Since I lit up for the first time, there have always been terrifying stats and grave warnings flying around against smoking. We’ve all heard the warnings, but when you do manage to cut down, you start feeling all those benefits people were going on about… It makes you wonder why you bothered smoking in the first place. Hearing about a six-week closed LGBTQ group for stopping smoking, I was excited – but apprehensive too. This is the journey I am going through to kick the habit for good.

The stats

Around 7,400 (31%) of LGBTQ adults smoke in Brighton & Hove. This is a higher rate of smokers than straight people – 1 in 3 LGBTQ adults compared to 1 in 5 straight people. Because of this, Brighton & Hove LGBTQ residents, LGBT Switchboard and Brighton & Hove City Council have teamed up to deliver a campaign that encourages LGBTQ people to quit smoking.

According to a recent study, if you have HIV, are on treatment and smoke, your risk of death is doubled. On the other hand, non-smokers with HIV who are doing well on treatment can expect to have a normal lifespan. Another study from Denmark has recently reported that the rate of heart attacks among smokers with HIV is three times higher than that of HIV negative smokers.

Smoking rates are higher among people living with HIV. HIV itself causes changes to the cholesterol, which can cause or hasten cardiovascular disease. In addition, certain antiretrovirals also have a negative effect on cholesterol and lipids. If you add smoking to the mix, the risks are greater. Find out more at Terence Higgins Trust.

Those undertaking gender confirmation surgery will be required to agree to give up smoking for a minimum of 3 weeks before and 6 weeks following their surgery. Smoking increases your risk of wound infection and Deep Vein Thrombosis by 40%, as well as chest infections. Smoking delays wound healing and compromises your results.

The Switchboard stop smoking course

Starting at the tender age of 13, because it was apparently cool, something had to give – I didn’t want to be someone who had smoked longer than they hadn’t. While being sooner than I expected, the time has come and it’s time to quit. So, on Thursday night last week at 6pm, I climbed the stairs in the south wing of Community Base to discuss quitting, how and why it was important, and most crucially, how on earth I was going to achieve it.

Our small, but perfectly formed, group did the standard group intros and then got to thinking about why we wanted to be smoke-free. With a discussion about what we do and don’t like about smoking (the general consensus being social/stress-relief and health, respectively), then discussing quit attempts and why we failed.

I got a vape in July, and figured now I had one, that was enough work done. Actually getting used to the thing, and using it in the place of rollies was a huge challenge. I upped my nicotine strength to 12mg (which is incredibly harsh and will hurt your throat – but that actually helped), and soon enough kicked the last of my day-to-day smokes. Combined with attempting to go running a few times per week, I’ve managed to hold off on smoking cigarettes most of the time. Friday and Saturday are different though, as the habit reclaims its victim after a drink.

An interesting takeaway from this session for me was to really tap into why I kept smoking for so many years. With only one real attempt to stop before, I realised I continued to smoke for so long as it seemed to be the easier option. There are those times where you feel like you can’t go without one, like it would improve a situation – those times at the pub or when out with other smokers. That will be my biggest challenge to overcome.

Our homework is to keep a smoking journal. I went into the weekend thinking I could resist, though I failed, completely. Better luck next week…

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