How to Stop Smoking: Tips to Quit for Good

 

Giving up smoking can not only improve your health, but it can also protect the health of your non-smoking friends and family.

It’s no secret that smoking is bad for your health, but despite this, it’s estimated that over 6.9million people in the UK smoke.

Searching for advice on how to quit smoking? We caught up with our expert pharmacist to answer some common questions about this bad habit, including why it’s unhealthy, withdrawal symptoms and useful tips on how to stop smoking for good.

Why is smoking bad for you?

 

Tobacco smoke contains harmful and poisonous chemicals, including nicotine (which is highly addictive), plus carbon monoxide and ammonia. When you smoke, you breathe these chemicals into your lungs and they are then passed into your blood and throughout your body.

In the UK alone, around 78,000 people die from smoking every year – and this figure doesn’t include the many more living with debilitating smoking-related diseases.

Half of all long-term smokers die prematurely from diseases caused by smoking, such as heart disease, strokes and chronic bronchitis. It can also exacerbate respiratory conditions like asthma and common colds.

Smoking is the largest cause of cancer in the UK and has been linked to at least 15 types of cancer, including lung, throat, bowel, kidney and many more.

The dangers of smoking don’t stop there either - breathing in second-hand smoke increases your risk of developing the same health conditions as smokers. Passive smoking is especially harmful to children, as it can increase the chances of them developing illnesses like pneumonia, meningitis and asthma. Smoking can also reduce fertility and even cause impotence in men.

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.

Smoking withdrawal symptoms

 

As nicotine is addictive and has a number of effects on the brain, you will likely experience withdrawal symptoms when you stop smoking. These largely depend on how much you smoke, but the most common side effects of giving up smoking are:

  • Intense cravings for nicotine
  • Headaches
  • Coughing
  • Sweating
  • Nausea
  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Insomnia
  • Stomach cramps
  • Increased hunger and weight gain

Symptoms of quitting smoking are at their worst around two–three days after your last cigarette, but if you ignore them, they will gradually get better and disappear completely in approximately two to four weeks.

The benefits of quitting smoking

The effects of quitting smoking are significant and widespread. You can expect improvements to your physical and mental wellbeing, including:

1. Decreased heart rate and better blood circulation

Heart rate is often elevated in smokers, so quitting means it can return to normal. Stopping smoking also reduces blood pressure and improves oxygen levels, resulting in a much lower risk of heart attacks.

2. Improved breathing

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.

3. Increased energy levels

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.

4. Feeling less stressed

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.

5. Improved taste and smell

Nerve endings that have been damaged by smoking can repair and regrow, improving your sense of taste and smell.

6. Reduced risk of cancer and strokes

 

Quitting smoking will reduce your risk of developing potentially fatal diseases like cancer, strokes, heart disease and chronic bronchitis. Regardless of how much or how long you have been smoking, it will add years to your life and increase the likelihood that you’ll live a healthy, disease-free life.

Other benefits of quitting smoking include: increased sensitivity (so better sex), whiter teeth, better breath, younger-looking skin and fewer wrinkles, plus stopping loved ones from breathing in second-hand smoke.

Tips on how to stop smoking

 

As nicotine is addictive, giving up smoking can be challenging; the best way to quit smoking for good is to try nicotine replacement therapy (NRT). This medication provides low levels of nicotine to help keep your cravings under control, without any of the tar or poisonous chemicals that are found in tobacco smoke. Because NRT minimises the effects of smoking 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:

  • Skin patches
  • Chewing gum
  • Inhalators (these look like plastic cigarettes)
  • Tablets, oral strips and lozenges
  • Nasal spray or mouth spray

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 impact 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, it’s never too late to quit smoking and there is lots of support available. If you are considering quitting, talk to your doctor or pharmacist to determine the best treatment plan and find help with quitting smoking at your local NHS Stop Smoking Service.

 

 

We hope this guide has helped to answer your questions on why smoking is bad for you, withdrawal symptoms, the benefits of stopping and how to quit smoking for good.

Don’t forget to register with Hey Pharmacist to manage and order your repeat NHS prescriptions online or via the mobile app and get free home delivery.

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