Last week we enlisted the help of five smokers to try a new and alternative approach to quit cigarettes for good as part of the Hold My Light campaign.
Hold My Light is centred around enrolling friends, family or colleagues to help you give up cigarettes, as it’s been documented one-to-one-support is the most popular tool for quitting.*
Research has shown if you quit smoking for four weeks, you are five times more likely to quit smoking for good.**
So as part of the Hold My Light challenge, you make a pact with friends, family members or colleagues for an initial 30 days. You go smoke-free and those who pledge to support you offer a reward in return.
Below, we've checked in with all five of our smokers who are giving it a go to find out how they've been getting on after their first week.
We're kicking off with twins Simon and Chris, who are already feeling the benefits of going smoke-free...
'Making a mutual pledge is a definite incentive - neither of us wants to fail', say twins Simon and Chris
Twin brothers, Simon and Chris Cable, 35, admit that despite the first seven days being tough, they are still feeling highly motivated and determined to complete the 30 day challenge.
Not only have the brothers decided to go smoke-free together, they have also pledged to be each other’s supporters, encouraging each other to fulfil their goal.
Simon, a journalist, said: “I won’t lie – it’s been tough but on the whole it’s going really well. The week days have been fairly easy as I’m working and it’s not a time when I would think about cigarettes.
“My trigger point came over the weekend. Chris and I always go out on a Friday and Saturday night for a few drinks and that’s when we would both normally light up, so I was feeling slightly nervous.
“I was worried that once I’d had a couple of beers, my guard would be down and I might succumb to a cigarette.
“But as soon as Chris and I met up with our mates, we explained we had signed up to Hold My Light.
“It was a huge help as they knew it wasn’t just a whimsical spur of the moment decision. Consequently, nobody offered us a cigarette.
“Equally they didn’t make a big deal out of it either which was a real help and helped take our minds off it.”
Both Simon and Chris agree signing up to holdmylight.co.uk , has given them a real sense of commitment so far and made them determined to stay on track.
Chris added: “Making a mutual pledge with Simon is a definite incentive. Neither of us wants to fail. I'm already feeling the benefits.
"The morning after a few drinks with the lads is nowhere near as horrific, and I’m generally beginning to feel much better.”
'Having made that commitment is a real incentive not to fail', says Jenna
Jenna Burwell signed up to Hold My Light just a couple of days after her 30 birthday, determined to mark the occasion by doing something positive.
Knowing how little willpower she has, Jenna felt by committing to the 30 day challenge, and enrolling the support of her housemate, Laura Taverner, it would give her the help she needed to go smoke-free.
Jenna said: “I can’t pretend it’s been easy as it hasn’t but a couple of things have really helped me.
“Laura has been so encouraging. When I’ve got home each night, she’s congratulated me on getting through another day and my colleagues at work keep telling me how brilliantly I’m doing and encouraging me to keep at it.”
But the one factor, Jenna really struggled with was how redundant her hands began to feel as for the last 11 years she has been used to rolling her own cigarettes.
She said: “I went on holdmylight.co.uk to look for some ideas to help and one of the many suggestions was to use an e-cigarette, which I thought would work best for me.
“I had one that I’d hardly ever used but it has been a real help this week. Just being able to hold something made me feel less on edge - I’m not sure I could have stuck to the challenge otherwise. “
Jenna’s faced her biggest challenge when she and Laura went out for dinner the day after she made the commitment to go smoke-free.
“The cigarette I used to have after my evening meal every night was always the most satisfying one of the day, so I could feel myself craving one after we’d left the restaurant. Being able to use the e-cigarette was what got me through.
“Now, I’ve managed a week, I’m determined to stick at it. Having made that official commitment is a real incentive not to fail as I think I would lose willpower otherwise.”
'Being very open to friends and family about Hold My Light has been instrumental', says Steve
Steve Brooks, 40, admits the first week of going smoke-free has been tough.
But on the plus side, he is still feeling incredibly motivated and determined to give up the cigarettes for good.
Steve said: “The most difficult time of day for me is straight after my evening meal. For as long as I can remember I’ve always lit up as soon I’ve finished my last mouthful, so breaking that routine has been tough.
“To try and combat the association, I’ve upped my exercise and I’m putting in a couple of extra gym and running sessions.”
For Steve, signing up to holdmylight.co.uk, has been the incentive he has needed after smoking for the last 20 years. He said: “Making an official commitment and being very open to friends and family about it has been instrumental to staying on track and keeping motivated.”
Steve’s Dad, Roger Brooks, 79, also a former smoker, was more than happy to act as his son’s supporter and has been sending regular messages to spur Steve on.
“It’s a real help,” said Steve. “Dad and my mates have all been so encouraging and it really does keep you going especially when you are feeling a little tense.”
'I gave in to temptation - but I know where I went wrong', says Sarah-Jane
Sarah-Jane Thomas, 28, an accounts manager, has had a mixed week since signing up to the Hold My Light challenge.
Although she managed to successfully get through her first week, with the ongoing encouragement of her boyfriend and supporter, Leo Feldman, 29, she hit a stumbling block a few days later, after a night out with the girls and gave in to the temptation of a few cigarettes.
She said: “My guard was down and because my boyfriend, Leo, who is acting as my supporter wasn’t with me, I didn’t have anyone with me to keep me on track.
“I felt so guilty the next day and absolutely regretted it.”
But Sarah-Jane is determined not to let one blip prevent her achieving her ultimate goal of going smoke free.
She said: “I know where I went wrong, so will now put a plan in place so I don’t fall into the same situation again.
“I’m going to avoid any heavy social nights out in the short term and make sure when I next have a few drinks, Leo is with me, as he really is a tower of strength and is so encouraging.”
“Besides which, as well as being desperate to go smoke-free, I’m determined that Leo will stick to his end of the bargain to take me to the theatre once I’ve managed to complete the 30 days,” said Sarah-Jane.
He’s not the only one offering support. Sarah-Jane’s colleagues have also been spurring her on while she has been at work and gently encouraging her to stay on track. She said: “It does really help when you have the backing of people around you. They get you through the day and really spur you on.”
*NHS Digital, 2018.
**Public Health England, 2018.