Stopping smoking

Published by Sarah Horrocks
Published on 28 January 2008

The anti-smoking campaign is getting tougher and tougher, so there's never been a better time to stub out that last cigarette. Here's why and how to stop, along with advice to help you stay smoke-free.

The anti-smoking campaign is getting tougher and tougher, so there's never been a better time to stub out that last cigarette. Here's why and how to stop, along with advice to help you stay smoke-free.

So many reasons to quit smoking
-It damages your health. Smoking kills 120,000 people in the UK every year and causes one in three deaths from cancer (of the lungs, throat, mouth, lip, pancreas, kidneys, bladder, œsophagus and uterus). It increases the risk of heart disease, strokes, aneurysm, arthritis of the lower limbs and chronic bronchitis.
- It's a beauty no-no. Dull skin, wrinkles, fag breath, yellow teeth and fingers, an aura of cigarettes and a husky voice? It's not attractive.
-It's expensive. A packet a day at £5.50 costs you over £2000 a year. That's a holiday, 30 top-notch meals out, several designer handbags or 150 massages...
-It stresses you out. Late-night drives around town on a Sunday night to find an all-night garage, not being able to last a long-haul flight without stressing out, and now having to go out into the street just for a cigarette break is no way to live your life.
-It's bad for you and those around you. Passive smoking kills, and tobacco seriously damages unborn babies. You may not be thinking about having kids now, but you might well want them one day, so it's better to stop now!

Quitting is tough
It will take several months for you to get over your urge to smoke and stop wanting a cigarette. Even several years after you’ve stopped, just one cigarette could make you take up the habit again because it re-awakens a need for nicotine. There are three types of addiction, which should all be taken into account when quitting smoking:
-environmental and behavioural. Smoking goes hand in hand with certain situations, people and places.
-psychological. Smoking is enjoyable, helps you cope with stress or anxiety, helps you concentrate and stay awake. This is down to nicotine, a substance that provokes feelings of pleasure, relaxation, and intellectual stimulation, and has anti-depressive and anti-anxiety properties. Plus, the fear of gaining weight if you stop can be a big factor!
-physical. Again, nicotine is to blame. Your body becomes physically addicted to it.

The benefits of stopping
However difficult quitting is, you’ll soon start to see and feel the benefits:
20 minutes after your last cigarette, your blood pressure and heartbeat return to normal.
After 8 hours, the amount of carbon monoxide in your blood halves.
After 24 hours, your lungs start to get rid of mucus and residual smoke.
After 48 hours, your sense of smell and taste starts to improve.
After 72 hours, breathing becomes easier.
After a few weeks, smoker’s cough and fatigue disappear and breathing becomes normal.
After a year, your risk of blocked arteries halves.
After 5 years, your risk of getting lung cancer almost halves.
After 12 years, your life expectancy is the same as a non-smoker’s.

Getting help to quit smoking
The first thing you need is the desire to quit! One in two smokers is capable of stopping by going cold turkey. However, there are many aids that make quitting easier and increase your chances of success:
-Nicotine replacement therapy (NRT). Nicotine replacements are available on the NHS or from pharmacies and supermarkets. They help make up for the physical lack of nicotine in your body, and come in patches, chewing gum, sweets, tablets and inhalers.
-Anti-depressants can be prescribed for smokers who are heavily addicted.
-Behavioural andcognitive therapy can help you to change your behaviour and thought processes. For example, you can learn not to give in and have a cigarette whenever someone else lights up in front of you, when you have your morning cup of coffee or you get into a trigger situation. These also help you find different ways to cope with stress other than smoking.

The three above methods are the only ones which have been proven to help people quit smoking; however, there are other, unproven methods: acupuncture, homeopathy, hypnosis, mesotherapy, auriculotherapy (ear therapy), relaxation, phytotherapy, herbal medicine and many other forms of alternative therapy. There’s also a whole host of miracle solutions on sale on the Internet, but don't be fooled into thinking they'll actually do anything to help.

More information
If you want to quit smoking, make an appointment with your local NHS stop smoking support service. You are up to four times more likely to succeed if you use NHS support and stop smoking medicines such as patches or gum to manage your cravings. Your advisor will help you choose the right NRT (nicotine replacement therapy) and devise an action plan for you. You can choose either to have one-to-one sessions with an advisor or join a group support programme.

For more information, call the free helpline on 0800 169 0 169 or visit the website http://gosmokefree.nhs.uk.

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