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We caught up with Superintendent, Neil Stewart, to answer some of our questions and find out more about the medications and treatments that are available for people who want to quit smoking for good.
With 1 October signalling the start of Stoptober, we turn our attention to smoking and discover the ways in which Hey Pharmacist can help you to stop.
Half of all long-term smokers die prematurely from smoking-related illnesses, such as heart disease, stroke and chronic bronchitis, Neil says. In addition, smoking is the largest cause of cancer in the UK, and has been linked to at least 15 types of cancer.
It’s not just your own body that can be damaged by smoking either: breathing in second-hand smoke increases a person’s risk of developing a range of chronic health conditions. Passive smoking is especially harmful to children, as it can increase the chances of them developing illnesses including pneumonia and asthma.
That’s why it’s so important to take control of your health – and the health of those around you – by quitting and staying smoke-free.
You can expect a number of improvements to your physical and mental wellbeing when you give up smoking, including:
Within nine months of stopping smoking, your lung capacity will improve by up to 10%, which means you’ll be able to breathe more easily and be less likely to cough or wheeze during physical activity.
As your blood circulation starts to improve – usually within two to 12 weeks of quitting – you’ll start to find your energy levels increase. At the same time, your immune system will receive a boost, and the increase in oxygen in the body will reduce fatigue and mean you are less likely to suffer from headaches.
Studies show that people’s stress levels lower once they have stopped smoking. However, nicotine withdrawal during the first few weeks after quitting can also cause stress, so be patient and you’ll soon get through this challenging stage.
In addition, people who have quit smoking often report an improvement in their senses of taste and smell.
An addiction to nicotine is the main reason people smoke, which is something nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) can help with. This medication provides low levels of nicotine to help keep cravings under control, without any of the tar or poisonous chemicals (such as carbon monoxide) that are found in tobacco smoke. Because NRT minimises the effects of withdrawal, it can increase your chances of successfully stopping smoking for good.
NRT medications can be purchased from pharmacies and are also available on prescription from a doctor or from NHS Stop Smoking Services. They are available as:
In recent years, e-cigarettes have become a popular stop smoking aid in the UK. Also known as vapes or e-cigs, these devices allow you to inhale nicotine in a vapour rather than a smoke, and are generally thought to be less harmful than cigarettes.
Making small lifestyle changes can also have a big difference when it comes to stopping smoking. Think about when you crave cigarettes and come up with a strategy to distract yourself. For example, if you normally smoke after dinner, try changing your routine and immediately start doing the washing up instead.
Remember, support to help you stop smoking is available. If you are considering quitting, talk to your doctor or pharmacist to determine the best treatment plan and discover e-cigarette products at your local pharmacy. You can also access support from your local NHS Stop Smoking Service.