Why you want to quit smoking
People have individual reasons for giving up smoking. These range from improving your health to saving money to safeguarding your children's health and their future. Whatever your reason for giving up smoking it will only enhance your life and that of those around you.
There are many benefits to giving up smoking but none that support keeping the habit going.
You And Your Family Will Live Longer
Smoking causes cancer, heart diseases, breathing diseases such as chronic bronchitis and life-limiting illnesses. People who quit smoking add years to their lifespan. The NHS estimates that a 60-year-old quitting now will add three years to their lifespan. Half of all smokers in the UK will die due to a smoking related illness.
As well as lengthening your life, you will lengthen the lives of your loved ones. Passive smoking is a real threat to health. It causes asthma, ear infections and pneumonia in children and raises the risks of killer diseases like stroke and lung cancer in adults. If your secondhand smoke is breathed in by your friends and family, you are put their lives at risk and potentially ruin their health.
When you give up smoking your smoker's cough will dissipate. You will be able to breathe more easily. Within a few weeks, your lungs and blood circulation will improve, and you'll find active pursuits such as climbing the stairs simpler. The extra oxygen you breathe in will mean you're less tired and more active.
Smoking suppresses your immune system, so by quitting you allow your body's natural defences to fight off infections. You may experience fewer colds and airway infections.
Temporary withdrawal from nicotine causes anxiety. With more smoking regulations in the UK, it's becoming harder to find places that allow smoking If you've found yourself wanting to leave an event, such as a trip to the cinema or found coping with a long haul flight difficult, quitting will relieve the stress and advance worry.
An Improved Sex life
Smoking can cause impotence because blood flow is restricted by nicotine. Men struggling with erectile dysfunction may find their erections improve after quitting, and women may find orgasm easier.
If you're having trouble conceiving a baby then quitting will help boost your sperm levels and womb lining quality. Smoking when pregnant causes harm to your unborn baby too, increasing the chances of a miscarriage or low birth weight.
You'll look better
Smoking cuts down on the amount of oxygen your skin receives making you appear grey and dull. Often a smoker's hair will look dull and brittle too. Your teeth are more likely to fall out due to gum disease if you smoke and they are likely to be stained by nicotine. Quitting will quickly improve all of these aspects of your appearance.
Treatments available for quitting smoking
Although quitting smoking will improve many aspects of your life, it isn't that easy, particularly if you have smoked for many years. Fortunately, there are many ways to help.
Prescription treatments such as Champix are clinically proven and effective. They should be taken for a minimum of 12 weeks. Your chances of quitting are much higher than simply going cold turkey and hoping for the best. Prescription medicines don't suit everyone so it's important to learn about the side effects and precautions.
Prescription medicines work by reducing cravings for nicotine and by blocking the reward feeling you get from smoking. Usually, you'll take one or two tablets daily and should start in advance of stopping your cigarettes. Some people choose to take a second course to make sure their cravings are completely eliminated.
It's not for under 18s, pregnant women or for those with kidney problems.
These are usually mild and may go away with continued use. If they become intolerable, ask your doctor if you can switch to another NRT.
Nicotine replacement therapy (NRT)
This method includes nicotine patches, gums, inhalers and sprays. They can be successful and should be used over a long time period to gradually cut down on nicotine consumption. You do not need a prescription for nicotine replacement. NRT can work well as a quitting aid because it reduces the withdrawal symptoms by gradually cutting down on your dose.
Options such as hypnotherapy are not clinically proven but may help some people who want to avoid medicines. Counselling and therapy are a strong support for quitters.
E-cigarettes, known as e-cigs or 'vaping', are a new option on the market and not yet thoroughly tested. E-cigs are a form of nicotine replacement as they spray a vapour of nicotine into your lungs. They have some success with a large benefit being that the action of smoking is intact. Many smokers find they need to hold a cigarette or need to breathe in a substance when trying to quit. It generally thought they are less harmful than smoking cigarettes, but the flavouring may potentially cause health problems.
E-cigarettes come in the form on an inhaler with a separate cartridge that is heated to produce a vapour.
Whichever method you choose to help you quit, you will need to exercise willpower. None of these options will stop you from smoking overnight. The best treatment is the one you consider will help you quit the first time. Prescription medicines are generally thought to have the highest success rate, but not everyone is suited due to medical conditions.
