How to Stop Smoking: Tips to Quit for Good

The attempt to lower the statistics for the number of people smoking has been an ongoing mission for decades. 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.

Back in the day, smoking was advertised as the solution to many problems such as weight loss, toothache, and reduced stress.

If you're looking to quit, we 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.

Hand putting out a cigarette

Why is smoking bad for you?

Tobacco smoke contains harmful and poisonous chemicals, including nicotine (which is highly addictive), plus carbon monoxide, aka ‘the invisible killer’, 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, such as lung cancer, heart disease, and diabetes.

Half of all long-term smokers die prematurely from diseases caused by smoking...

...This includes 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.

Regularly 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.


The benefits of quitting smoking

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.

Also read: Foods to avoid with high blood pressure

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. You’ll even find it easier to simply climb stairs or go for short walks.

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

Despite society having previously believed smoking helps you to de-stress, 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. It’ll be worth it.

Related article: Stress Awareness Month

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 and 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.

7. More time and money

Smoking is a time consuming activity. Not only is it a distraction from work or removes you from social situations with your loved ones, but studies have suggested that smoking literally takes years off your life. It’s believed that a regular smoker reduces their life by 11 minutes with each cigarette they smoke. Not only this, but smoking is not cheap. With the average smoker smoking around 20 a day, they spend on average £4,841.20 a year on cigarettes...


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.

If you're looking for immediate help, your local pharmacist can recommend stop-smoking services to get you on the right track.

Find out more about stop smoking service

Former Strictly Come Dancing professional dancer, James Jordan, opens up about his recent quit journey, having smoked for 27 years. Watch his journey below for inspiration on how to quit.

Tips on how to stop smoking

Nicotine Replacement Therapy

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.

Lifestyle changes

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.

Join in the movement

Something challenging, such as quitting smoking, is much easier to do if you know that you’re doing it alongside other going through the same situation. October is the national month where thousands across the country attempt to quit for good. If you know friends or family who also smoke, suggest supporting each other (or make it competitive for who can go the longest without smoking), once you quit for good, you’ll have someone there who can relate to your success, and celebrate together!

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.


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. A couple of week experiencing annoying withdrawals is worth avoiding life threatening diseases and a premature death!

We hope this guide has helped to answer your questions on why smoking is bad for you, withdrawal symptoms, and 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.