I first started smoking probably just on a night out. Suddenly you're sober and you're just addicted to it. As I got older, you wake up, you feel absolutely awful. Sick from it. Got a headache. Really hoarse, tired, really fast. Before you know it, you have another cigarette. I was putting my life at risk. You're sort of, essentially playing Russian roulette. Who am I to say that I'll make it to 40, let alone 70 or 80? It wasn't until I got in contact with a stop smoking counsellor that I quit. I actually studied performing arts, and I always used cigarettes as a distraction from my nerves. Quitting has given me a power because I know that I have that control. If I can give cigarettes up, I can pretty much do anything that I want to do, really. I think a lot of the times, addictions come from certain places, and most people don't realise that. I had a lot of anxiety and depression, and I used to go to counselling, and they advised just take a class up in anything, and it'll build your confidence and your self esteem. And I'd always wanted to try burlesque. I felt amazing, because it's quite vulnerable, burlesque, you are taking off your clothes in front of an audience. You just create whatever you want to create, and that's what I love about performing. It allows me to do just whatever I want to do. I smoked the most leading up to a show. You're really nervous, you go outside, you have a cigarette, and then that cigarette is done, you have another cigarette, and you're just trying to count down the time. I had tried before to quit smoking cigarettes. So I used nicotine patches, a little inhaler thing. There were times where I probably just tried to go cold turkey, like, overly confident. You start to struggle and then slowly I just introduced smoking again, and it was like I'd never really tried to quit. I think what stopped me was that I wasn't ready to quit cigarettes. I started to realise life isn't a sort of plain sailing. I thought: "What if I do get pregnant?" and I find it really hard to stop smoking and I'm smoking during my pregnancy. What if this stops me from being able to actually get pregnant? That really freaked me out. So I actually called a quit smoking phone-line, that I found through the NHS. It was really, really, really, simple. Within a day, I had an appointment. Being able to speak to someone was really really helpful. So I've often had phone calls if I can't come in. Check in and just feel like you've still got that connection. This was not only like a health care professional, but a stranger and someone that you wanted to make proud in a way as well as myself. One of the first things they did was take a CO2 reading. It's like a breathalyser machine. Hold your breath for 15 seconds, and then at the end you get a reading, and that shows how much CO2 is in your system. My reading was like 21. If a building got that rating, they'd have to like, essentially evacuate the building. Like, it wouldn't be a safe reading. You start your counselling essentially before you've quit, and you choose a quit date together with the counsellor. I quit smoking cigarettes on Christmas Eve. And I had some of my biggest shows coming up, and I'm gonna have to do without cigarettes, and it was like: "Wow I've not thought this out at all." Weirdly doing costumes was something that also taught me that things aren't always easy and you're not always going to get it straight away. If there ever was a day that maybe I gave in, and I had that cigarette, that didn't mean that I'd absolutely failed. I still had a chance to give it another go. My counsellor sends me like, little certificates, so that's nice as well, getting like a little certificate, that's like, you've not smoked for this long, and I'm like: "We'll pop that on the fridge." Quitting cigarettes feels amazing. Also felt good because I knew I didn't have to go through the difficult journey of quitting smoking whilst being pregnant, because pregnancy is a really emotional time, like it's really really difficult. I should imagine that smoking would have been something that I would have really wanted to do, if I was still smoking whilst I found out. I viewed not being able to stop, as me being a weak person. When people feel like they can't, or tell me that they don't think they can stop, I'm like: "Yes you can. Stick in there." If you've tried before, and it's not worked, keep going, because it will happen.


How I Quit: Burlesquer Cece's NHS Helpline Success

This is a sample from our ‘Quit Cigarettes’ mission, which is currently live in the UK. Our goal is to increase the amount of people in the UK who quit cigarettes. Read more about our first mission here.

Performer Cece always used cigarettes as a distraction from her nerves, but she decided to take back control and quit the cigs, with the help of an NHS Quit Smoking Helpline. Watch her quitting smoking journey.