MEL Thomas hasn't smoked a cigarette in 15 years — cutting the Echuca woman’s risk of dying from smoking-related disease by more than 90 per cent.
Her risk of coronary heart disease is now that of a non-smoker’s.
And, as part of Sunday’s World No Tobacco Day, Mel is now appealing to smokers across the district to kick the habit.
According to the 2017 Victorian Population Health Survey, 16 per cent of Campaspe Shire’s population are current smokers.
Smoking kills more than 21,000 Australians each year and remains the leading preventable cause of death and disease in Australia.
“The smell 15 years later still makes me nauseous. I can’t even sit downwind of someone smoking,” Mel said.
The 45-year-old started smoking about the age of 19.
“Most of my friends were smokers, and at the pub on a Friday and Saturday night it was the thing to do with a drink in your hand,” she said.
“I wasn’t a big smoker, a pack of 30s would last me three days, but on the weekends I probably went through more.”
After several attempts at quitting, Mel eventually kicked the habit for good when she was about 30 years old.
“It wasn’t a conscious decision to quit. I was suffering really bad tonsillitis at the time and one morning I got up and went out for the normal first ciggie and had to divert to the toilet on my way back to my room. I threw up and haven’t had one since,” she said.
“For my last ankle operation back in 2004 I had to not have had a cigarette for four months before the surgeon would even book me in, so that was a no-brainer, I just did it.
“Another time was for four years. I have always gone cold turkey and tried not to put myself in the situation of wanting one. Sometimes it works, but then something triggers that urge and you relent.
“The last time, the biggest reason I haven’t taken it up again is the nausea that goes with smelling the smoke. That is now a mindset, my brain is associating that smell reminding me I don’t need or want one.
“The tonsillitis was both a blessing in disguise and may have been my body’s way of telling me I needed to stop, and it worked.”
Since quitting, Mel has noticed a remarkable improvement in her health.
“Your breathing improves, the yellow colour leaves your fingers and teeth and my asthma has improved,” she said.
Her advice for others wanting to quit was to find your trigger and work on why that was so.
“Make use of any outside help you can utilise,” she said.
“Get the backing of family and friends or someone who you can vent to. It is a disease like any other and help is available if you want it.”
If you want to stop smoking, call Quitline on 137 848 or visit quit.org.au
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