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Stop Smoking

If you would like to stop smoking, making lifestyle changes alongside using medication has proven to be very effective. Quitting smoking can be very challenging but by quitting you can make massive improvements to your health. Not only reducing your risk of developing long-term conditions such as cancer and heart disease but also quickly improving the appearance of your skin and teeth and the smell of your breath.

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Advice for Stop Smoking

Why should I quit smoking?

Stop Smoking Information

It is widely known that smoking leads to many health complications including cancer, heart disease, and bronchitis. Deciding to quit smoking presents a big challenge as smokers are not only physically addicted to the nicotine in cigarettes, but also psychologically to the need to smoke and the action of doing it.

Whatever method you choose to help you quit smoking, willpower will be a powerful factor in determining whether you succeed. By setting targets, focusing on the benefits and involving friends and family you can give yourself the greatest chance to succeed and live a smoke-free life.

For those that do smoke, quitting is likely to be the biggest single change you can make to improve your current state of health and reduce the chances of developing serious medical conditions and complications. It is estimated that around 50% of smokers will die prematurely and that 20% of deaths over the age of 35 can be attributed to smoking.

Health Benefits From Quitting Smoking

It is estimated that over 10 million people in the UK alone have now successfully quit smoking and are enjoying healthier lifestyles. According to NHS choices, the health benefits of stopping smoking include:

  • Easier breathing
  • Whiter teeth
  • Better breath
  • Improved smell and taste
  • More energy
  • Younger looking skin
  • Less stress
  • Better sex

If these aren’t reasons enough to quit today, the average smoker of 20 cigarettes daily could save over £3,000 in the first year alone!

Common Excuses To Avoid Quitting Smoking

1. The damage is done: Many people feel that if they have smoked for a long period, they have already subjected themselves to the negative risks of smoking and have increased their chances of cancer and heart disease permanently.

This simply isn’t true! As soon as you quit smoking, your body starts to repair and regenerate. Your blood pressure will return to normal, your lungs will clear and your sense of taste and smell will improve, all within the first 48 hours. After 1 year your heart attack risk will be half that of a smoker and after 10 years your risk of lung cancer will be half that of a smoker. In addition, you will stop exposing your friends and family to passive smoke.

2. I will gain weight: Most people believe that they will gain weight when they quit smoking, however, this is not supported by medical evidence.

Although nicotine does make you burn calories faster, it is not a certainty that quitting smoking will cause you to gain weight. Lower levels of nicotine mean that your calorie requirements will be lower. You can therefore anticipate this and lower the calories you consume by starting a healthier diet or taking up a new sport or activity.

3. I will get stressed: It is commonly thought that cigarettes (or nicotine) help to calm you down or relieve stress.

When you are addicted to nicotine, the cravings in between cigarettes create anxiety and stress. Although having a cigarette does help to ease this anxiety when you quit you will not experience this anxiety or stress in the first place and be calmer as a result.

4. It’s not the right time: Many people put off quitting due to external factors and stresses in their lives thinking that this will make them less likely to succeed.

Although there are a few times when quitting smoking is less likely to succeed, in general, no time is going to be the perfect time to quit. By taking the first step you are massively increasing your chances of quitting – if you change nothing, nothing changes!

What are the withdrawal symptoms when I quit smoking?

Once you become addicted to nicotine from long-term smoking, your body is used to receiving regular doses of nicotine. When it doesn’t receive this after you stop smoking, it creates withdrawal symptoms. These can include:

  • Bad moods
  • Stress, anxiety & irritability
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Cigarette cravings
  • Sweating
  • Cold symptoms
  • Intestinal problems such as cramps & nausea
  • Insomnia

Withdrawal symptoms from nicotine will be worst in the first 3 – 5 days. They normally ease after around 2 weeks. It normally takes around 12 weeks for cravings to completely pass after which you can confidently say you are a non-smoker.

What else can I do to help me quit smoking?

Self-Help Tips To Stop Smoking

Changing your habits and behaviours are just as important as using the right treatment if you are going to successfully give up smoking. Try to adopt the following advice to massively increase your chances of stopping smoking for good:

  1. Be positive: You are far more likely to quit if you make up your mind, take action and be positive.
  2. Stick to a plan: Set a date in a few weeks' time and make a plan for how you will quit and overcome some of the possible obstacles or stumbling blocks.
  3. Start a healthy diet: By changing your diet (including reducing alcoholic drinks) you can not only decrease the enjoyment you would get from cigarettes but also can help to break the habit of wanting a cigarette after certain foods or drinks you used to have.
  4. Get active: Studies have shown that exercise helps to reduce cravings by producing ‘anti-craving’ chemicals. It also helps to give you another activity to replace smoking and to help prevent any possible weight gain as you quit.
  5. Get support: Try to quit with someone else so you have someone to share your experiences with and to help keep each other on track. You can always call the NHS Smoking Helpline on 0300 123 1044 if you need support or advice.
  6. Identify your cravings: Try to avoid the things that used to make you crave cigarettes the most to reduce temptation. In social situations, stick with the non-smokers so you don’t think about cigarettes.
  7. List your reasons for quitting: Make a list of all your reasons to quit. If you are tempted or stressed and want to smoke again, read through the list first and weigh up whether it’s worth it.