Additional stop smoking support and services
All of the above stop smoking methods will work if you have willpower and determination. To support you in your quest for a smoke-free life there are additional services and supports.
Your doctor may suggest you to quit smoking for some time. They can help by referring you to a stop smoking clinic and monitoring the benefits you will obtain such as lowered blood pressure and less erectile dysfunction or chest infections. This can be a real boost in keeping you on track.
The NHS Stop Smoking Service
Specially trained staff run groups that meet to encourage one another and swap tips. You are more likely to quit if you have support and encouragement. If you don't like group meetings then personal meetings are available. If you have an immediate craving and want to light a cigarette call the stop smoking helpline on 0300 123 1044. The helpline will talk to you about how to distract yourself away from your craving. The stop smoking service has help thousands of individuals of all ages quit smoking for good.
There are many people online looking for support to quit cigarettes, a search will bring up a choice of groups to choose from. If you prefer a medical support online the Smokefree website can support you.
Medical professional agree that you are more likely to quit smoking for good if you seek the help of additional support services.
Self Help Advice
If you are determined to quit smoking you will be more successful. Along with prescription medicine, counselling or nicotine replacement treatments you can help yourself get through the difficult stage of resisting your cravings and giving up cigarettes for good.
Use an App
Download a free quit smoking app to log your progress and remind you of the reasons why you want to give up.
Don't have cigarettes in the house
If you need to leave the house to purchase cigarettes it gives you time to reconsider. If cigarettes are easily accessible you are more likely to pick one up.
Make A Plan
If you are going to a social event where people are smoking, or your partner smokes, think about how you can manage the temptation in advance.
Diet can have more of an effect on smoking that you think. If it's a habit to smoke after food, wash up or watch a TV program instead until the craving passes. Some foods can make cigarettes taste worse. These include vegetables, fruit and cheese. Avoid meat and you may not want that cigarette.
Drinks can also make cigarettes taste bad. Fill up on juice and water to prevent a craving.
Cravings last five minutes on average. If you can distract yourself during this time, the craving will pass and you're another cigarette closer to quitting.
You will find exercise easier without the effects of smoke in your blood and muscles. Walk, ride your bike or swim as it reduces cravings and is an indication of how much healthier you are becoming.
Going Cold Turkey
The reason a lot of people fail to give up smoking is because they try to go 'cold turkey'. This means simply stopping smoking without any support in place. Very few people can achieve this through willpower, but it is an uphill battle.
It's estimated only three in 100 people manage to give up this way. If you've tried going cold turkey in the past, don't be put off trying to quit again. Use supports this time round such as prescription medicine, nicotine replacement or a support group.
How quickly will I see an improvement in my health?
Immediately your body will begin to clear toxins from your blood, kidneys and lungs and your oxygen levels will improve. Within a few days, you will notice the difference to your skin, breath and concentration. After a few weeks, some ex-smokers find they cough up phlegm. This is the lungs clearing out tar and a sign you are quitting for good.
If you are aged 30 and quit smoking you are likely to live an extra ten years. The health benefits are immediate and last for a lifetime.
How long is it going to take to go smoke free?
The timeframe is down to the individual. Prescription medicine courses last from 12 weeks, but some prefer to extend this time as they do not feel ready to go without the craving support.
The recommended length of nicotine replacement treatment should be to have cut down your intake by half over six weeks, but if you are cutting down more slowly, it will take longer. It's better to take your time giving up than rush into it and experience strong cravings that break your resolve.
Your mental attitude makes a huge difference to your success. Joining a support group will help enormously, as will the support from your friends and family.
How to stop smoking without the cravings
Cravings happen when your body is denied its usual dose of nicotine and they can occur in two ways:
- A sudden intense urge to smoke that can be triggered by an established habit such as eating a meal or feeling stressed. It is very hard to overcome these sudden rushes.
- The other type of craving is a steady background craving.
Both types can be managed by behaviour changes, with prescription medicines and nicotine replacement. Cravings are the main reason people start smoking again, so if you can manage these you are more likely to quit for good.
