Ali’s two-step stop smoking formula sounds deceptively simple, but he doesn’t underestimate the challenges involved: “First, you need to be really desperate to stop, that’s the main thing. And the second thing is the help from the service, which is really good. It’s very difficult, but you can do it. And the person that’s going to benefit the most is yourself.”
Ali’s stall on Ridley Road Market, which he’s had since moving to Hackney from Iraq 10 years ago, turned out to be an unexpectedly fortunate spot. He had tried to quit by himself before, with limited success; this time, though, it was different.
“I’m a stall holder and the Stop Smoking Service come to the market all the time. I saw them there and started talking to them. And I really wanted to give it my best. I tried to stop smoking a few times before but it didn’t work. But this time, I’m thinking, it’s going to work! And now I haven’t been smoking for nearly 6 months,” he says proudly.
Before he quit, Ali was smoking 30 cigarettes every day – and had been for 12 years – but he was able to stop completely with the help of nicotine patches, gum, and an inhalator: “I tried a few different things and they were very helpful. It was very good for me, and just what I needed. My advisor was very friendly, and really listened. And they wouldn’t say no if I said I needed something else”.
Ali has since started using an e-cigarette, which he’s found to be a useful support tool: “I’ve been using it for about two months now, because I was struggling. It was helpful, but I want to stop that as well now. If I need help again, the Stop Smoking people told me they’re going to help me.”
Ali has repaid the favour by becoming one of the Stop Smoking team’s loudest advocates, both on and off the market. In addition to plying for trade at his own stall, he publicises the Stop Smoking Service when they’re at Ridley Road, whose team includes English, Turkish and Kurdish speakers. This is particularly important as rates of smoking are very high in Hackney’s Turkish and Kurdish communities, especially for men:
“A lot of people in my community smoke. I started smoking through the family, my mum was smoking and I asked her for a cigarette. And slowly, slowly, I started enjoying it. My mum still smokes because she’s back in Iraq. She’s not here to get the support that you need.”
“I’ve told friends about the service, and some of them are now planning to stop. The first time I thought about it, I really thought I would be the last person to stop, not me! But then I started the programme and slowly, slowly, it helped me”.
In case anyone is thinking about quitting, but isn’t sure that they can, Ali has a few last words of motivation: “I say to them that they should give it their best shot. And if they fail, just don’t worry, you might succeed in the future and it’s going to be very helpful for you. You don’t have to do it the first time, it might take a couple of times – it took me two or three times. But once you’re planning to stop, already your process has started.”
And in terms of the benefits of quitting, Ali is unequivocal: “I can breathe much better, and I don’t smell… Basically, I feel better about myself and also saved a few quid!”
If you also want to quit smoking and live in the London Borough of Hackney, Smokefree Hackney can help you too. Contact them on 02070338509 or visit their website smokefreehackney.org.
For those living outside of the borough, talk to your local pharmacist who can advise you of similar local schemes and also support you through your smoke-free programme.