Smoking accounts for approximately 8 million global deaths per year, and according to the National Health Service (NHS ), the UK accounts for 78,000 of these deaths alone. The health risks of smoking are now widely known and have led almost one million individuals in the UK to quit during the recent Covid pandemic. While quitting may not be an easy task, there are several reasons for doing so and countless benefits. If you're unsure where to start, understanding what kinds of help and support services are available may ease the process significantly, rather than going in blind — which, by the way, is potentially one of smokings side effects.
If you're ready to throw out your cigarettes, you're probably already aware of the many health risks associated with smoking.
Some of the most severe health issues may include:
- Cancer (in various parts of the body)
- Heart disease
- Damaged blood vessels and arteries
- Lung damage
- DNA damage
Inhaling second-hand smoke may increase the chances of developing lung cancer in adults. It may also contribute to/bring about chest infections, meningitis, ear infections, and sudden infant death syndrome in children.
If you think that you're less likely to develop life-threatening symptoms from smoking just one cigarette a day, compared to a chain-smoker, you may be shocked to discover the falsity of this claim. British researchers have warned that there's no safe degree of smoking and that instead of cutting back, people should completely quit.
Benefits of Quitting Smoking
There are many reasons why people choose to quit smoking, including for their own health and to protect loved ones or strangers from second-hand smoke. Another reason is to save money. This isn't surprising, considering that if you buy a 20-pack a day, you'll be forking out approximately £3,500 a year.
Popular Smoking Cessation Aids
There are several methods available that may help you to quit. While there may be alternative approaches, the most common ones include the following:
Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT)
NRT aims to slowly reduce your nicotine cravings by safely releasing a small amount into your system without the additional harmful chemicals. It's wise to seek guidance from your local doctor or smoking cessation service group to determine which type of replacement is best for you. It's available to purchase in pharmacies and also via medical prescription.
Types of NRT include:
- Skin patches
- Oral strips
It's vital to follow the safety instructions associated with all NRT products and understand that there's no definitive proof for one working better than the others. However, using a combination of products is often considered to be more effective than relying on one alone.
Electronic Cigarettes (E-Cigarettes)
E-cigarettes (vaping) are also considered to be a form of NRT. They're popular, battery-powered devices that release an inhalable vapour filled with nicotine (without the added nasties). They're not only cheaper than normal cigarettes but can be filled with a variety of flavoured e-liquids. E-cigarettes have been shown to be more effective than other forms of NRT, and over 1.5 million people in the UK have successfully quit smoking after adopting them. It helps that the NHS also actively prescribe them.
There are also prescription medications available - Varenicline (Champix) and Bupropion (Zyban) - that assist in quitting. Varenicline supposedly minimises cravings and removes the reinforcing effects of smoking. Bupropion is suggested to affect/manage the area of the brain that fuels addiction.
Help and Support Services
Studies have shown that NRT products used in conjunction with talking therapies is the most successful approach in helping people quit. It's therefore important to be aware of the many online and in-person support services and initiatives that are available. Each utilises different methods of help and usually involves both group and 1-on-1 support.
Some services/groups include:
- NHS Smoke Free
- Smoke Free Life
- British Lung Foundation
- Quit With Help
- ASH (Action On Smoking & Health)
Quitting smoking may not be easy, but it comes with many health-boosting perks. It's key to understand the services and aids that are available to you, instead of going through it alone, unable to determine which approach suits you the best. If you're ready to throw those cigs out for good, remember that there's plenty of help and encouragement out there.