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Isabelle (46 year) - Nationality: French - July 26, 2006

"I lit my first cigarette at a holiday camp when I was 11 or 12. But I consider that I didn't really become part of the smoking clan until I was 15, when I was smoking a good 20 cigs per day. That was fine and we were all much less aware of the harm that smoking could do. My father died age 59 of cardiovascular problems due in large part to cigarettes. My mother stopped smoking then but it didn't stop cancer of the vocal cords catching her and then, 15 years later, cancer of the larynx. As for me, I carried on smoking a packet a day minimum. Quitting was out of the question and I never even tried once in nearly 30 years (except during my pregnancies, when I was lucky enough to be repelled by the smell of cigarette smoke). However, two summers ago, we went to Scotland on a family holiday, and stayed in the middle of nowhere with only sheep for company. It was here, among all that nature, that my husband and I decided to smoke our last cigarette. The fact that we were away from our normal lives for three weeks was really essential. In the first few days I would pace up and down like a bear in a cage, especially in the evenings at the time when, a few days earlier, I smoked the best cigarettes. But I held out. I went walking down the empty roads or cried in the fields and I came back feeling calm. The hardest thing was coming home to our old routine and the little habits we'd forgotten. I discovered a little trick that helped me a lot instead of settling down on the sofa at the end of the day, I'd take myself off to bed with a good book. I'd never smoked in my bedroom so the call of cigarettes wasn't as strong there. Now there's nothing much other than driving and the odd bit of road rage that make me think of cigarettes. I used to smoke a crazy number of cigarettes in my car. Two things stop me from going back to cigarettes: the memory of my dependency and the feeling of panic I used to get when I saw that my packet was nearly empty. I used to have to get in the car and drive as long as it took to find somewhere to buy cigarettes. Sunday was an awful day for that. Whenever I see people queuing on Sundays and bank holidays at the only kiosk that's open in the area, I tell myself I had a lucky escape. Another thing that plays in my favor is the awful smell that surrounds smokers and the image that they project. I used to be someone who drove around with a cigarette in her mouth, one of those people who lights up in the street, and the smell of stale tobacco clung to me despite my best efforts. Now I think people who walk around with a fag in their mouth look awful and it's really unpleasant when wafts of tobacco smoke reach my nostrils when a smoker says hello, even if they've already stubbed out their cigarette. All is not rosy in their world. I think I'm more or less cured, but I've put on a lot of weight while compensating, especially at the wheel (packets of sweets, little detours to the bakery). I'm starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel where that's concerned but it will have taken two years (6 August) to stabilise and start getting back to normal. My kids help me to stay off cigarettes I think they would resent me and be very disappointed if they caught me smoking again. Getting some outside help might have stopped me gaining 22 pounds but however you go about it, quitting is really worth it."

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