It has only taken two and a half years, but my father has finally been convinced to ditch the fags and get on a path to good health and longevity, well that’s the theory – isn’t it?
The health implications associated with smoking is something that has been present in my mind lately, particularly since the advent of the smoking ban in Britain. That, coupled with the frenzied shovelling, by numerous health organisations and charities via various media, of data, statistics, charts, percentages, graphs, diagrams and drawings of the substantial health risks posed by those who
smoke. It would appear that all smokers are destined to become sufferers of unforgiving health problems, getting worse throughout their lifetime – and who among us would wish to subject a loved one to even the least of these listed illnesses associated with smokers?
At the beginning of the year, Cancer Research set up a mobile unit on Glasgow’s bustling Buchanan Street, a street densely populated with shoppers and smokers, alike. The most surprising aspect was how little attention it received, compared with the vast number of people on the street. The colourful in-your-face banners, graphics and balloons were having little effect on passersby. Speaking to one of the charity’s representatives, he substantiated my initial thought: that most people did not want to hear anymore about facts and statistics related to the poor health of smokers. The people that were approaching the unit were – for the majority – concerned family members and friends; rather than the smokers themselves. It was then it occurred to me, that maybe the scare mongering and doom and gloom tactics employed by health organisations were actually having an adverse effect, and driving those who smoke to become more willingly ignorant of the risks. Ignorance is bliss after all.
Upon speaking to the representative that day, I realised that I was vicariously living the life of the smoker. I felt all the guilt of smoking without enjoying the nicotine buzz. I felt as equally consumed by the facts as I did confined by the effects. From that point I started to feel sorry for my Dad. Up until that point all I could think was how idiotic it was to smoke: sticking a lit tube filled with tobacco, tar and nicotine into your mouth drawing it in and watching the harmful smoke being blown back out.
But now I felt something vastly different – empathy. My Dad was being labelled and subjected to harsh campaigns – not only about the implications of smoking but also of the real damages caused by passive smoking – and being reminded on a daily basis to feel guilty about the one poor decision he had made in his life. Perhaps I empathised even more so because some of the adverse health warnings were no longer just a warning they were materialising in front of us all: high blood pressure, flaking paling skin tone, deep wrinkles and sagging skin. As if the actuality of the situation isn’t reminder enough to him of the effects of smoking here was the media shovelling depressing reminders.
I spoke with an elderly couple, the wife in which had religiously smoked at least 20, sometimes up to 25, cigarettes at a cost of roughly £6.99 every day (£10.64 if an additional 10 pack was needed); putting that into context it is a whopping £216.69 every 31days and a eye-watering £2,544.36 a year. The cost each year was the driving factor in this case for giving up.
The woman decided to join a smokers help group, set up by the NHS. Every week she attended where she was breathalysed to test for any carbon monoxide. If the levels were that of a non-smoker, she was given patches to help with cravings. It was essentially for her a Weight Watchers for those wanting to quit smoking, a support network with others sharing a common goal. This helped greatly along with support from her family she has successfully ditched the cigarettes for just over 18 months now. And as a reward from all the money she saved, which her husband secretly saved away each week, the couple enjoyed a two week all inclusive cruise, and came home with savings towards next year’s holiday. It illustrated the power of positivity, there was no need to be constantly reminded of the health risks associated with smoking, the savings was influential enough to encourage her to quit.
Up until recently, I had persistently reminded my Dad of all the painful and life threatening effects: 80 cancerous chemicals in one cigarette; the poisonous cyanide, ammonia and carbon monoxide and being inhaled; the 5 million premature deaths caused each year; and the fact that no single disease is expected to make as big a claim on the life of millions as smoking does every year. All the guilt-tripping was to no avail; as he still stood, relentlessly, outside our family home with cigarette lit each day and night, all the time knowing how big a risk each single cigarette posed to his health.
I realised that unless I made positive change and supported the idea of cigarette alternatives and physically helped him that he would never quit. Having looked through my Dad’s draw of quit smoking aids: patches, chewing gum and mints, it was clear that these were to give the illusion that he wanted to stop. And so, my first trip was to the supermarket to buy the electronic cigarette.
Having taken 48 hours to decide whether he was ‘fit’ to take part in my ‘experiment’, he finally agreed. So I have asked him to keep a diary, day-to-day, of how the successful the electronic cigarette is in helping him ditch the cigarettes.
Each single electronic cigarette contains in it the equivalent of 30 cigarettes. It works by giving the smoker the nicotine hit they crave, but contains none of tar or tobacco regular cigarettes hold. One of the obvious benefits of this type of alternative is that I know no matter where my Dad chooses to smoke the e-cigarette no one else has to have their health compromised either. The electronic cigarette gives of no smell or smoke, which means he is now permitted to smoke inside.
I understand this method doesn’t exactly kick the habit, but it is, for my Dad and my family, a step in the right direction.
Although it is only day three, I can report positive change; and he is feeling a little warmer as he is no longer being put outside into the harsh October temperatures to ‘enjoy’ a quick puff. To keep up to date with my Dad’s ‘From fags to riches’ diary click here.