He thought he was fairly fit and healthy, but it wasn’t until a cancer scare that Harold Stewart decided it was time to quit smoking once and for all. Harold Stewart, an Eora Elder (from La Perouse Aboriginal community in NSW), 61 of West Croydon was 43 years of age when he started to notice his throat getting raspy along with other cancer related symptoms. “I strongly believe that if I didn’t give up I would probably be dead by now,” Harold said. “There are many people from my generation who are no longer here because they were smokers.” It took Harold seven times to quit smoking, but eventually he couldn’t deny the fact that smoking was making him ill. “I smoked a lot and then I would get sick. I would develop a nasty cough and get bronchitis and have this bad glug in my throat,” he said. “Over the years I quit seven times and the last time was when I was 43. Today I am 61 and I believe that I am here today because I quit smoking. I think it was a wise decision.” A father of three and grandfather of five, Harold had his first cigarette at age 15 years after his cousin dared him to try one. He then went on to smoke a packet a day, even during his time as an athlete and rugby player. “Smoking always made be short of breath, but after training I was really hanging for a cigarette. It was like I was dying of thirst,” Harold said. “So you’d get your lungs cleaned out of all of glug then you would feel like filling them up again with this terrible smoke. “My mother smoked when I was a baby and the first five years of my life I spent it in hospital, so I don’t know why I was tempted to even start smoking. It was a dumb thing to do.” Since quitting 19 years ago, Harold has devoted his life to supporting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to give up smoking. As a Cancer Council SA Educator for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Cancer Prevention Team, Harold says he is passionate about getting the message out there to his community about how smoking affects their health. “I think it is important that we raise awareness about all the poisons that cigarette companies are actually adding to the tobacco to keep people addicted,” he said. “I want people to know that you can successfully quit. I am one person who has done it and despite all of the stress put on me over the past 10 years I haven’t gone back to smoking.”
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