As I drove Dexter to school this morning, we got stuck in the usual traffic jam. Good times. As I looked to my right, I noticed a man stood outside his front door, dragging deeply on a cigarette, shivering away in his slippers. (Thankfully, he was fully dressed.) It then struck me … this would never have happened when I was a child. Both of my parents smoked heavily, and thought nothing of smoking around my brother and I.
Thankfully, things have moved on in the world and I no longer have to walk through the smoking carriage on a train or sit at the back of the plane because my parents can’t go three hours without a cigarette. The worst place for me as a child though, was in the car. There was just no escape from the fog and I seem to remember always feeling sick whenever I was in their car.
We would never question our parents back then – although I think as I got older I was more conscious of the negative health effects of smoking and probably nagged them more. I worried more about my parents the older I got, but by then, they felt it was too late for them to give up.
Smoking killed my mum 10 years ago this May. Her arteries were so clogged with gunk from smoking that she ended up having a massive heart attack before a stent could be fitted into her neck. I miss her every single day but I thought what happened to Mum would be the one thing that would make my dad re-evaluate his smoking habit. Unfortunately, he’s been smoking since he was 16 and he is 74 now and just feels like there is no point in quitting now. (I wholeheartedly disagree.)
I tried smoking when I was 14, never inhaling, but trying (and failing) to look cool. Thankfully, I hated it and never smoked after that and was really very anti-smoking throughout my life, so you can understand why I was so upset that my eldest started smoking when he was 16 (or possibly younger.) I think it began as a thing to do amongst his peers, but the thing with having children is I know THE worst thing you can do is tell them NOT to do something. I often used to the old “I’m not angry, I’m disappointed” line on him, which he hates, and thankfully, after a few attempts, he has now stopped.
I’m telling you all of this because the NHS have just launched a ‘Smokefree Homes & Cars’ campaign and it’s something I feel really passionate about. I can’t change the fact that I grew up surrounded by secondhand smoke for 19 years, but I hate to think that other children have to go through what I went through. There just wasn’t the support back then that there is now.
The campaign is currently featured online, on television and on radio, and as much as I find the ads a little uncomfortable to watch, the message is so important:
The main aim of this campaign is not to scold or judge, but to offer support to help people give up smoking. I don’t judge my parents for having a habit, I just wish things had been different. Did you know that exposure of children to secondhand smoke is responsible for over 300,000 general practice consultations and 9,500 hospital admissions in the UK each year and that 80% of smoke is invisible? Shocking isn’t it?
Who knows, my mum may well still be around today if she had had support to give up sooner.
If you’re a smoker, you don’t need me to tell you the damage second-hand smoke does to children but, IF you want to give up, and I urge you to at least give it serious thought, there is help there if you want it. Why not visit the Smokefree website – it’s full of free resources and advice to help you: http://www.nhs.uk/smokefree:
* I’m working with BritMums and Public Health English alongside the #brakesonsmoking campaign. I have been compensated for my time. All editorial and opinions are my own. Visit www.nhs.uk/smokefree for free support and advice.