Once a week I am extremely lucky to travel to Glenorchy and provide smoking cessation services and support to this community, which is a small settlement at the northern end of Lake Wakatipu, 45km from Queenstown.
There are two pubs, a café, a small primary school and a range of small shops in the town catering mainly to tourists. Glenorchy has a small resident population of about 400 – many are long-term, generational farming families, others young families looking for cheaper housing options, and other travellers staying for a few months to work in the tourism sector. There used to be a lot of people who smoked. In the last few months of 2019 Sue, Kelly and Geoff, Doc, Monique and Pete have all quit, and remained smoke free. This has been a huge achievement for them individually, and collectively, and as Pete calculated, has probably saved them about $50,000 a year.
I have worked in the Glenorchy community for about eight years and I know that sometimes getting folks back is not always going to happen. They are busy, used to being isolated and self-resilient.
So I need to give as much information and product when I have them with me. Learning results is often many months later which is a little frustrating, and not so good for stats, but, quitting smoking is their journey, not mine (mine was 22 years ago), and once quit, the journey for them is over, and so coming back to the clinic not necessary – I get that.
In late 2019 a few long-term residents approached me to help them quit smoking. Sue Roney had smoked for 40+ years and really only came because her husband Stan had come in and asked about the stop smoking service. Sue’s journey was a long one, she ‘liked’ smoking cigarettes and used then as a reward. When I first met Sue and discussed being smoke free she blew 16 on my smokerlyser. Although she managed to cut down from her 10-15 a day habit quickly, using patches, she struggled with afternoons, and could not quit the final couple between lunch and dinner – which were her ‘quiet ones’ while she was getting Stan’s dinner and relaxing after her day cleaning Air B n B’s.
Sue tried everything from altering her patterns of how and when she did things, to not allowing herself to sit in her favourite ‘smoking’ spot. Sue increased her patches, used more lozenges and nothing seemed to work. This went on for months – Maria our former service manager had come through on a regular trip and had given more advice and suggestions. It was frustrating for Sue, she’d done so well, but couldn’t get over this last hurdle to become smokefree. Then Sue stopped coming to the clinic, I’d message to remind her I’d be there on Wednesday, no reply. I thought Sue must have just given up on her final goal of being smoke free. Then, out of the blue, Sue arrived at the clinic, she wanted some more lozenges – she had been totally smoke free for several weeks, and she blew a 0. Sue still uses lozenges if she has a craving, but she remains smoke free.
Another was “Doc” Richard who had been smoking up to 40 cigarettes a day for 25+ years. Lesley, Doc’s wife, had come into the clinic and asked me about the service and I had talked her through the programme, and had given her products for an unsuspecting Doc to try. About a month later I met Doc. He arrived at the clinic wanting to know how to ‘use this stuff properly’, so I sat with him and explained about his nicotine addiction, about his cravings and the effects of smoking on his health, and how to use the patches and gum effectively. He left the clinic after blowing over 30 on my smokerlyser well stocked, more informed, but not totally convinced. As with many of my clients in Glenorchy, I didn’t see Doc again. Doc isn’t always working in the township so I know that could make things difficult, but I suspected quitting smoking had been a good idea but not successful.
A few months later, quite unexpectedly, I got a phone call from Lesley, Doc’s wife, when I was away from town. Could someone please call in and get some gum for Doc? Sure, I said, puzzled, and asked if he was attempting to quit again – He was, and he HAD. He was 6 weeks smoke free and doing very well!! I was blown away. A few weeks later Doc came in to see me, he looked GREAT, and was extremely proud of himself, and knew how proud Lesley and their two daughters were of him.
Kelly, a ‘quiet’’ smoker, came to see me. She had a bit going on in her life, and had a few concerns about her husband’s health, also a cigarette smoker. These two were interesting – Kelly was an afternoon smoker (unless she was having a few drinks) while Geoff smoked in the evenings. I talked to Kelly about both their smoking habits and patterns, and sent her away with product and suggestions for both of them. The following week Kelly had been smoke free since she’d seen me and was extremely pleased with herself. But Geoff wasn’t on board. Kelly became a weekly visitor at the clinic for several weeks. She had a couple of ‘slip ups’, usually when drinking, but would get straight back on track. We would talk about her journey, and she would wish Geoff would get on board. Just before we went into COVID lockdown, Kelly came in to see me, she was wanting some gum ‘just in case’ for the lockdown period – her news: Geoff had QUIT!! She was thrilled.
Monica, a ‘social’ smoker, and friend of Doc’s wife Lesley came in for help to completely kick the habit. She and Lesley were off to run the New York marathon and even ‘social’ smoking didn’t really fit with running marathons.
Pete who owns a construction business, a long-term local, and long-term smoker, called in to see me for some NRT. He was smoking about a packet a day, but only blew about 10 on the smokrlyser. We talked about behaviours, habits and some strategies to help quit. Pete left with a good supply of products and suggestions on how to use them successfully. Pete has never come back to see me, but I have heard through the community, and from his mates who have quit, that he has been successfully smoke free since before Christmas.
There were several others in the community who have enrolled and never returned. I know not all these folk have quit, but unbeknown to them they have actually started their journey - they will come back, they will have another quit attempt. Most people aren’t successful on their first attempt, but that’s the start, and when they want some more encouragement to try again I’ll be happy to support again, when and how they want.
I love working in this community, and proud of those that have QUIT in the last year. They have inspired and supported each other, and there will be others in the community watching their success and be inspired to call into my clinic one Wednesday. I’ll be there for them.