If you’re considering quitting smoking, you’ve already taken the important first step towards a smoke-free life: recognizing that smoking is a harmful and expensive habit that you’re better off without. Some people find quitting to be a straightforward and even easy process, while others find it almost impossible and keep coming back to even after several smoke-free years. Whichever you are, remember that thousands of people kick the habit every year – and there’s plenty of free help and support out there for those who want it. This article is just one of them!
The number one reason to quite should be that it’s absolutely devastating to your health. Most people know that smoking can cause fatal lung cancer, but it also contributes to a variety of other illnesses and directly causes over 100,000 deaths in the UK every year. As well as cancer, smoking causes cardiovascular disease, emphysema and other chronic lung conditions, fertility problems, high blood pressure and loss of eyesight – the list really does go on and on.
It’s also a really expensive habit. The average smoker spends over £1,400 a year on cigarettes, which equates to around £90,000 over a lifetime – just think what you could do with that extra money! For many people this is a big motivator and can be an effective quitting strategy: calculate your monthly spend on cigarettes and put that much aside towards something you really want, like a holiday or a deposit on a new car.
Speaking of quitting strategies, there are a lot of them to choose from but unfortunately there’s no single “magic bullet” that works for everybody. It may be helpful to work out what it is that keeps you addicted to smoking: some people find the chemical addiction to nicotine the hardest to break, while others are more dependent on the psychological aspects of the habit – they’re built into your your daily routine, associated with relaxing and socialising, and giving them up feels like you’re losing something.
There’s a large selection of products that can help you deal with nicotine addiction, from patches and gum (such as these quit smoking aids from LloydsPharmacy) to prescription drugs like Champix, which stimulates nicotinic receptors in the brain to relieve cravings and prevent smoking from having its usual enjoyable effect. A fairly recent alternative is electronic cigarettes, which provide an odourless and tar-free hit of nicotine in vapourised form, although it’s important to note that their effectiveness as quitting aids hasn’t been fully evaluated.
The NHS offers its own free “Quit Kits” consisting of a number of leaflets and booklets that help you plan and track your progress, as well as useful information and advice on how to keep yourself motivated. There are also NHS Stop Smoking services around the country, ranging from group sessions to drop-in clinics where you can share experiences and receive one-to-one support from healthcare professionals.
There are also a few more unusual strategies that have proven very effective for some people, such as hypnotherapy. Hypnotherapy usually works by reprogramming your mind (in a nice way) to associate smoking with something unpleasant, or simply to prevent you thinking about having a cigarette at certain ‘trigger’ times (such as at the bus stop or on your lunch break). Its effectiveness varies from person to person – some people report giving up completely after a single session, while others never notice any effect from it.
Whatever you choose, remember that there’s no need to go it alone and don’t get discouraged if you find yourself smoking again: just keep trying and you will beat it in the end.