For Jaki, the one-to-one support has worked. She has gone from doing no exercise at all to doing one-hour a day; has changed her eating habits and has even set up her own walking group as well as quitting smoking.
“I heard about the TARS study when I got a letter through the post in the summer. I emailed them and got a call back immediately. The study sounded different to anything else I’d been offered through my GP and the stop smoking service – that was what interested me in taking part in the research study. I wanted to try something different and something new because all the other offers just hadn’t worked.”
The support available is up to the individual to determine and can take place on the phone or face to face. The rate of reduction in smoking is also up to the individual and those who take part in the study are allowed to use nicotine replacement therapies and e-cigarettes should they wish.
Jaki, who has asthma, said she had been warned by health professionals on a number of occasions to quit smoking but had found it hard to stop.
“I broke my leg back in 2015 and have had a lot of operations on it ever since,” said Jaki. “I got told by surgeon that I wasn’t healing properly probably because I smoked. I then went on to have even more surgery on it and I think it frightened me knowing I might lose my leg. It was my age too – I thought if I don’t do this now I probably never would.”
And so, in June, Jaki agreed to participate in the TARS study.
“I was smoking around 15 cigarettes a day when I started the study,” said Jaki. “Initially I cut out some of the afternoon cigarettes at specified times, wrote them down and stuck it to my fridge so I knew which ones I was having and which ones I wasn’t. Then I started to cut another one out each week and before I knew it I was down to my final three. But then came the difficult part – getting rid of those three. I talked it over with Alex, my coach, and we decided it would be best to get rid of all three at the same time. So I set my quit date, September 15, and that was that.”
Professor Taylor is leading the study across four cities – Plymouth, Nottingham, Oxford and London – which will hopefully provide a definitive answer as to whether future services should be adapted to support those not ready to quit.
“I have tried to stop in the past but it didn’t work for me because it seemed such a huge task,” said Jaki. “Going from 15 cigarettes a day to nothing was just huge and seemed impossible. But cutting it down and then going from 3 to 0 was a much more manageable task – and one that I’ve succeeded at. I think TARS is a fantastic idea. There has to be something different to what’s on offer at the moment. I am the least likely person to quit, yet here I am. I amaze myself every day that I don’t smoke anymore.”
Professor Taylor said:
“We know that over 50% of smokers want to reduce the number of cigarettes they smoke but not quit. So this study is for a different type of audience to the smokers who are ready to quit. If this study proves successful then this could change the way that the one in six (16%) of the national population who smoke (with more than double that in some areas of Plymouth) are supported across the country.”
The study is managed by the Peninsula Clinical Trials Unit (PenCTU) and supported by the NIHR Collaboration for Applied Health Research and Care South West Peninsula (NIHR PenCLAHRC) and the NIHR Clinical Research Network South West Peninsula. It is a collaborative project between the University of Plymouth, University Hospitals Plymouth NHS Trust, St George’s University of London, University of Oxford, University of Nottingham, University of Exeter, and Plymouth City Council.