BEFORE he gave up smoking, 40-a-day man Joe Callery was waking up four times during the night to have a cigarette.
The 42-year-old struggled to walk, breathe and even eat because his health was so bad.
But he finally decided to give up in June 2009.
Now, after successfully quitting, he volunteers to support other people who want to do the same.
Mr Callery, from Johnstone, Renfrewshire, said: “When I decided to stop I could hardly walk from my house to the shops because the pain in my legs was beyond belief.
“Everywhere I went I was in pain. At night I was kept awake by constant cramps. I realised I was not in a good condition.”
It was when he was on holiday with his 68-year-old mother Mary in Tenerife that he realised things had to change.
“I couldn’t walk anywhere, but she likes going about walking and I just could not do it,” he recalled.
“When we came back through duty free, I thought, ‘I will buy one box and when this box is finished that’s me’.”
Like many smokers, Mr Callery, who is also diabetic, had tried to quit a few times before, all unsuccessfully.
But this time he went to his doctor for help and joined the NHS smoking cessation group at the Royal Alexandra Hospital, Paisley. He said: “I just found the support in the group was unbelievable. You are no longer just stopping for yourself, you are stopping for other people.”
The bachelor says stopping smoking has been “totally life changing.
Joe said: “Everything you do on a day to day basis is different to what you used to do. I smoked for 26 years and everything I had done for the last 26 years I had to change.”
He added: “People will say they need cigarettes to calm them down, but smoking actually makes you more stressed, because every cigarette you take means you are just on a countdown to the next one.
“So taking that away makes the day longer and you have more time to do everything.
“You find out really quickly your whole life is run by cigarettes.”
When he first went to the group his carbon monoxide levels were at 78 -- a non-smoking, healthy person’s would be five. Now his levels are at one.
He said: “I felt better straight after quitting -- my cough and everything disappeared next day.
“It is one of those things where you think, ‘I wish I had done this years ago’.
“After 26 years of smoking you don’t get away scot-free, you are still going to have damage. But I feel a lot healthier and have probably added a few years to my life.”
But after the seven-week NHS group finished he felt scared to face the smoke-free journey alone. So he started a group called Help And Support for Staying Stopped, which he runs once a week alongside the cessation group at Paisley RAH.
‘I thought if I really want to enjoy playing with my grandkids, I’ll have to do something about this’
HELEN BAXTER also quit smoking through the Royal Alexandra Hospital group 12 weeks ago.
The 43-year-old, from Paisley is a kitchen porter and lives with partner and non-smoker Bernard, 38.
She says she wanted to make sure she could see her four children and grandchildren, Jade, 4, and Leon, 2, grow up.
Helen’s siblings both died young in 2009 -- sister Margaret was 42, and Joseph was 44. Helen does not want the same to happen to her.
She said: “When I was suffering a cold it was going straight into my chest and I was getting chest infections. Even just sitting and speaking I could hear the wheeze in my chest.
“I just thought if I really want to enjoy playing with my grandkids I’ll have to do something about this.
“I do not want to be a statistic.
“But I knew I would not be able to do it on my own and I found the smoke group really helped me.”
Helen backs the Clear The Air campaign, saying: “Everybody is in the same boat, so the more people you can campaign to stop it’s only going to help.”
How to kick the habit
OUR Clear The Air campaign -- run in conjunction with NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde and NHS Lanarkshire -- aims to highlight the risks of Scotland’s biggest killer and help you quit smoking for good.
Every day in Scotland, 36 smokers die from horrific illnesses, such as lung or mouth cancer, stroke or heart disease.
Then there is the harm caused to others by second-hand smoke, not to mention the spiralling cost.
For help to stop smoking see our website at www.eveningtimes.co.uk/cleartheair or call Smokeline on 0800 848484.
Find us on Facebook by visiting on.fb.me/clearair and Twitter bit.ly/etclearair.
We are also looking for your stories. Call reporter Sarah Swain on 0141 302 6532 or send an e-mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org