Stop smoking without gaining weight
People worry that if they give up smoking they will put on weight and there are reasons why this tends to happen. Smoking speeds up your metabolism so you need to eat less food that your current amount, smoking suppresses your appetite and the hand to mouth action of smoking can be replaced by hand to mouth action of snacking. Dealing with a craving by eating something bad for you is common.
Take these steps to avoid putting on weight:
- Exercise burns off calories and is a good way to distract yourself from cravings. Join a class and start taking the stairs, walk to work or on the school run. You'll find it easier without smoking.
- Keep a bag of healthy snacks such as fruit or nuts nearby so you don't eat bad foods. Eat them slowly. They will taste better because smoking affects your sense of smell and taste.
- Using prescription medicine blocks the reward centre so you may not associate food with pleasure just as you will not associate smoking with pleasure.
- Ensure that any support you use, either prescription medicine or nicotine replacement is used regularly and according to directions.
If you do find yourself putting on weight, it's best to quit smoking before you diet. Taking on a diet and quit smoking regime leads to a lot of pressure. If you put on a weight speak to your doctor or the stop smoking service for advice and more tips.
FAQs About Smoking
Do prescription medicines actually work?
Yes they work, but you need to have willpower too. It's thought that prescription medicines can double or triple your chances of quitting for good.
Do E-cigs cause cancer?
Nicotine does not cause cancer. It's the tar and chemicals that you breathe in from cigarettes that cause cancerous changes. Vaping is too new for scientists to fully understand the implication. Some worry about the flavourings that are used, but many medical experts agree they are better for you than smoking cigarettes.
Quitting Smoking Is Expensive
Nicotine replacement treatments, psychotherapy and prescription medicines may cost you money, but in comparison to a lifetime of smoking it is nothing. The cost of cigarettes rises each year and shows no signs of reducing in price.
Can I use Stop Smoking Treatments When Pregnant?
All women should quit smoking when they are pregnant as it can cause complications, but prescription medicines are not recommended for use in pregnancy. Nicotine replacement treatments are safe during pregnancy.
Will I get addicted to stop smoking treatments?
It's not likely you will become dependent on nicotine replacement treatments because you are slowly using less of them in order to quit altogether. By the end of your course you should be using a small amount which is easier to quit.
Prescription medicines are not addictive but some people may worry about stopping in case their cravings come back. As long as you have used the treatment correctly for the recommended amount of time you should not need to worry. E-cigs should be used to reduce nicotine consumption, but in some cases, they are used as a replacement.
The effects of passive smoking and E-cigarettes
Passive smoking is unpleasant for those around you and harms their health. Smokers do not breathe in every wisp of smoke; in fact, smoke that's breathed in is mostly breathed back out. Between drags, your cigarette is burning into the air of those around you. 80% of this smoke is invisible.
Children are particularly at risk of secondhand smoke, which is why new regulations banning smokers from lighting up when children are in the car have come into force. Children have undeveloped airways lungs and immune systems so smoke affects them in particular.
Children that breathe in passive smoke are more likely to develop the same diseases you are at risk of including heart disease and lung cancer. Asthma and allergies are more prevalent in smoking households.
The only way you can prevent your family and friends from breathing in your secondhand smoke is to quit. Opening doors and windows does not expel the smoky air. Even a ventilated room will hold smoke for several hours after you finish your cigarette.
E-cigarettes do not have the same passive smoking risk that standard cigarettes pose to others. 'Vaping' is not banned indoors but full scientific investigations into their safety are not yet available.
How to get treatment for smoking
Treatment for smoking is available from many places. Your doctor can help you with prescriptions for Champix for example, or nicotine replacement therapy in the form of gums, patches, sprays and tablets. E-cigarettes are not yet available on prescription but you can buy them over the counter.
Prescription medicines are an effective way to quit smoking. You will need a prescription from your doctor before starting a course, to ensure it's the right medicine for your health status and lifestyle. Once you've been prescribed it you can buy Champix or its equivalent online from a reputable company that delivers genuine medicines.
Don't be tempted to spend less on herbal remedies or unlicensed websites as the medicines could be harmful to your health.
Whatever treatment you choose, be sure to take it as directed. Combine your treatment with a positive mental attitude and plenty of support from friends, family, stop smoking groups and within a few weeks you could be on the road to a longer, healthier smoke-free smoke life.