Smoking is responsible for approximately 8 million global deaths per year. According to figures from NHS, the UK alone accounts for 78,000 of those yearly smoking deaths, showing the extent of the problem in this country. We all know the dangers smoking poses for our health. In fact, these dangers have already led almost one million individuals in the UK to quit during 2020. While quitting may not be an easy task, there are several reasons for doing so and countless benefits. If you’re unsure how to quit smoking, understanding what kinds of help and support services are available may ease the process significantly, rather than going in blind. Quitting smoking is no mean feat. Medical experts suggest a range of different approaches for kicking the habit, and the NHS outline three main routes in particular: Nicotine replacement therapy, prescription medicines, and behavioural change. Of course, this ‘behavioural change’ spans all sorts of strategies. We’ll explore some successful tips for making a change below, but let’s frame them with details about the health risks which smoking incurs. Health Risks 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 Stroke Damaged blood vessels and arteries Lung damage Pneumonia 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. Smoking can also cause medical blindness by increasing your chances of age-related macular degeneration (AMD). AMD leads the UK in causes of blindness, and smoking quadruples your chances of contracting the disease. Smoking inflicts these risks on the body throughout the course of the addiction. As a smoker, they may seem so gradual that it’s hard to notice the extent of the impact. However, the health benefits of quitting smoking bring the risks into stark contrast. Quitting smoking makes your body healthier, making your mind feel better too. Less than half an hour after your last cigarette, your heart rate returns to normal. During the next day, the carbon monoxide gradually passes out of your bloodstream, helping your body cleanse and oxygenate. Your sense of taste and smell gradually improve over the next two days. This change might seem like an abstract medical phenomenon, but when it helps you smell flowers or enjoy a meal, it delivers a massive boost to your quality of life. You breathe easier in the following days and weeks, and your circulation improves. Your smoker’s lungs grow to 110% capacity before the year’s out, and your risk of heart disease and lung cancer plummets. Social smokers, and even those who only smoke one a day, still suffer serious damage to their breathing and blood flow. British researchers warn that there’s no safe degree of smoking, and that instead of cutting back, people should quit completely. The Benefits of Quitting Smoking There are many reasons people choose to quit smoking, including for their 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 £4,500 a year. How to Quit Smoking – 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 cravings by releasing measured amounts of nicotine without the harmful chemicals which smoking releases. It’s wise to seek guidance from your local doctor or smoking cessation service group to decide which type of replacement suits you best. Pharmacies offer NRT products in many shapes and sizes, which you can purchase outright or access with a medical prescription. Types of NRT include: Skin patches Gum Inhalators Sprays Lozenges Oral strips Electronic cigarettes (vapes) As a relatively new yet profoundly effective treatment, nicotine replacement therapy, NRT helps millions of people quit smoking worldwide. Only 3% of ex-smokers quit by going cold turkey, so NRT builds important paths through the rough terrain of kicking the habit. You don’t even have to rely on NRT alone: in fact, mixing NRT with other forms of treatment triples your chances of leaving smoking in your past. Nicotine replacement therapy, alongside other forms of support and behavioural tactics, gives you the best chance of changing your habits. 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 more effective than relying on one alone. Electronic Cigarettes (E-Cigarettes) As a replacement for the nicotine in cigarettes, vaping forms a popular part of NRT. These pocket-sized, battery-powered devices release an inhalable vapour, which hits the spot filled without the added nasties. They’re cheaper than cigarettes, and the wide range of e-liquids available introduces choice and flavour. Studies already show that e-cigarettes prove more effective than other forms of NRT; over 1.5 million people in the UK (and counting) successfully quit smoking after adopting e-cigarettes. Medications There are also prescription medications available that assist in quitting, – Varenicline (Champix) and Bupropion (Zyban). You will need to discuss using these with your GP or stop smoking service. Medical professionals prescribe varenicline to minimise cravings and remove the addictive effects of smoking. Bupropion, on the other hand, helps re-programme the area of the brain that fuels addiction. Tips for Fighting Cravings There are plenty of strategies for fighting your cravings, and learning as many as possible helps you figure out what suits you the most. In fact, the best way to beat your cravings is by learning more about them. The NHS divide cigarette cravings into two types: chronic and acute. Chronic cravings, or background cravings, create a baseline desire and gradually fade over time. Acute cravings, or sudden cravings, strike intensely and without warning. Successful ex-smokers learn what times their acute cravings hit and what sort of triggers set them off. Finding out what helps you fend off acute cravings can be the key to quitting. Snacking, exercising, and calling friends or family all help smokers side-step their cravings. Some people just white-knuckle it and wait for their cravings to pass. Others join smoke-free social media communities, like these on Facebook and Reddit. Sometimes, the most challenging part of quitting is forgiving yourself when you struggle or slip up. Don’t beat yourself up too much, and make full use of all the help and support services at hand. Other Help and Support Services If you do some research into how to quit smoking, you’ll find studies that show NRT products used in conjunction with talking therapies offer 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 – Find out more about the free NHS quit smoking app, create a personal quit plan, read quitting tips and locate free stop smoking services near you. Quit – Quit is a UK charity to help smokers stop. Call the quit line on 0800 00 22 00 to talk to fully trained counsellors for advice to help you stop smoking. British Lung Foundation – The BLF is a UK charity researching lung conditions to improve care. They other advice on stopping smoking and improving lung health. Quit With Help – The quit with help website has similar links to the NHS Smoke Free site. You can find out more about your local stop smoking services available. ASH (Action On Smoking & Health) – ASH is a public health charity that works to eliminate the harm caused by tobacco. ASH report on smoking activity in the UK and provide advice and information that could help you quit smoking. VApril – VApril is a UK campaign created to help smokers switch to vaping. The campaign features information on vaping and expert advice. As part of your quit smoking plan you could aim to switch from cigarettes to vaping for the whole month of April. Stoptober – During the month of October, the NHS and Public Health England promote their quit smoking services. This means that October is an ideal time to kick start a quit smoking plan. How to Quit Smoking – Final Thoughts Quitting smoking may not be easy, but it comes with many health-boosting perks. It’s important to understand the help available to you, instead of going through it alone. If you’re ready to throw those cigs out for good, remember that people quit every day, so you’re in good company. Good luck!