about 23,” she tells us.
“All my friends were smoking and I was the only one that wasn’t. So I started to smoke but eventually, they all gave them up and I was still smoking.”
Frances continued to smoke for more than 30 years before deciding to kick the habit in her mid-50s.
Using nicotine patches, she managed to stop for a year but one night she let her guard down.
“There was a visitor in my house one night and she left two cigarettes behind her,” she recalls.
“I was looking at those cigarettes and they were getting bigger and bigger, and my willpower was getting smaller and smaller.”
Frances gave into temptation and before long was back smoking again. “I did try to give them up a few times after that, but I just couldn’t,” she says.
Frances began to think about quitting again and when she heard an ad on the radio for the HSE’s Quit campaign she decided to jot down the phone number and take advantage of the free service.
“It was a Sunday when I rang, I couldn’t wait to ring them. I left a message and they rang me back on the Monday, which was very good of them.
“Colm is the name of the chap I’m dealing with and he’s so good. I don’t think I could have done it without him. “We just chat away and he’s lovely and only for him, I wouldn’t have done it. It’s great to have help. It’s a fantastic service.”
Frances decided to use nicotine gum to help deal with the cravings. She finds it a help when the urge to smoke strikes, even though she’s not really keen on gum.
“I actually don’t use it that often because I don’t like chewing gum and I don’t like people chewing gum so it’s only when I need it that I use it,” she says.
Frances also gets great support from all her family and stays busy to keep the urge to smoke at bay.
“I don’t think the house has ever been so clean,” she jokes. “I do get a longing for a cigarette sometimes. I’d say ‘I’d love a cigarette now’ but it goes away only after a few minutes. That’s where your willpower kicks in.
“I’ve a lot more energy now. Before I’d find myself putting things on the long finger but I’d be more inclined to get things done now. I’d be more positive.”
Frances believes the Quit helpline has been the main reason for her success to date and would recommend it to anybody thinking of giving up.
“If anybody feels like they really want to do it and that everything else is failing them just ring the number,” she advises.
“It’s great just to have somebody to talk to every week, and you know they’re there for you when you feel like having a cigarette.”