Proud Hackney quitters

In life we’re told never to give up, to keep going – but when it comes to smoking, being a ‘quitter’ is a good thing. We’re using inspirational stories of ex-smokers in Hackney to highlight the life-changing benefits of quitting.

Meet our quitters

Paula Shaw

Paula Shaw - proud to be a Hackney quitter
Paula Shaw

I’m not saying I don’t still occasionally want a cigarette, but I just don’t let myself. I’ve always got a pack of mints on me and if I ever feel like I want to smoke I’ll pop one of those in my mouth instead and after a while my cravings go away.

Paula Shaw
Paula Shaw had been a smoker for over 40 years, and was smoking around 20 roll up cigarettes per day when she was referred to the Stop Smoking Service by her GP at Well Street surgery.

"My GP was so pleased to refer me as she’d been talking to me for a long time about giving up”, Paula said, “I’d never wanted to give up before, people had always told me I should do but you have to make your own decision and you have to be ready in yourself".



The 62 year old had never attempted to quit before and explained that she initially didn’t see herself giving up permanently, but incredibly, her mind set totally changed.

“I was booked in to have an operation and I’d heard that if you’re a smoker you can have complications under general anaesthetic”, explained Paula.

“I thought I would just give up while I had the operation but then I realised that if I can give up for that period of time, I would be stupid to start again. The operation was the kick start that I needed and I haven’t looked back”.

“Dushika was lovely. She was really helpful and encouraging. She gave me some breathing exercises which I found effective and just supported me throughout. The help I got from from the Stop Smoking Service was brilliant, and I honestly don’t think I’d have stuck at it without them.”

Paula was able to attend the stop smoking clinic at Well Street surgery, which she found really convenient as it’s close to where she lives. She was given one to one support sessions with her stop smoking advisor Dushika, and a personalised programme of Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT) including nicotine patches and lozenges, which she decided on with Dushika’s guidance.

Since giving up smoking, Paula has noticed many positive changes in herself, her family and her lifestyle, and her feelings about smoking have changed entirely.

“I feel so much more sympathetic towards my daughters now, who have had to suffer me smoking their whole lives. Now I know what it smells like, and I can’t stand the smell now. They’re so happy that I’ve given up, and so are my grandchildren”, said Paula.

Alongside these positive changes to her day to day life, Paula has also noticed health improvements after three months as a non-smoker, and has been able to start seeing some quite significant savings from putting aside the money that she had been spending on cigarettes.

“Now I don’t cough when I wake up in the morning and I’m breathing much easier. I always walked a lot anyway, but now it feels easier and I can walk further and quicker. The best thing for me though is that I’ve been able to book a holiday with three months’ worth of smoking savings and booking more trips in the future is going to be an incentive that keeps me going.”

Paula had been a smoker from the age of 16, having tried her first cigarette aged 11 as a dare with friends on a school trip.

“Everyone smoked then,” she explained. “We weren’t aware of how dangerous it was and it wasn’t until the 1970s that research started to be done and we gradually learnt about the harms”.

After smoking for many years, Paula was aware that she might have a difficult journey ahead of her and was expecting to have to deal with both cravings and also changing her habits in order to cut smoking out of her lifestyle. She’s come up with several effective methods to help her when cravings come her way.

“I’m not saying I don’t still occasionally want a cigarette, but I just don’t let myself. I’ve always got a pack of mints on me and if I ever feel like I want to smoke I’ll pop one of those in my mouth instead and after a while my cravings go away.”

Paula’s main concern was keeping her hands busy to stop her from reaching for a cigarette and she came up with some different methods to help with this.

“When I had a really difficult weekend right at the start, the best thing I found was doing a jigsaw puzzle. It kept my hands and my brain occupied for hours”.

Paula’s advice to other smokers is to think about how much money is spent on smoking, and how much it restricts your day to day life.

“I’ve been able to physically see the amount extra money that I have now, and I don’t have to plan my day around when I’m going to be able to have a cigarette.”
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Hasan Bala

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Nazmiye Baris

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Hanim Boyraz

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Alan Brooks

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Paul Carlson

Paul Carlson

Ibrahim Corten

Ibrahim Corten

Lorraine Dunkley Clark

Lorraine Dunkley Clark

Kerri Layton

Kerri Layton

Abir Mohamed

Abir Mohamed

Simon O'Brien

Simon O'Brien

Thomas O'Reilly

Thomas O'Reilly

Sarah Pluck

Sarah Pluck

Joanna Thomas

Joanna Thomas

Brian Toomey

Brian Toomey

Andreena Walton

Andreena Walton

Markus Wilson

Markus Wilson

Working on it!