Taking action on smoking and health
Karen Adam MSP is backing ASH Scotland’s ‘Quit and Win’ campaign on national No Smoking Day (Wednesday 8th March 2023) while celebrating six months of personally being tobacco-free.
The Member for the Scottish Parliament (MSP) is supporting the campaign which is highlighting that giving up smoking brings benefits to health, wellbeing and personal finances.
Karen initially began using cigarettes at the age of 12, and continued smoking for 10 years.
Karen said: “I started smoking out of curiosity by taking cigarettes from my mum’s or gran’s packets. Most adults in my family smoked so seeing people using cigarettes was a familiar sight at home.
“I ended up being part of a social clique of classmates who smoked in the girls’ toilets at school, and I kept smoking until I was 23. I used to enjoy it and looked forward to the routine of starting the day with a cigarette and a coffee out the back of our home. “I then decided to give up in my early 20s by using nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) in the form of skin patches and chewing gum. Those helped me give up for three to four months and, over time, I ‘forgot’ about smoking and managed to stop for nearly 20 years. Despite remaining tobacco-free for two decades, a change in Karen’s work-life balance after being elected to serve in Aberdeenshire Council in 2017 triggered a return to smoking. “Unfortunately, I restarted the habit again soon after being elected as a Councillor. Although I was honoured to represent my constituents, I experienced increasing pressures as someone new to this type of work, on top of my family responsibilities. I felt that going out for a smoke gave me some relief from the added pressure, and an opportunity to meet new people at the council who also smoked.” At the 2021 Holyrood election, Karen achieved further success when being elected as the MSP for the Banffshire and Buchan Coast constituency and took up a role as Co-Convener of the Scottish Parliament’s Cross Party Group on Heart and Circulatory Diseases. By this time, Karen smoked 20 cigarettes a day and had already planned to give up again. She made around 12 quit attempts since 2020, before finally succeeding in September 2022.
“I started to feel ill and horrible, when smoking – experiencing general sluggishness, wheezing and migraines. Through my parliamentary work in the CPG, I also became increasingly acutely aware of the risks smoking posed to my health. “I often recalled the death of my mother, who also smoked, following a heart attack at the age of 49. I will be 48 this year and became determined to give up smoking as my children need me to be healthy. “Around the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, I cut down the number of cigarettes I was smoking and used an e-cigarette. I felt, however, that I was swapping one addiction for another as my e-cig was almost permanently attached to me and I frequently vaped around home. I’m sure I was inhaling much more nicotine using the e-cigarette so stopped.
“I got to the point when smoking what turned out to be my last cigarette, the ultimate realisation I was poisoning myself so I just put it out and, exercising sheer willpower, I haven’t smoked since. I feel empowered and no longer a slave to smoking, as I’m healthier, mentally sharper and more energetic.
“I am pleased to be supporting ASH Scotland’s ‘Quit and Win’ campaign on No Smoking Day and urge anyone who is thinking about giving up smoking to do it in your own time, and in ways that work best personally best for you. “It’s also important to not set unrealistic expectations as you may end up feeling like you are letting yourself down if you slip up. Just do what you can and progress day by day. Also, consider reaching out to trusted friends about how you are feeling as they will be able to provide you with support to keep you going.”
The ‘Quit and Win’ campaign is highlighting that quitting smoking brings health benefits such as decreasing the risks of coronary heart disease and lung cancer, after one year and 10 years respectively, by about 50% compared to people who continue to smoke tobacco.
Anyone who has the goal of giving up smoking is advised to contact the NHS’s Quit Your Way service by calling the free helpline on 0800 848484 or create a quit plan at www.quityourway.scot
Action on Smoking & Health (Scotland) (ASH Scotland) is a registered Scottish charity (SC 010412) and a company limited by guarantee(Scottish company no 141711). The registered office is 8 Frederick Street, Edinburgh EH2 2HB.
ASH Scotland acknowledges with thanks the support of the British Heart Foundation and the Scottish Government in developing our website.