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HSE Stop Smoking Advisors key to quitting

 Pat O' Callaghan seated a maroon coloured couch in a studio setting. Behind him are some artificial flowers and a window.


“What I found most helpful with the HSE Quit service was the one-to-one chats I had with Miriam, my HSE Stop Smoking Advisor,” according to Pat O’Callaghan who smoked for more than 40 years. “Those chats gave me an accountability and purpose that the other programmes just didn’t really have.”

January is a popular time for people to try to stop smoking. Many try to quit alone without support and therapies (including stop smoking medications) that can give the best chance of quitting. Among the tried and tested supports offered by the HSE is free nicotine replacement therapy (NRT). 

Dr Paul Kavanagh, HSE Public Health Medicine Consultant Lead with the Tobacco Free Ireland Programme, explains that NRT is safe and effective: “NRT consists of tightly regulated medicinal products that are overseen by the Health Products Regulatory Agency (HPRA) in Ireland.  We know NRT is very safe and that it works.  It is encouraging to see that more people who smoke are using NRT to help them quit.  We have been working hard to improve access to and availability of this life-saving medicine. People who smoke and who want to stop, along with the healthcare professionals who are supporting them, can have full trust and confidence in the safety and effectiveness of NRT.

“Some people who smoke will be wondering about using an e-cigarette or vapes to help them stop. We do not have full trust and confidence in the safety and effectiveness of e-cigarettes as a way to stop smoking and recommend NRT as a way to help them through their quit attempt.”

Recounting his experience, Pat adds that he had “tried everything to quit down through the years; the Alan Carr book and seminar twice; hypnosis twice; patches; cold turkey - you name it and I’ve tried it. I used the NRT inhaler which helped me massively as I really didn’t want to go for vapes as a crutch. I reduced down the number of cartridges in the inhaler over a number of weeks and now I sometimes use an inhaler even without any nicotine, just out of habit.

“The money I’ve saved over the past three months is huge, not only on cigarettes but also I don’t buy a coffee anymore. Without the cigarettes, I don’t find I need it, so before you even count the cost of cigarettes, I’ve saved €60 a month. Since quitting I’ve started motivating others around me.”

Martina Blake, National Lead, HSE Tobacco Free Ireland Programme adds that “you are 5 times more likely to quit for good if you stop smoking for 28 days, and the hardest piece of this process is making the decision to quit in the first place. Our staff can help you assess your daily routine and smoking pattern. They will help to build your confidence and motivation, assess your nicotine dependence through a simple breath test and then arrange free medication for you. They will contact you regularly over a 12-month period to keep you on track for long-term success. If you slip up along the way, there is no judgment. We are here to help you achieve your quitting goal.

“Over the last few years, we’ve seen a growing prevalence of dual-use with smokers using e-cigarette or vapes for short periods or in spaces where it is not possible to light up a cigarette. Our team are available to support with this new issue of dual-use and if you wish to quit both smoking and vaping, you can contact our services.”

HSE Quit services are free and available all year round. The Quit service provides personalised, evidence-based plans, tailored to your needs, using any combination of the support options.