After 22 years, I am now a former smoker. That little sentence feels fairly momentous. Last week I signed up to Lloydspharmacy’s Stop Smoking Programme and, with their help, I’m on my way to kicking the habit.

The question I keep being asked is “How is it?” The answer, delivered with stern resolve, is always the same: “difficult, really difficult”. There’s no hiding from the fact. After all those years, nicotine gets a powerful hold on you. The fact that I’ve stuck it out has been down to three things: personal determination, the support of those close to me and, no less crucial, my Nicotine Replacement products.

The patches have been vital. I don’t think I could have made it this far without their steady and constant help. I had tried quitting before but hadn’t been successful. I boldly thought that giving up would be a case of mind over matter, but the advice from Lloydspharmacy that I should use patches to slowly wind down on the amount of nicotine in my system has proved spot-on.

The Quickmist is working well as a crutch by being an immediate response to those sudden cravings. I had a little hiccup when first using the product – literally, hiccups. In a desire to blast away the sudden craving, I was dousing the back of my throat in the stuff. I have now found that a much more measured approach kills the craving just as quickly without any adverse effects.

Sometimes, when I’m struck by a craving, I try to think of the numbers involved. 7 days, at 30 a day, is 210 cigarettes that I haven’t smoked (or, for that matter, spent any money on). But the most important figure is far more humble: 2 is the number of carbon monoxide parts-per-million in my lungs, measured by Lloydspharmacy at my weekly consultation. Last week, as a smoker, that number was 25. Over the coming months and years, that sudden and dramatic fall is going to have a lasting impact on my health.

The average figure for a non-smoker is closer to 0.6, so there’s still a way to go. But Stephanie, my pharmacy assistant, assures me that the first couple of weeks are the hardest. By the third and fourth week I should be starting to feel fitter and healthier.

This may well mean that next week’s blog is a little grumpy. But with every day that passes my sense of achievement grows. By the time I post my next blog, it will be the longest I’ve been without a cigarette for over two decades. Fingers crossed.