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I'm a smoker

Posted Sep 12 2008 10:34am

John at NHS Blog Doctor has posted many times about the stupidity of smoking and the paucity of treatment for the often resulting lung cancer on the NHS. And obviously all the other health problems it can cause or exacerbate. I do not disagree with him one iota …

… but I am a smoker.

A pack a day.

My father died of a heart attack at 67 years old, he´d smoked a pipe on and off during his life and then gave it up at about age 50 – he died more of the withdrawal symptoms of workaholism when he was forced to retire from a job that was his life (yeah, ok the death certificate said something medical). Next to go was my grandmother, at the age of 98 – she smoked, heavily, until she was 70 plus. Every time she got something nasty, she would just stop seemingly with no withdrawal symptoms. She got bronchitis and our GP said “Stop”, she did and she lived another 20 years.

My mum died full of life aged 70 years from a stroke. Got up one morning, got washed, brushed her teeth, dressed and collapsed on the landing. Discovered by a friend with whom she was going for a pub lunch She was overweight, smoked some, drank some and was on the verge of completing her Ph.D. She tried stopping smoking again and again. At least she didn´t suffer. Just dropped.


Shame she didn´t see or even know of her grand-daughter. Shame her Ph.D. thesis almost completed, was never submitted. (On sex education, or lack of, provision in primary and secondary schools in the local education authority - if anyone is interested, I think I can rustle up a copy).

I started smoking at, oh, age 10. Mum would very occasionally send me and me bro´ to the local newsagents to pick up a pack of 10. So off we went … but this time they weren´t for her. A newsagents selling a 10 year old “for Mum” certainly wouldn´t happen now!

But we didn´t really start smoking until we were well into our teens. Old Holborn roll-ups.

I´ve tried giving up. As I said, my Grandma seemed to suffer no Cold Turkey when she stopped. But I know my Mum did – she would stop, start, stop, start, stop, start … never made it. I´ve tried a few times … the cold turkey is real bad, I can´t go through with it. Mum got addicted to the masochism of giving up – she tried acupuncture, hypnotism, Allen Carr etc etc. I´ve given up on “giving-up”. I can´t go through that. Maybe now, in the U.K. with nicotine patches, counsellors etc it would be possible.

When Kezia was admitted with leukaemia, the hospital asked if anyone smoked in the house. I don´t really know why – some kind of epidemiological survey? They are, after all, still looking for the causes of leukaemia

Fortunately, though, we live mostly outside here. I smoke outside. The ceiling in our house here, almost six metres high with no ceilings dividing upstairs from downstairs, and no glass-enclosed windows, is the height of our rented two storey ceilinged and windowed terrace in the U.K. But when I visit them in the U.K., I go outside and freeze my bollocks off.

So I hope Jaime, Kezia and Nanda have not suffered too much from passive smoking.

At Rochdale Infirmary and the Royal Manchester Children´s Hospital, the PCTs had both officially banned smoking even outside on the grounds. At the former, the entrance to A&E was disgusting with butts all over the ground, the one rubbish bin overflowing – ok it was a Sunday and maybe there had been no-one to clean up over the weekend. At RMCH, a slightly more constructive approach - perhaps a recognition that us smoker parents were stressed out enough without the need to stress us further about smoking – the hospital has a dedicated smoking room, albeit pretty discouraging (let us wallow in our own dirt, smoke, ash and threadbare carpet – I have no problem), but their attitude was that this was better than a miscreant sneaking off to the toilets, lighting up and setting off the fire alarms. Does the RMCH smoking room still exist since 1 July?

I´ll be interested to see how our local pub in the U.K., where most of the customers seem be smokers, is coping with the July 1 ban.

The approach taken in South Africa when we visited in 2001 seemed more constructive and needs much less state “policing” (and thus expense?). Bars and restaurants were given a choice of an outright ban or creating a segragated space for smokers. Many chose to create an, albeit smaller and perhaps a little less salubrious, but nevertheless not a fleapit, space for smokers. But then South Africa introduced a ban on free plastic bags in supermarkets and shops years ago … they have all gone over to free reuseable rigid paper bags. Ok, so smokers there don´t feel as ostracised as in the U.K. … but is ostracisation a motivation?

And I do like doctors who smoke. S/he can tell me to stop … there´s more empathy with the patient - I know s/he knows what we´re experiencing. A holier than thou doctor´s attitude about smoking just makes you feel guilty …

And let´s hope I have my grandmother´s genes …

P.S. Kezia seemed alot chirpier yesterday - must be coming down from the Dexamethasone.

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