What treatments are available to help me quit smoking?

Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT)

NRT works by releasing nicotine into your system at lower, more constant levels than a cigarette. It also means you don’t receive all the toxic chemicals such as tar and carbon monoxide present in cigarettes. NRT is used to replace the nicotine normally gained through cigarettes and thereby reducing the cravings to smoke. You can then slowly lower the dose of your NRT to wean yourself off nicotine for good. Normal courses of NRT last for 8 – 12 weeks.

NRT comes in a number of different forms including:

  • Patches
  • Chewing Gum
  • Nasal Sprays
  • Mouth Sprays
  • Inhilators
  • Lozenges

There is no form of NRT that has been shown to be better than any other at reducing nicotine cravings, the best choice depends on the individual. It will depend on the type of withdrawal symptoms and cravings you get, how heavily you smoked, and how quickly the nicotine gets into your system. Most people will start using patches for a baseline cover of nicotine that can then be supported by a spray or gum for relief of sudden cravings.


E-cigarettes are a newer form of NRT that are frequently used by those wishing to quit smoking, although they are not medically recognised as a smoking cessation treatment yet (due to their lack of evidence as they have not been properly studied). E-cigarettes contain nicotine and thus replace the need to smoke cigarettes, however they do not produce tar or carbon monoxide - two very harmful chemicals found in cigarettes. There is still evidence of some harmful chemicals being contained in the vapour of e-cigarettes, however these are at much lower levels than found in cigarettes. E-cigarettes have the advantage that as well as reducing cravings due to nicotine replacement, they also replace the physical action of smoking which some smokers miss.


Champix tablets contain the active ingredient varenicline. It binds to nicotine receptors in your brain meaning that cravings are reduced and smoking becomes less pleasurable as the reward system is blocked. At the same time, it also produces slight stimulation of the nicotine receptors which helps to ease cravings and withdrawal symptoms.

Champix has been shown to more than double your chances of quitting for good. When starting on a course of Champix, you should always begin with the Starter Pack (0.5mg + 1mg) to allow you to slowly and safely increase the dose to an effective level. When starting Champix, it is very important to set yourself a quit date that should be 7 – 14 days after starting your Champix starter pack. Champix is normally a 12 week course of treatment after which you should be cigarette and nicotine free.


Alternative OTC (Over The Counter) Treatments to Stop Smoking

There are many NRTs (Nicotine Replacement Therapy) medication available over the counter and they can come in many different forms, such as;

  • Skin Patches
  • Chewing Gum
  • Inhalators
  • Tablets, Oral Strips and Lozenges
  • Nasal & Mouth Spray

You will be able to buy these at any local pharmacy or super market. They vary in strength depending the level of nicotine you require, treatment with an NRT usually lasts between 8-12 weeks before you gradually reduce the dose to a stop.
Alternatively there is the option of E-Cigarettes. This is when the nicotine is in a vapour. These are becoming increasingly popular and research has shown that they do aid in the process of quitting smoking.

Stop Smoking FAQs

  • Many smokers think that they do not need to quit because they smoke relatively infrequently. However, many damaging effects of smoking can occur just from a few cigarettes each day.

    With each cigarette, the heart must expend more energy than it would normally. You can test this for yourself by seeing how your pulse accelerates each time you smoke. Nicotine reduces the supply of blood to the heart and also decreases the oxygen levels in the blood. As a result, the risk of blood clots and heart disease greatly increases. Whilst these hazards are more likely to affect heavy smokers, even a single cigarette each day will vastly increase your risk of lung disease, and of cancer of the lung, throat, mouth, bladder and pancreas.

  • People who suffer from diabetes or heart disease have a higher risk of heart attacks and strokes because the flow of blood to important areas of the body is already restricted. Smoking can further increase this risk. For example, it has been shown that diabetics who smoke heavily are twice as likely to die from a stroke or heart disease as they would be otherwise.

  • It is extremely common to encounter difficulties when trying to quit smoking, because of how physically addictive nicotine is. Nicotine has an immediate effect on the brain; suddenly stopping your intake of nicotine can cause feelings of depression and anxiety. If you are struggling with quitting, try nicotine replacement therapy (NRT), an alternative nicotine source that will help reduce the psychological harms associated with quitting. When used effectively, it can help your chances of quitting permanently.

