Couple quit smoking after spending over £500 a month on fags

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Stephen Murray and Mary Dunbar, both 50, from Kilsyth smoked 50 fags a day between them for more than 30 years.

With the average cigarette measuring 7cm, if stacked vertically and end-to-end, the amount of cigarettes smoked in a single year would stretch over the Eiffel Tower four times.

And the equivalent height of their lifetime habit would surpass the cruising altitude of a passenger jet three times.

But it was the sky-high smoking bill that inspired the couple to seek help from a stop smoking drop-in clinic run by NHS Lanarkshire staff, as part of Health and Social Care North Lanarkshire.

Mary said: “We were looking over our finances recently with a view to getting a new kitchen and we discovered we were spending £540 a month on cigarettes. It was a real eye opener.”

Mary called around some pharmacies in the local area to see if any offered help them stop. She chose the service available in Charteris Pharmacy on the Main Street Kilsyth run by an NHS Lanarkshire stop smoking nurse specialist, Sheila MacFadyen.

The Stop Smoking Service is available to anyone who wants to, or is considering, giving up smoking. It includes support for patients in hospital, group and individual support in the community including Community Pharmacies. Home visits can also be arranged for the housebound.

After making initial contact with the service in June, they quite smoking a day after their first meeting and say they have never looked back.

Stephen, an engineer, said: “I always thought I wouldn’t be able to give up so we wanted to go to a group. We weren’t confident we could do it on our own and thought we could do with the extra support.

“It was a bit nervy going on our first day, but Sheila couldn’t have been more welcoming.”

Mary added: “In many ways, stopping has been easier than I thought.

“I think we both expected it to be tough, but with the support of Sheila and each other, we’ve not even been tempted.”

The money the couple have saved has enabled them to buy bikes. Mary has also reported a new lease of life with friends and family commenting on her healthy glow.

And to celebrate the fact the couple have both successfully completed 13 weeks without smoking, Councillor Paul Kelly, of North Lanarkshire Joint Integration Board, joined Sheila MacFadyen to present them with certificates.

Councillor Kelly said: “It was a joy to hear Stephen and Mary’s story and how they’ve made such an improvement to their lives with just one decision.

“The couple were also glowing in their praise of Sheila, the Stop Smoking Service and how they couldn’t have achieved this without them.”

Anyone who wants the support of the Stop Smoking Service can call 0300 303 0242 (Mon-Fri, 9am-5pm). They can also text ‘Advice’ to 81066 or Smokeline which runs seven days a week from 8am to 10pm on 0800 848484.