AS Paul Horton faced the threat of redundancy, he took a close look at his finances and was stunned to discover he was spending £50 every week on cigarettes.
Determined to put money aside as soon as possible, the 47-year-old IT manager, from North Swindon, decided once and for all to quit the 20-a-day habit he developed as a teenager.
This week marks one year since he tackled his addiction to tobacco and stubbed out his last cigarette.
As part of the Be There Tomorrow campaign launched by Smokefree South West this month, Paul is urging the people of Swindon to quit smoking and experience for the very first time the benefits of a tobacco-free life.
Having tried unsuccessfully to give up cigarettes some years ago, he turned to the free Swindon Stop Smoking Service for a helping hand.
The initiative offers one-to-one and group support, along with advice on various medications which Stop Smoking advisors can help service users receive on prescription.
“The real costs never really hit me until I found out I could lose my job last January,” said the father-of-two.
“I started reviewing the household budget and realised £7 a day was going on smoking.
“It was killing us financially – not to mention all the bad health effects. In hindsight it was just the trigger I needed to sort my life out.
“I gave up the first time three or four years ago and used nicotine patches.
“It lasted for about nine months, but I was miserable as hell. People would joke about my mood and say, ‘for goodness sake someone buy him some fags.’ “I had a relapse and that was it, I was a smoker again. I still enjoyed it and hadn’t got it out of my system.”
His experience was very different last January when he teamed up with a Stop Smoking adviser.
“We talked through what smoking did for me,” he said.
“In my case, although in reality it increases your blood pressure, I associated it with relaxation.
“We looked at the possible medications and decided to give Champix a go because it is good at switching your mind off smoking. When you take the tablets you keep smoking but it tastes horrible.
“The buzz was completely gone and for the first time I really wanted to stop. There were no negative side effects and, strangely, I wasn’t even irritable like before.”
One in five adults in Swindon still smoke, with many developing the habit in childhood. According to a report by public health charity Action on Smoking and Health 700 children in the borough, aged 11 to 15, will experiment with cigarettes for the first time this year.
This year alone, 260 residents are expected to die as a result of their addiction to tobacco.
A further 1,700 will suffer from a smoking-related disease.
Thankfully, Paul was not made redundant. Yet with a much healthier bank balance family life improved tenfold.
“We have managed to save a lot of extra money,” he said. “Last year it went on a family holiday to Spain and this year it will help fund the car insurance for my 17-year-old daughter.
“It’s not just finances which have improved – I feel better too. One of the biggest benefits is not being ruled by cigarettes. I used to have to plan trips around my fag breaks. I feel back in control of my life.”
For more information contact the Swindon Stop Smoking service on 0800 3892229 or 01793 465513, text 07881281797.