'I thought my first cigarette tasted disgusting but when I started going to nightclubs and bars I started social smoking. I've tried to quit a number of times before but slipped back into it again.'
After nearly six years of quitting in her early 20s Leah found that stress and pressure at work meant she started smoking again. 'There was a smoking culture amongst the teachers, I was new in the job and going out back for a smoke was encouraged.'
In August 2010, she had her last cigarette. Leah and her boyfriend quit at the same time, they'd just bought their first house together. 'He'd been pushing me to quit for a while but it was deciding to buy a place that set our quit date.'
Leah's father is a heavy smoker and this was another factor that helped motivate them to quit. 'Another reason is the kids. I teach and I've taken lessons about the risks of smoking and alcohol. I felt like a hypocrite.'
It became easier not to smoke at work when they bought in an on-site smoking ban for teachers at the school. For the first week Leah chewed nicotine gum whenever she felt she wanted a cigarette. After a week Leah didn't need the gum.
The biggest challenges were being around other smokers and drinking alcohol. 'I had to massively cut down on alcohol in the beginning. It's still something that's hard. When you drink the cravings are worse, but I've learnt to manage them.' Leah finds going to the pub with other smokers tough but stresses that it is possible, and that cutting down on alcohol helps her maintain control in this environment.
The main coping strategy Leah used was exercise. She increased her regime from three gym visits a week to five. 'When I was smoking I found that I couldn't do as much at the gym. Seeing the positive differences in my body and how much I'm capable of now, as well as how I feel, is really fantastic.'
Like a lot of smokers, Leah's lungs were feeling the effects of her habit. As a secondary school teacher she uses her voice a lot, teaching back-to-back classes for hours on end. Quitting has meant that Leah's persistent cough has gone. 'I don't start spluttering and get kids saying "What is wrong with you Miss?" all the time now.'
It's been difficult, but five months in and Leah and her boyfriend are more determined than ever. 'We're both doing really well and don't miss it. The positives like feeling fit and healthy, saving money and being able to teach classes without struggling for breath, far outweigh, any perceived positives from smoking.'