Quit smoking: Expert issues five tips to help those ditching cigarettes

Linda Rider

We’re about to enter into March, which means that people have now spent almost two months trying to keep up with their new year’s resolutions.

One of the most popular yet difficult ones that people choose to give up is smoking.

A study conducted by by the Royal Society of Public Health (RSPH) found that three in five people that chose to give up the habit in 2016 started smoking again by January 31.

Only 13 per cent of those remained smoke three a year later.

It is believed that a third of UK’s ten million smokers make at least one attempt to quit every year, often driven by key life events or milestones such as new year.

Only four per cent of those who pledge to give up smoking remain smoke free one year later.

Understanding the challenges that are faced by smokers, NHS Scotland has given pointers on how to make succeeding in your pledge that little bit easier.

Understand why you smoke

Some people may have started in their teens, maybe because their friends smoke or because they want to look grown up.

For other, it could be during college or university, starting a job or being in a social circle where everyone smokes.

You may have started for no reason at all.

Understanding why you have started smoking and the reasons for continuing the habit is crucial in weaning yourself off it – what first introduced you to smoking may no longer be part of your life now.

The NHS says that this can help you prepare for those moments when you might miss smoking, and deal with withdrawal symptoms and cravings.

The reasons for which you started smoking may no longer be there anymore

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People are more likely to be successful in their journey if they plan ahead in advance – this includes preparing and working towards a specific end date.

The NHS has highlighted the importance of picking a day that you pledge to stop and marking it on the calendar. Sometimes the transition period is best started over a holiday or somewhere that is not in the usual routine.

They continue: “If you stop smoking for just a month, you’re already on track to stopping smoking for good. Pick a time when you aren’t too stressed. Take one step at a time, give yourself small goals, and don’t think too far ahead.

“Tell your friends and family the day you’ve chosen to stop smoking. Letting them know your plans allows them to help you to stop.

“Think about how you’ll deal with tempting situations and what you’ll say if a friend, relative or colleague invites you to have a cigarette. You could say, “No, thanks, I don’t smoke,” or “I’ve given up!””

Look into alternatives

Consider looking into certain medications to help you on the way as nicotine is an addictive drug, and willpower alone might not be enough to kick the habit.

Using medication designed to prevent you from smoking is much better alongside intensive support such as group or one to one support than simply using the medication alone.

The NHS has said that you are more likely to succeed with the help of nicotine replacement therapy and the support of a local smoking cessation group.

“If you’re taking any other medication, you must speak to a health professional who provides your prescription”, they add.

“This is to ensure they monitor your medication levels during your quit attempt.”

E-cigarettes are another way to help you on your journey to quit as they are similar in shape and appearance to the real deal.

They are also an alternative to cigarettes for nicotine.

The NHS has said that e-cigarettes are not without their risks, but they will “almost certainly benefit your health”.

Think about the benefits of stopping

The reasons for which you are choosing to stop can be a great source of motivation.

Some personal reasons can include trying to get pregnant, wanting to get into shape or you could be going into hospital.

The NHS recommends listing your top three reasons for quitting, write them down and keep them handy where you can see them everyday – such as on the fridge, phone or in your wallet.

“Think about the financial, physical and health benefits you’ll get from stopping smoking”, the NHS says.

“You could keep a diary to track your progress. This could record how long you’ve gone without a cigarette, how much money you’ve saved or improvements you’ve noticed in your health. This will help keep you motivated during your quit attempt.”

NHS Scotland has also produced a cost calculator, to help people realise how much they could save by giving up smoking.

Scots should consider alternatives such as medication or e-cigarettes

Consider reducing the amount of smoke

While the NHS has said that there is “no safe level of cigarette use”, it can also be a good way to get you started on the road to stopping long term.

“This is provided that you plan well, set the quit date and see it through to stopping and staying stopped.”

They recommend that you set a quit date within six weeks or your plan to cut down and reduce the number of cigarettes you smoke every day/week/fortnight.

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