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The smoking challenge

14th March 2013

ashtrayHelping our clients to give up smoking is an important part of the work we do here at Gateway, but it can be a bit of a challenge.

Of course we, as professionals, know what the risks are for smokers – but sometimes clients just don’t want to make it a priority. Or perhaps the client tells us they do want to address it, but it’s one of a long list of things. It’s quite a skill to support clients in tackling a whole range of issues AND keep smoking cessation on the agenda.

So how do we do it? We tend to find the holistic approach is beneficial for all of our clients. Rather than adding “stop smoking” to a person’s already long “to do” list, we help them to deal with all of the issues they have in a logical order. By helping someone to begin making positive changes in other areas of their life, we often find that they decide to tackle smoking as part of a new routine.

Health Trainer Susan says, “persuading someone to get out of a routine is difficult; it’s scary for them. But once the changes start happening, we see a knock-on effect.”

Sean, another Health Trainer, agrees. “If someone starts exercising, for example, we’ll often find that other positive lifestyle changes come from that, even without much further intervention. They start eating more healthily. They’ll gain confidence. Giving up smoking is one of the things that we continue to talk about as part of that chain reaction.”

Our Health Trainers frequently find that those people who don’t choose smoking as their first priority can be convinced to come back to it. What happens is that they first need to see they can make big changes to their life. So, for example, someone who’s been supported to lose weight sees for themselves what they can achieve with a bit of encouragement. Then, they can decide to tackle something else – maybe something that they felt was out of reach, like smoking.

The Health Trainer is key to this as they’ve already been there in the background helping and supporting them, so they’re trusted to do the same thing again.

For the Pregnancy Outreach Workers, the balancing act can be particularly difficult. Of course, time is of the essence, as the earlier in the pregnancy the woman can stop smoking, the better. However when a woman has a range of issues, some often complex, there can be a lot to tackle in a short time. Team this with the fact that pregnancy is already an emotional and vulnerable time, and women can feel a bit bombarded with do’s and don’ts. We know from experience that this is when behaviour change is far less likely to happen, so it’s vital to deal with the issues with consideration.

“We have to make sure to assess a client’s whole environment before tackling things like smoking,” says POW Sophia. “It’s important to get to know the client and build up a relationship with them – to really understand the bigger picture – before we can suggest it. There are usually lots of other problems that need to be dealt with and giving up smoking is often the last thing they want to do.

“For many clients, smoking is the only link they have to ‘life before baby’ and they see it as a stress relief – a way out. So if we’re going to persuade them to give that up, we have to pick our moment very carefully. It’s tricky, but we always find a way.”

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