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Caoimhe’s HSE Quit support vital in dispensing with vape and cigarettes

Caoimhe Casey

Caoimhe Casey

Vaping was Caoimhe Casey’s go to solution when she decided to give up smoking over two years ago.  A dedicated and confirmed smoker since her early teens, she initially convinced herself it was a job well done: “I had tried to give up maybe three times and eventually on the third time I stuck with the vaping and had effectively given up cigarettes.  And I was kind of proud of myself – I was initially telling myself that I didn’t smoke any more – I just vaped.  Then I spent two years with e juices spilling all over my handbag, running out of battery and charge on a night out and then trawling through everyone to see if anyone had a charger and then after all that I decided to have a second vape in my handbag just in case the first lost charge. I mean there was effort and not much glamour involved.

“I’d wake up in the morning  - my eyes wouldn’t even be open and I’d reach for the vape.  We don’t smoke in my house, you have to go to the back garden, but the vape was different.  You could vape  in the kitchen and it wouldn’t leave a trace.  You could sit and have a cup of coffee, have a vape and not feel like you were smoking in the house. So you had it with you at all times. And of course, working from home, you had it with you at your desk.  It was practically attached to my hand.  And when I realised that I couldn’t go anywhere – couldn’t walk to the shops for five minutes without it -  I knew I had created another addiction.”

Working as a Project and Office Manager, Caoimhe switched to home working, along with many HSE staff in March 2020.  It was there last year that she was prompted by a HSE All Staff Broadcast Email to contact the HSE Quit Support Team.  Having smoked since she was 14, Caoimhe knew that her vaping habit had to end for her nicotine addiction to end too.  Through the Quit Support Team, she was put in contact with Stop Smoking Advisor Ann Scanlon.  “I had an initial chat with Ann and said look maybe because I was vaping rather than smoking at that time, I wasn’t sure if I fell into that category of smoker. I thought my needs may be different, even regarding something like the amount of nicotine needed.  But Ann was great – she worked out a plan for me for essentially getting off the vape. 

“I didn’t feel in any way fearful.  I didn’t feel for example that she was suddenly going to take the vape away or anything like that. And of course we talked about my smoking habit – I knew I had been a fourteen year old who had taken up cigarettes because it was cool.  When Ann asked why I was still vaping, I initially concluded that it was a social thing.  If I was taking a break from the office, and going out to smoke, then I was inevitably chatting to someone and interacting. 

“Ann then asked if a lot of my friends smoked or vaped and I initially said yes, but then realised after pausing for a second and running it through in my head that in fact I was the last one standing in terms of smoking.  Of my group of friends, those who had smoked had actually stopped.  They had quit and had been quitters for a few years.    So, really it was no longer a social thing as I was the only one still addicted.”


Having worked through a plan that would involve weekly calls  for an initial twelve weeks, and the offer of support outside of those engagements, along with Nicotine Replacement Therapy solutions (patches, inhalers, spray and gum) Ann and Caoimhe set a quit date: “ I can’t remember the month but I do remember it was the ninth.  And when we got to the ninth, I couldn’t do it. But I knew I had my call with Ann the following Monday and I couldn’t face telling her I hadn’t done it so I just switched to the eleventh and to be honest once I got through that first day I actually got a bit of a confidence boost. 

“I felt if I could do the first 24 hours, I could 48 and then I just continued. Overall the combination of NRT patches and inhaler worked well for me, along with the spray. I had actually thought I might just need to use them just for the first five or six weeks but Ann convinced me to continue for the full twelve weeks as the studies show that if you continue for the full twelve weeks you are more likely to succeed.

“In the first six weeks we were in lockdown so there was no going out as such.  And then once we began to come out of lockdown initially, I did know that if I went to a pub or out with my friends, it was almost a scary thing where I knew I probably would be very, very tempted. But I had talked to Ann about it and I had a plan – I would take a little Nicorette inhaler with me. And have a backup cartridge too in my handbag just in case. I also planned not to go out to the smoking area, that I would stay inside or wherever as appropriate.    


There were challenges of course: “There were a couple of stumbles.  When I went on holidays or away and I was taken out of my day-to-day routine, that just set me off.  I needed my routine and the minute I broke that, I knew I was susceptible.  There I was walking along a lovely street and I could see all these people sitting outside smoking, eating food and enjoying themselves and I am thinking why can’t I be that person?  So I was tempted to vape again.  Once I came back from holidays, I kind of said to myself – that was a nice holiday but now back to the plan and the routine.”

Even my TV and cinema consumption changed:   “In my first twelve weeks I wouldn’t watch anything that had people smoking in it because that made me want to have a cigarette. If there was a good movie and the main character smoked a lot, I would be like no, not going to watch it”

'Much easier'

As Caoimhe moved to the second twelve weeks, she describes the experience as “much easier”.  I had decided I was a non-smoker at that point.  Even during the first twelve weeks I was someone who had given up cigarettes, not a non-smoker or someone who had given up the vape.”   That second twelve weeks provided more autonomy and while Ann was no longer making the weekly calls, she did check in and was always available.   A firm non-smoker/non-vaper for almost a half a year now Caoimhe reflects: “Even now when I am completely off the patches and off the Nicorette inhaler, I actually still have the inhaler with me without any cartridge, sitting beside me on my desk at all times.” And in the run up the Christmas Caoimhe was feeling positive:  “I think I was pretty ok with it.  I thought Christmas might be a bit of a funny one this year, but I suppose we’re lucky in that we were not all doing the Christmas party circuit, and so the stress levels associated with that were not there for me.  And I have my plan – I have my inhaler in my handbag, no nicotine in it – I am literally carrying around a piece of plastic with me.  There’s little rationale to it really, but it does make me feel better.”

Her advice to anyone considering quitting is simple – make contact and get the support that is available through the HSE Quit Team and through the Stop Smoking Advisors nationwide:

“If you can make one hour, you can make two and then you can make it 24 hours, so you can make it 48 and so on. That’s how I approached it – it wasn’t that I was giving up smoking, it was that I was going for an hour, then another hour and so on.  And of course – reaching out for that support was absolutely critical.  Having Ann there was wonderful and to get the NRT and seeing it through for the first twelve weeks was so good.”