'My family's been going on at me for years to stop'
LIKE so many young smokers, Jane Meikle picked up the tobacco habit at school, and has spent years trying to wean herself off cigarettes.
Now a senior advertising executive in Edinburgh, 28-year-old Meikle has managed to quit twice before, but she always ended up back on the cigarettes - once after stopping for two years.
"My partner at the time didn't smoke so I gave up for him, but the day I split up with him, I decided to rebel and I started again," she says.
Meikle admits that she only started smoking to fit in with her friends.
"I probably started part-time when I was 13 or 14, but I didn't really smoke until I was 18. I hated it in the beginning and I definitely did it to be part of the crowd.
"My family's been going on at me for years to stop. My mum is a nurse and she hated the fact that I smoked."
In May this year, Jane decided to give quitting another try. After a friend went to a hypnotherapist to help her stop smoking before she got married and succeeding in giving up, Jane went along for a group session with three other colleagues from work.
Her expectations were not high but, after the hypnosis, she has not been tempted to have another cigarette.
"I don't know how it has worked - I had hypnotherapy for my fear of flying and that hasn't worked. But this hypnosis had quite a profound effect on me.
"Psychologically, I feel different towards it. I am now very conscious of seeing other people smoking and not wanting to."
She adds: "I had the hypnotherapy on the Thursday and I then went on a girly weekend, and five of the people I was with were heavy smokers. I remember standing outside with four of them smoking, and I had no desire to smoke, even after a couple of glasses of wine."
After only a few months, Jane says she has noticed that her health and fitness are improving.
"I didn't realise it had made much difference until I gave up. I noticed a difference in taste and smell, and my clothes weren't stinking of smoke," she says.
"My fitness has definitely improved. I run around Arthur's Seat, and that's hard enough even if you don't smoke."
Giving up with hypnotherapy
What is it? The aim of hypnotherapy is to change the subconscious mind's dependence on smoking as a habit.
People find it hard to stop smoking because nicotine is an addictive drug, but it also has psychological associations, and people have different reasons for smoking - for example, to deal with stress. The experience of hypnosis is said to feel like daydreaming - being neither asleep nor awake but with a pleasant feeling of relaxation.
Does it work? A study at the University of Iowa found that hypnotherapy had a success rate of 30 per cent in helping people to quit, which would make it more effective than nicotine replacement therapy. But many NHS doctors remain sceptical of its benefits and say there is no reliable clinical evidence that it works.
How much does it cost? This varies according to the hypnotherapist, but expect to pay about 60 to 80 for a stop-smoking session. Many therapists offer a money-back guarantee if it fails to work.
What do the experts say? Dr John Bery, a GP in Kirkcaldy who helped write Scotland's smoking cessation guidelines, is unconvinced of the benefits.
"Unfortunately the evidence suggests that your best chance is not to go to a hypnotherapist but to go to a smoking cessation clinic."
But Professor Alan Rodger, medical director at the Beatson Oncology Centre, believes hypnotism works for some smokers. "Some people can be hypnotised because they are very suggestible. I have no problem with people using different approaches to quit, so long as they do give up."
Where can I find out more? For information on hypnotherapy services to stop smoking, visit the British Society of Clinical Hypnosis website: www.bsch.org.uk
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