‘Smoking addiction is as bad as heroin’ warns Nottingham cancer survivor

A Nottingham lung cancer survivor who had two thirds of his right lung removed because of the disease has warned that ‘smoking addiction is as bad as heroin.’

Ex-smoker William O’Brien was previously part of the 30% of all male residents within Nottingham who smoke.

William began smoking when he was 18 and would continue the habit for more than 50 years before cancer forced him to quit. 

“When I came out of hospital the first thing I wanted was a cigarette.”

The 71-year-old says it was this half a decade of smoking that caused his cancer.

“Smoking is highly addictive it’s as bad as heroin really, two thirds of my right lung had to be removed because of cancer which was caused by smoking,” he said.

“I started smoking when I was 18, I’m 72 this year, I stopped smoking in 2013 because when I found out I had cancer I thought I’d better stop.

“I progressed from 10 a day to 30 a day and it’s very difficult to get off them even when you go on the courses like New Leaf.

“When I came out of hospital believe it or not the first thing I wanted wasn’t a meal or a cup of tea, it was a cigarette, and I did.”


“I have to take an inhaler because sometimes I can’t breathe.”

For the first time in his life William relies on an inhaler when his lungs cannot cope.

“Because my remaining lung is week and damaged through smoking I’ll always be at risk from infections, and some of them are air born which you can’t avoid,” he added.

“If I’m in the Victoria Centre I can last about 20 minutes in there and that’s it.

“This is another thing people have to face when they lose a lung, you can’t go different places.

“I can’t go on a plane,  I’d die on a plane.”

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