10th August 2017
Yvonne O’Hagan was smoking since she was 17 years old and never thought she’d succeed at quitting.
“I’m 17 years working in the laundry at the HSE’s St Brigid’s Complex in Ardee, Co Louth. It has its moments but I do like it. There’s a nice little crew of four of us and we have good craic. It can be stressful and demanding at times, especially when we are short on staff then I have to cover the office and the floor,” said Yvonne.
“I started smoking when I was 17 years old. My parents didn’t smoke but we all did except my younger brother. I was heading to being a heavy smoker. I would have smoked 20 a day and then I found myself opening a second pack, so it was creeping up to 30 a day and more if I was going out and having a few drinks.
“I knew I wanted to stop smoking but I thought I’d never succeed. I had tried to quit before and it hadn’t work. But when I got some bad news from the hospital about my health I knew I had to give up. Everyone has a reason for quitting and mine was my health. My main fear was that I’d end up with emphysema and have to wear oxygen 24/7. I knew I wasn’t going to end up like that. I wanted to live an ordinary life.
“I had my last cigarette on Sunday, November 15
th 2015 at 7am in the morning. The following day St Brigid’s would be a Smokefree Campus and I thought no way am I walking out to the road for a cigarette. I had seen a poster in St Brigid’s offering free help to quit smoking and four weeks free NRT so me and another girl from the laundry said we’d do it together.
We got support from the smoking cessation officer Madeline, who was brilliant. She would talk to us to see how we were getting on and answer any questions. I found the 24-hour NRT patches fantastic. Don’t get me wrong, I still had cravings but they weren’t too bad – I think that was the patches working. I took it one day at a time.
“Two years on, I’m still determined but in some ways I actually find it harder now. Some days my job can be stressful and I’m climbing the walls. My other half is still smoking and one particularly stressful day he left 20 cigarettes on the counter. I picked up the packet and held it. I put it back down and walked away. I was dying for a cigarette. I walked back, took a cigarette out and looked at it. Then I put it down and walked away and said to myself ‘Yvonne don’t undo all your hard work for one cigarette’. He got some lashing the next morning I can tell you and he’s never left them out again!
“Now I always have money in my purse. I find I can save more money now for holidays, I couldn’t do that before. Recently I took my whole family out for lunch. I’m not smoking now so I have money to do these things. I’m a lot healthier. I do have off days because of my asthma. But everyone who speaks to me says I’m not gasping for breath between sentences and I speak much better too.
“I’m thrilled and so proud of myself, especially of that night when I took up the packet of cigarettes twice, to be smoke-free two years later. I’m delighted to say there are no smokers here in the laundry now.”
Yvonne’s Top Quitting Tips
First and foremost you have to really want to quit. You have to be prepared to put the work in. I would recommend you use patches or something as a kick start. Think about why you want to do quit. Most people want to quit smoking and everyone has a reason for quitting – what’s yours? Use your reason for quitting to stay strong. Give it a go - you aren’t going to succeed if you don’t try.
One to one intensive support combined with drug treatments like NRT has the highest success rates for people quitting smoking. The HSE offer this service over the phone or face to face with trained smoking cessation practitioners for staff free of charge. Go to
www.quit.ie to find your local stop smoking service.