Wigan woman who quit smoking after 25 years urges others to kick the habit

An ex-smoker has described how “liberating” it was to kick the habit after 25 years, as others are encouraged to stub it out for Stoptober.
Ex-smoker Jane ShannonEx-smoker Jane Shannon
Ex-smoker Jane Shannon

Today marks the start of the nation’s biggest quit attempt and is based on evidence that after 28 days without a cigarette, smokers are five times more likely to quit for good.

In Greater Manchester, smoking prevalence among adults has fallen to an all-time low, with 17 per cent of adults in Wigan now smokers.

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Jane Shannon, who lives in Swinley, was a student when she started to light up.

She said: “It was something I experimented with when I went to university in 1984, when I was 19 or 20. It wasn’t mad smoking, because I was still playing squash quite a lot. It was more sociable, when I was out in the evenings and everyone else was doing it and I had that autonomy and felt grown up.”

Jane continued smoking after university and while working in a bar in the West Indies, so it was a habit when she settled in Wigan in 1995.

She said: “You could still smoke in pubs and everywhere then, so I carried on. It was what you did when you went to the pub.”

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While Jane did not need a cigarette as soon as she woke up every morning, she would sometimes smoke as many as 40 on a night out.

Donna Jackson and Jane Shannon have both given up smokingDonna Jackson and Jane Shannon have both given up smoking
Donna Jackson and Jane Shannon have both given up smoking

She told herself she would quit at 34, like her dad did, or when the price of a packet of cigarettes passed £5, but she continued lighting up.

But it was after catching flu from a friend on a skiing holiday in 2009 that she finally decided to kick the habit.

Jane, now 56, said: “I had never been so ill, I couldn’t even get out of bed. It was horrible and I never wanted to go through that again. That lasted a week and I didn’t have a cigarette through that time.

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“When I got up and was feeling a bit more human, I did contemplate having a cigarette and had brought a lot of duty-free back. I had been umming and ahhing about quitting and there was a realisation I hadn’t smoked for a week, so I would give up.”

It was not easy, but Jane quit and began to enjoy nights out without cigarettes.

Her partner Donna Jackson followed her lead six months later, as well as Jane’s sister and two friends.

Jane no longer has a cough, does not get out of breath walking uphill or feels sluggish.

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She said: “I think I have peace of mind as well. I feel I’m not actually killing myself by doing something that isn’t good for me.”

Jane is delighted that she managed to give up, saying: “It’s liberating, it really is. I’m quite proud when people ask if I have got a light and I take great pride in saying I don’t smoke. It feels great.”

Jane had considered quitting for 10 years and hopes other people will follow her lead this Stoptober.

She said: “I do believe you have got to want to do it and although I did it on my own, you don’t necessarily need to do that. There is an awful lot of help out there and support, especially with the NHS.”

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Now in its ninth year, Stoptober has supported almost two million people to quit.

It encourages smokers to put their lungs first, strengthen their immune system and breathe easier ahead of flu season.

Andrea Crossfield, Making Smoking History lead at Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnership, said: “Across Greater Manchester record numbers of people are quitting smoking successfully and Stoptober is an ideal time for even more people to give it a go.

“With the country experiencing a rise in Covid-19 cases and winter flu season round the corner, there has never been a more important time to put your health first and quit.”

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Visit YouCanGM.org for details of stop smoking services or call the NHS Stop Smoking helpline on 0300 123 1044.

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