Smoking kills upwards of 80,000 people every year in the UK and is the biggest cause of premature death and preventable disease. Quitting is undoubtedly the best health decision you will ever make. So, get started now! Find the right strategy that works for you and go for it.
In order to quit for good you first need to understand what it is that makes you reach for the fags in the first place. Research has shown that smokers broadly fall into different personality categories and different advice to quit applies to each of them.
1. You can live without cigarettes until some issue at work or a row with your boyfriend sends you running to the tobacconist.
In your case, smoking is a tension easer. For you, exercise is a good way of dealing with stress and also helps to banish cravings. Nicotine gives you a quick fix adrenaline shot which speeds up your metabolism. Exercise does the same but clearly in a more positive way.
2. Your first act of the day is to light up. You then smoke throughout the day and get the jitters if you miss one.
Your addiction to nicotine is very strong. Your priority is therefore to break your addiction. Try nicotine patches, sprays, gums or electronic cigarettes. The latter give you a convincing cigarette substitute but without the harmful toxic chemicals. Your doctor can also prescribe a drug called Zyban which eases withdrawal symptoms. Although this does double quitting success rates, it can also cause insomnia and headaches.
3. You're fine when you're on your own but the minute you join your chums and someone lights up, you have to join in.
For you, smoking is a social habit. You need to make quitting a social activity too, and for this you'll need to find yourself a quit buddy. Medical evidence has shown that your chances of stopping are considerably increased if you give up at the same time as a friend or relative. Quitting groups can also be a great source of support and your doctor will be able to put you in touch with one locally.
4. Smoking is part of your daily routine and has been forever! You reach for a cigarette to go with your morning coffee or after dinner when you settle down in front of the TV at the end of the day.
You need to retrain your brain. Break the associations you have with cigarettes and replace them with healthier habits. You may find hypnotherapy extremely effective. Acupuncture therapy has also been found to be useful in cases like yours.
5. Although you've tried to give up many, many times before nothing has worked for the long term.
Don't be discouraged and tell yourself that you just can't do it – you can! You just need willpower! Two thirds of ex-smokers successfully quit without using any form of medical intervention or assistance. The two main causes of lack of willpower are; low glucose levels and being overtired. Make sure you never go for more than a couple of hours without some form of healthy snack (fruit or nuts for example) and try to get a good eight hours unbroken sleep each night.
If you need a few more reasons than the usual ones for giving up smoking, think about these:
- Ex-smokers have better reasoning skills and memory than smokers.
- Smoking prematurely ages your skin by up to 20 years. You'll also go grey earlier!
- Female smokers have a greatly reduced chance of becoming pregnant.
- Smoking causes gum disease, bad breath and stained teeth.
- Macular degeneration (the main cause of blindness in the UK) is doubled if you smoke.
- 98% of children canvassed wish that a smoking parent would give up.
Before you start on your quitting campaign, make sure you have a plan. Identify your biggest smoking triggers and your feelings when you have a cigarette. Write down new healthy habits you can adopt instead of reaching for a cigarette. Make sure you have everything you need for your campaign: nicotine patches, gum etc and get rid of ciggies, ashtrays, matches and lighters. Remember to tell friends and family that you're giving up. Work out approximately how much money you'll save by not buying cigarettes and write the figure down. Think about something you'd really like but can't afford – a facial or manicure perhaps – and write that down too. Keep the piece of paper somewhere you can see it.
On day one of your quitting campaign, make sure you keep busy and have a friend on speed dial just in case you need encouragement. One week in and you should find that your cravings begin to weaken although you're still vulnerable to temptation. Stay strong, you can do this! One month in and it's time to reward yourself with a treat and share your achievement with your friends and supporters. Praise works wonders!
Spend the money you've saved on fags on the reward you noted down when you started or save it until the end of month two as further motivation.