    When trying to quit, especially for the first time, it is important to remember that it is very normal to experience these difficulties. Many former smokers only succeed at quitting after a few tries.

  • Passive (or ‘second-hand’) smoking is the intake of smoke from other people who are smoking in your vicinity. There are more than 4000 chemicals in second-hand smoke, and many of these are known carcinogens. So, even without smoking yourself, you can have an increased risk of heart disease, stroke and lung cancer.

    Second-hand smoke is especially hazardous for children. It doubles their risk of respiratory problems such as bronchitis, pneumonia and asthma. Over the course of their life, a child who is frequently exposed to second-hand smoke will have three times the risk of developing lung cancer than they would otherwise have.

  • Cutting down the amount that you smoke will not remove the harm that smoking does to your body. However, it may reduce certain hazards, and so is a useful step if you are struggling to quit entirely. You might choose to very gradually cut down before quitting, or quit but replace cigarettes with a safer alternative source of nicotine. You will likely opt for a combination of the two – replacing some cigarettes each day with extra nicotine until you have completely stopped smoking.

    There are many products that can assist with reducing how frequently you smoke. A local stop-smoking service will advise you on which might be most useful for you.

  • Some people will gain a small amount of weight upon quitting, because of the way that cigarettes impact your appetite and metabolism. However, this can be counteracted – exercise will become easier, and improved taste buds may make low-calorie foods more enjoyable.

    Even if you do start to notice yourself gaining weight, do not be deterred from quitting. You will find it much easier to maintain a healthy lifestyle and to lose those pounds again.

  • Your lung capacity will improve by up to 10% after nine months without cigarettes. As a result, you will cough less and find breathing much easier.

  • Blood circulation and oxygen levels will start to improve within as little as two weeks of quitting smoking. As a result, you will find you have much more energy for physical activity. Headaches will be less frequent as well.

    This will all improve your immune system, and so you will be less susceptible to flu and common colds.

  • Smoking can impede blood flow, so quitting can improve multiple aspects of one’s sex life. Smoking can lead to impotence in men, so quitting may lead to healthier erections. Quitting will improve sensitivity in women, and can lead to better orgasms.

    Many non-smokers find the smell and lifestyle of smokers unattractive, so your sex life and relationships may improve in this way as well.

  • One in every two people who smoke for many years will eventually die early due to complications from smoking. This is due to the drastically higher risk of lung cancer, heart disease and bronchitis, among other hazards.

    Quitting before the age of 30 can restore ten years to your expected life span. Even quitting at the age of 60 can restore three years. Quitting also makes it more likely that you will be healthy and happy in old age. So, people of any age can benefit from quitting.

  • There are two main types of medication that can assist in quitting smoking. They are bupropion (sold as Zyban) and varenicline (sold as Champix).

    Bupropion is thought to aid with smoking cessation because of its effect on the areas of the brain responsible for addictive behaviour. You will first be prescribed one to two doses of bupropion each day for one or two weeks before you try to quit. This reflects the amount of time the drug takes to become fully effective. In total, you will likely have to take bupropion for seven to nine weeks.

    Varenicline prevents nicotine from affecting the brain in the normal way. This removes the addictive and rewarding effects of cigarettes. As it stops nicotine from affecting its receptors in the brain, varenicline subtly stimulates those same receptors. As a result, it prevents the withdrawal symptoms that people often feel when trying to quit. Like bupropion, varenicline should first be taken for one to two weeks ahead of the day you plan to quit so that it can take full effect. In total, it should be taken for around twelve weeks. In order to prevent a relapse, it may then be prescribed for a further twelve weeks as well.

  • Possible side effects include a dry mouth, digestive problems, insomnia, headaches, fatigue, dizziness and an inability to focus.

    It should not be taken by anyone under the age 18, or by pregnant or breastfeeding women. It is also unsuitable for people with an eating disorder, cirrhosis of the liver or a tumour in the nervous system.

    People taking bupropion are more susceptible to seizures, and so those already at risk of seizures should avoid it. These include people with epilepsy, alcohol problems or bipolar disorder. Furthermore, it is unsuitable for anyone currently treating diabetes with insulin or hypoglycaemic medication.

  • Varenicline has many possible side effects, including:

    • Nausea
    • Headaches
    • Insomnia
    • Digestive problems, including constipation, diarrhoea, indigestion and flatulence
    • Fatigue
    • Dizziness

    Varenicline has, in some cases, been linked to depression and suicidal thoughts. The connection between the medication and these symptoms has not been proven. However, immediately stop taking varenicline and consult your GP if you begin to experience these symptoms.

    Like bupropion, varenicline should not be taken by anyone under the age 18, or by pregnant or breastfeeding women. It is also unsuitable for anyone with advanced kidney disease or epilepsy.

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