Hard-hitting book urges smokers to kick habit

Sheila McGill
Sheila McGill
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A FITNESS instructor who lost both her parents to lung cancer brought on by smoking is hoping to discourage others from taking up the habit – by publishing a book of hard-hitting poems based on her experiences.

Sheila McGill, from High Green, Sheffield, has penned 30 poems designed to dissuade people from smoking cigarettes, as well as creating a special educational programme for schools called Stop Before You Start.

Sheila, aged 53, who works at Chapeltown Leisure Centre, said she wanted her book, called Windows, to help young people ‘make an early decision’ not to start smoking.

“The poetry helped me to express my feelings,” she said.

“I found myself with a whole wealth of poems related to smoking and, looking at the figures, it’s unbelievable that in this day and age children are still choosing to smoke.”

Sheila’s parents, Trudy and Duncan McPherson, died from lung cancer within a year of each other in 2009.

“It was very traumatic,” she said.

“During that time I wrote over 200 poems. The idea is that current smokers can use Windows as an extra tool if they have decided to stop smoking while at the same time delivering the Stop Before You Start message.”

Sheila said she thought her project was a ‘unique idea’, adding: “Watching two strong-minded parents try genuinely to give up smoking but fail made me acutely aware that smoking truly is an addiction best not started.”

The educational pack – currently being piloted in Bolton, Greater Manchester – will feature a series of short animations illustrating five of the poems, which can be shown at the start of different lessons throughout the school day.

“The idea is to have a complete education pack that starts with 11-year-olds at Year 7,” Sheila said.

“At that point less than one per cent of young people smoke. The poems are sometimes a bit dark, too dark for primary schools, I think.

“The book’s a good learning aid, but I just need to get it published first.”

One of the poems describes cigarette smoke as ‘creeping around the room, searching for innocent victims’, and ‘staining every last corner’ of a smoker’s life.

Sheila said: “Although my parents were themselves smokers they managed, thankfully, to convey a strong aversion toward smoking.

“Both only spoke of the negatives and how they wished they’d never started, so by the time I was 12 and urged to ‘try a puff’ I had already made my decision.

“Using the poems to help young people would, I know, meet with full approval of both my parents.”

Email stopb4ustart@aol.com for more information or to suggest publishing opportunities.