Wednesday 14 March marks No Smoking Day – an annual challenge to smokers to attempt to quit.
If you smoke, the chances are you’ve tried to quit before. But it’s not all bad news – the most recent evidence suggests smokers in the North East are making more successful quit attempts than elsewhere in the country.
If you’ve tried before, here are some important tips compiled by Fresh to think about to help get you on your way.
- You’re less likely to succeed if you just go “cold turkey” according to Public Health England. PHE has identified research showing that over 58% of smokers still try to quit without using an aid.
- Even if you’ve struggled to quit before, try to make at least one quit attempt a year. Whether that’s for No Smoking Day, New Year or Stoptober. The more you try, the greater your chances of being completely quit within a decade.
- Using Nicotine Replacement Therapy as a quit aid, such as patches and gums, or e-cigarettes makes it one and a half times as likely you’ll succeed. Most health problems are caused by other components in tobacco smoke, not by the nicotine. Research suggests 4/10 smokers incorrectly think nicotine causes cancer.
- If you’ve struggled to quit with quitting aids previously, then why not try switching completely to an e-cigarette? The latest evidence suggests these are significantly less harmful than smoking and are now the most popular way to quit smoking in the UK. Public Health England recently published an independent evidence review confirming that vaping poses only a small fraction of the risks of smoking and switching completely from smoking to vaping conveys substantial health benefits https://www.gov.uk/government/news/phe-publishes-independent-expert-e-cigarettes-evidence-review. Refillable “tank” system e-cigarettes are regarded as more effective and end up being cheaper than the discardable ones that look like cigarettes.
- Your chances of quitting are doubled if using a stop smoking medicine prescribed by a GP, pharmacist or other health professional. Giving up smoking can cause nicotine withdrawal symptoms, which include cravings, headaches, feeling irritable and not being able to sleep. Stop smoking medicines can help you manage these withdrawal symptoms.
- Local Stop Smoking Services provides expert advice, support and encouragement to help you stop smoking for good. Combining quit aids with expert support makes it four times as likely you’ll stop smoking successfully.
- The NHS Smokefree website has lots of free support to help you stop for good. Choose from the smartphone app, email programme or text messages that will help keep you focused. Or call the Smokefree National Helpline on 0300 123 1044.
- Some people do manage to quit first time – but for most it takes more than one attempt. Don’t get disheartened if you didn’t quit first time, and don’t tell yourself you can’t do it. You can come back more determined and better prepared next time.
- Get support from family and friends – their support can go a long way. If your partner smokes, why not quit together?
- The best chance of success is by stopping abruptly rather than by trying to cut down gradually, according to research by Prof Robert West, Professor of Health Psychology and Director of Tobacco Studies, University College London, who has spent over 30 years researching the most effective quitting methods. Many smokers try to cut down first, but when you try to stop gradually, the risk is that each remaining cigarette becomes more important and it creates a stronger link with the situation you smoke it in. Stopping completely it creates a clear break.
Professor John Newton, Director of Health Improvement at PHE advises: “Nicotine is addictive but it’s the many thousands of chemicals in tobacco smoke that are responsible for almost all of the harm caused by smoking. Using nicotine quit aids helps manage cravings and can be one of the solutions to helping you stop for good. Going ‘cold turkey’ is not recommended as it’s the least successful way.
“To get the most benefit, make sure you use as much nicotine replacement as you need, and for as long as you need, as this will help you stop smoking and stay smokefree. Combining quit aids with support from a stop smoking service gives the best success rates. With the wide range of aids now available, there’s never been a better time to stop.”