Ex-EastEnders actress Laila Morse backing Stoptober quit smoking campaign
Now in its sixth year, Stoptober works on the basis that if you manage to stop smoking for 28 days, you're five times more likely to quit for good. Actress Laila Morse (72) – 'Big Mo' from EastEnders – smoked for 50 years, before giving up
"I STARTED smoking when I was 15, but [before then], I used to pinch my mum or dad's cigarettes," recalls Laila, who took part in last year's Celebrity MasterChef. "We had outside toilets in those days – I used to go out there and light one up."
It wasn't until a visit to the doctor gave her a wake-up call that she considered quitting.
"I went for a cholesterol test," explains the mother-of-two. "When I went back to get the results, the doctor said, 'Your cholesterol's really high – you're on the point of having a stroke or a heart attack'. Well, it frightened me," she admits.
"When I left the surgery, I threw away the cigarettes I had in the car. I thought, 'Oh God, am I gonna die?' I was worried."
She bought herself an e-cig, but says: "I used that for two or three weeks and, in the end, I thought, 'Well this is exactly the same as smoking really, I don't want to do it'. So I just stopped. And that was near enough three years ago."
Asked whether she can feel the difference, Laila says: "Yes! I can taste my food better... I don't run up the road or go swimming and have to be all huffing [and saying], 'Hang on a minute', and all that. It's tremendous, I feel really good. It's a bit disappointing that I didn't do it years ago, because it's great not to smoke."
In the end, Laila was able to quit after going cold turkey but she knows it's not always that simple. In fact, statistically, people are more likely to quit successfully if they seek advice and aids, such as nicotine replacement therapy (NRT), including patches and sprays. Some of these are available on prescription or to buy over the counter in pharmacies, and there are lots of 'Smokefree' support services available for free on the NHS.
She's adamant though: "Just give it a go. There are lots of places in your community you can go to for support – you can go to your doctors, they'll always help you. And there are lots of different ways you can try and do it too. Vapes [e-cigs] didn't agree with me, but that's an option. You've got patches, tablets, little sprays - they can all help.
"I don't think I'll ever smoke again, it makes me feel sick to think about it... So just give it a go, it can't hurt, can it? It saves your life!"
There's lots of extra support during Stoptober, including a smokefree app, Stoptober community Facebook page, face-to-face advice, a messenger bot and daily emails to help keep you on track. To find out more, search online and visit nhs.uk/oneyou/Stoptober.