Friday, 12th October, 2018
As you may already know, October marks Stoptober: Public Health England's campaign which aims to encourage smokers across the UK to quit cigarettes. Although most people are aware of the dangers associated with smoking and the number of smokers is declining, for some, it’s an ingrained habit that can be very difficult to kick.
If you've found it hard to quit smoking in the past, don't feel disheartened. Echo's Clinical Director, Alistair Murray, provides some practical steps you can take to start your journey towards a smoke-free you.
Smoking is an addiction and so can be incredibly difficult to give up. Having a particular reason to quit can help to keep you motivated. Whether it’s to set an example for your children, to experience health benefits, or to save money, keep the reason in your mind whenever you have a craving. Some people even carry around visual reminders such as photos of loved ones to help them stay on track.
Giving up is hard – even more so if you’re doing it by yourself. Whether you lean on the support of a loved one, quit with a friend or make use of the support services on the NHS, make sure that you have some help along the way. The NHS offers specialist support which includes counselling, prescription medication to manage cravings, and Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT).
There are aids that can help you manage the cravings while quitting. E-cigarettes have been lauded as an effective temporary replacement quitting, whilst NRT aids are available over the counter at pharmacies to help smokers struggling to give up. These can come in the form of gum, patches, sprays, inhalers, or lozenges and will help relieve the physical withdrawal symptoms of nicotine addiction. The recommendation is to use any aids in conjunction with counselling.
You might also be prescribed medication to mitigate any withdrawal symptoms, which, in rare cases, can include depression or insomnia. The two medications prescribed are Champix tablets (varenicline) and Zyban tablets (bupropion). These are taken one to two weeks before you decide to quit, and treatment will usually last a couple of months.
Technology is available to help you to take and manage your prescribed medication. For example, Echo will send reminders to you to make sure you take your medication as prescribed and will remind you to order more when stocks are running low. Additional nudges to take medication will help you avoid withdrawal symptoms.
Identify the times when you are most likely to want a cigarette, such as when you’re out drinking with friends. If you’re unable to avoid the situation, figure out an action plan or escape route in advance so you are prepared should you be tempted.
Some foods and drinks can also act as a trigger for those trying to quit. Some people find that certain foods, like meat, can make a cigarette taste better. Changing your diet or drinks can therefore help you avoid temptation and shake up your routine.
Smoking is often used as a means to unwind and relax. If you are planning to quit, think about alternative activities that could help replace the habit, including music, finding a new hobby or treating yourself to a massage.
Being active can help curb cravings, so taking up a new exercise or going out for more walks can help you along the road. Exercise will also help burn off the calories that you might worry you will gain if you quit!
It’s estimated that the average smoker spends £5.20 a day on cigarettes, which amounts to a total of over £150 a month. Saving this money can help to motivate you each day. Create a savings jar so that you can physically see your progress. At the end of the month, treat yourself to something special or use the money towards a goal such as a holiday, new car or even a house deposit.
Once you’ve quit you don’t want to be reminded of smoking, so make sure to clean your clothes, home and car to get rid of any lingering smells of cigarette. That way you can start refreshed without coming across any unsavoury reminders.
Not everyone succeeds the first time round. In fact, many smokers will try to quit several times before they successfully kick the habit for good. Don’t get discouraged if you fail. Keep on trying, and with the right support one day you’ll succeed.
Think about it like “practice makes perfect”. If you’ve tried quitting before, you may already have learnt some things about how to make this attempt more successful – try to learn from the past! Don't forget to check out the NHS website for more support and information on quitting.
Echo's Joe Lofts recounts his first week of giving up smoking for Stoptober.
Need help giving up? Here are some motivating facts about the ills of smoking to help you on your way.