On national "No Smoking Day", one ex-smoker from Stoke-on-Trent is urging others to quit saying kicking the habit saved his life.
Former security officer Philip Hogarth says giving up smoking has been the best thing he has ever done, as he looks forward to a healthier New Year.
The 56-year-old, from Longton, smoked his last cigarette in February last year, and hasn’t picked one up since.
Philip, who smoked more than 20 roll-ups a day from the age of 16 – spending about £15 a week – said if he hadn’t had support from Stoke-on-Trent City Council’s stop-smoking service, he might not still be alive today.
He said: “In January (2018) I had to have the paramedics out because I collapsed. It felt like someone was sitting on my chest. It had got to the stage where the pain was unbearable – I wasn’t coping.
“I spent the night in hospital, and said to myself I’d finish the tobacco I had, but it’d be the last pack I’d buy. And if I hadn’t done that, I wouldn’t have lived another six months.”
Philip, who has been fundraising for Help For Heroes for the past six years, is now encouraging anyone who wants to quit to take the plunge and sign up to the city council’s stop-smoking service.
He said: “If there’s anything I can say to help other people who want to give up this evil habit, I will say it. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done, and I still find it difficult. But it has been so worth it.
“I had no faith in myself. I’d tried to quit so many times, but had no willpower. But when I realised how bad an affect it was having on my health, I gave my mum my word I would stop – and that way she, and everyone else, knew I was serious.
“I never enjoyed smoking. I didn’t like the smell, taste or the inconvenience, but my body craved it. It became more and more difficult to quit. But collapsing in January was the last straw.”
Philip sought help to give up through his GP, and was put in touch with a city council stop-smoking adviser. She has supported him on his journey, providing valuable advice as well as access to nicotine patches and inhalators.
He added: “The support I’ve received has been invaluable. Each day has been a fight, but it’s a fight that is so worth it.
“I can’t believe how much better I feel now. I have no chest pains, and my breathing has improved so much.
“My mum is really proud of me, and I’m proud of myself too.”
Philip recently celebrated his first 12 months without a cigarette by returning to the Hogarth's Gin Palace where he smoked his last roll-up in February last year.
Councillor Randy Conteh, the city council’s cabinet member for housing, communities and safer city, and chair of Smokefree Stoke-on-Trent, said: “Stopping smoking is the best thing a smoker can do for their health, and it’s fantastic news that Philip has been able to quit with the help of the stop-smoking service.
“It is well known that advice and support from stop-smoking services, plus medicines such as patches or gum, will strongly increase people’s chances of quitting.
"I would urge anyone wishing to quit to make use of the support available."
Many smokers find the first few days after quitting to be the most difficult, but things will typically start to get better after the third or fourth day. Nicotine withdrawal may make people restless, irritable, frustrated, sleepless, or accident prone-but these things do pass and people will quickly start to feel the benefits.
Anyone wishing to make 2019 the year they quit smoking for good should sign up for support now.
There is a wide range available locally, including face-to-face help and advice, the ‘Smokefree’ app, quit kit, email and text programme.
For more information go to stoke.gov.uk/smokefree, call 0800 085 0928 or text ‘smokefree’ to 60777.