Every March, the UK runs its annual No Smoking Day to encourage smokers to quit. According to health charity ASH, there are some 10 million adults who smoke cigarettes – about a sixth of the total UKpopulation. It’s a big drop from 1974, when 51% of men and 41% of women smoked.
Each year, 100,000 deaths are attributed to smoking; it’s estimated that roughly half of all smokers will eventually die as a result of their addiction. Smoking accounts for over one-third of respiratory deaths, over one-quarter of cancer deaths, and about one-seventh of cardiovascular disease deaths.
If you’ve decided it’s time to quit, there are a multitude of services and products to help you succeed. Pick up a pack of NHS Quit Cards or the NHS Smokefree guide, both available from your local pharmacy or doctor’s surgery. The key to quitting is being prepared and these guides offer you simple tips and a planner that take you from wanting to stop smoking to permanently kicking this bad habit. Here’s how:
Step 1: Think about quitting. What is it that makes you want to stop smoking? Is it to feel fitter and fresher, to have more money, or simply to live longer to be around for your kids? Every positive reason will add to your resolve.
Step 2: Get prepared. Quitting is more than just willpower; it’s getting practical about where the likely temptations will arise and putting measures in place to deal with these. Talk to your pharmacist who can assess your needs and recommend the best solutions.
Step 3: Set a date. Many people struggle if they try to stop gradually, so it’s better to focus on a cut-off point. Make sure the necessary help you need, from the Smokefree programme to nicotine replacement therapies (NRTs), is in place, and then have your last cigarette.
“Half of all smokers will die as a result of their addition”
Step 4: Stop for good. It can take a few attempts to quit. The key is to keep believing you can do it and to learn from any failed experiences in order to succeed in the future. There are multiple techniques and NRTs on the market, so if the ones you first try don’t work, get help and try another way.
Here are a few of the NRTs available from your pharmacist to help deal with cravings – those on a low income may be eligible for help via a free prescription.
Nicotine patch available as a 16-hour or 24-hour patch. The longer one can affect sleep. However a 16-hour patch often means needing an NRT booster in the morning as the patch can take 30 minutes to work.
Nasal spray is the fastest-working and one of the most effective NRTs, and is particularly good for heavy smokers. Just spray into your nostril releasing nicotine into your system, which is quickly absorbed to give you instant relief from cravings.
Oral strips are a thin film strip that dissolves on your tongue, again giving instant relief. Often used with a patch.
Mouth spray: similar to a nasal spray, but for the mouth and again used in conjunction with a nicotine patch.
Electronic cigarettes contain a liquid cartridge with nicotine, solvents and flavours. As these products have yet to be regulated by the MHRA, it’s best to buy them only from a reputable pharmacy. Avoid unknown online shops as the chemicals in e-cigarettes could vary from anti-freeze to carcinogens.
The NHS runs a 12-week programme, which can be overseen by your pharmacist, helping you through the planning and treatment process. If you are struggling with nicotine, your doctor can also prescribe alternative medicines for you, such as Champix or Zyban. There are also helplines and support groups – so you don’t need to feel as if you are quitting on your own – and even a Smokefree app so you can see how much money you’ve saved and get useful personalised tips, including how to combat cravings, directly to your phone.
It all starts with one positive decision: that you want to quit smoking. You can do it!
About the author. Feriha İbrahim is a fully qualified pharmacist, graduating with a Masters Degree in Pharmacy from Kings College, University of London, in 2004. Together with her family, she runs the two branches of Woodside Pharmacy located in Leytonstone E11. She recently joined the T-VINE editorial team.