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Portsmouth resident and mum of one, Scala Levesque, quit smoking with support from the Wellbeing Service and is encouraging others to do the same for No Smoking Day on Wednesday 10 March.

Scala, 29, from North End, had been smoking for 11 years but decided to quit on learning she was pregnant. Three months after her son was born, the first national lockdown combined with the pressures of being a new mum meant Scala started smoking again as a way of handling stress.

Scala says: “As time went on, I started to get more and more annoyed with myself for giving in to a bad habit. By this point, my six month-old son started to imitate my smoker’s cough. This made me feel bad as I knew he was mirroring me. I didn’t want him to grow up viewing me as a mum with bad health who wasn’t motivated enough to change.”

Scala contacted the Wellbeing Service in November and was assigned a Wellbeing Worker to support her quitting journey. Due to national lockdown and social distancing measures, Scala’s appointments took place via telephone and she had weekly, then fortnightly, calls with her Wellbeing Worker, Pauline.

Scala says “Despite not being able to see somebody face-to-face, Pauline was amazing and really made me feel comfortable over the phone. She would explain things clearly and really listened. She reminded me that when I was having cravings or noticing changes in myself that it was totally normal and that others had had similar experiences, so I didn’t feel alone. Pauline always reassured me that she was there if I had any questions or concerns about anything. Vaping, patches and gum were recommended to me as treatment options, but after seeing how well my partner did when quitting on Champix, I asked about this and chose this method as well.

“I have noticed lots of positive differences since quitting. The first one was smell; I had to bring things out of storage and when I opened the vacuum bags it smelt like opening an ashtray! It was so strong and overpowering, I was stunned and felt ashamed about how unpleasant it was. My sense of taste and breathing also improved. I could laugh again without going into a coughing fit. I found that my quality of sleep was better from not waking up in the night to cough so I wasn’t starting the day feeling groggy and sluggish. My son stopped imitating my cough, and I can now enjoy time with him without being reminded of my greatest fear that if I don’t quit, smoking could eventually take me away from him.

“I am now enjoying life without being distracted by cravings, and have achieved my goal to improve not just my health, but the health of my family by eliminating second hand smoke from our home. I would strongly recommend the Wellbeing Service and would tell anyone who may be sceptical or nervous about it like I was, not to be. I was worried I might fail at quitting but was reassured that if one method didn’t work, it was ok, we could try another. I never felt judged, even when I spoke about my greatest concerns or fears.

For anyone considering quitting, I would say what may seem impossible is actually very possible with the right help and your bravest foot forward.”

Councillor Matthew Winnington, Cabinet Member for Health, Wellbeing and Social Care at Portsmouth City Council, said: “I’m so pleased that the Wellbeing Service was able to support Scala to quit smoking, improving her and her family’s health.

“Scala should be very proud of what she’s achieved. I hope that her story will inspire others to take their first steps to being smoke free this No Smoking Day.”

Jason Mahoney, Health and Wellbeing Programme lead for Public Health England, South East, said: “The pandemic has meant the last year has been incredibly challenging and stressful for many, however, No Smoking Day provides an opportunity for smokers to try and quit – regardless of how many times they may have tried in the past.

“Now more than ever before, there are a host of quit smoking aids and free support services available and evidence shows you are more likely to quit with support from a local stop smoking service than if you try to go it alone.

“Smokers who quit for six weeks or more are happier and experience less anxiety and depression than those who carry on smoking. Quitting really is the best thing a smoker can do for their physical and mental health.”

Portsmouth residents can contact the Wellbeing Service for free support to quit smoking by calling 023 9229 4001 or emailing wellbeing@portsmouthcc.gov.uk. The Wellbeing Service can also help residents to lose weight or reduce their drinking.