Smoking is estimated to cause the death of over 120,000 people every year in the UK. It is the cause of 1 in 5 of all male deaths and 1 in 10 of all female deaths.
It has been linked to countless conditions, including numerous terminal illnesses such as lung cancer, emphysema, heart disease and many other serious health problems such as depression, infertility, impotence and insomnia. The World Health Organisation estimates that 5.4 million deaths worldwide are caused by tobacco and this will rise to 8.3 million by 2030. Every 6.5 seconds a current or former smoker dies.
The ill-effects of smoking are not surprising when you consider that cigarette smoke contains over four thousand chemical constituents.
Over sixty of these have now been demonstrated to be carcinogenic (cancer causing).
Some examples of these chemicals include cadmium (a highly toxic metal), acetone (used as a nail-polish remover), lead and hydrogen cyanide. Nicotine is the key addictive ingredient in cigarettes but is not itself carcinogenic.
The majority of smokers when asked will say that they do want to quit and that they are aware that smoking is extremely damaging to their health.
The good news for smokers is that there is now more support than ever before for people looking to kick the habit, both in the form of information and products designed to reduce cravings and stave off withdrawal symptoms. One key development has been the introduction of nicotine-replacement therapies.
Nicotine-replacement therapies (NRT) are available in the form of nicotine patches, gum, lozenges, inhalators, microtabs, nasal sprays and oral sprays.
The general principal of all of these therapies is to supply a quitting smoker with a level of nicotine in their blood while they are quitting, helping reduce nicotine withdrawal symptoms and cravings whilst a smoker breaks the psychological habit of smoking.
NRT begins with a smoker calculating their dependence upon nicotine. This is calculated by answering simple questions about the number of cigarettes you smoke per day and of your smoking habits such as whether you smoke ﬁrst thing upon waking for example. Once you have identiﬁed your ‘level of nicotine addiction’, you can choose whether or not to use gum, patches, an inhalator etc. Some quitters try a variety of products before settling upon their preferred option. In certain circumstances more than one type of NRT product can be used together, ask your pharmacist for advice.
In smokers who are determined to quit, NRT has been shown to double the quitting success rate versus will power alone. You can talk to your pharmacist about NRT.
There are now also a number of help-lines and support groups for people looking to quit, many of them running ‘quitting communities’ functioning either in person or online.
The NHS offers both a helpline on 0800 169 0169 as well as smoking cessation facilities where you can get face-to-face support.
Many pharmacists also run comprehensive smoking cessation programs and will be able to help people looking to quit.
If you have decided to quit consider these helpful tips:
- On the day you pick to quit, start that morning without a cigarette.
- Avoid activities you used to engage in that were linked to smoking.
- Take a walk or read a book instead of taking a cigarette break.
- Throw away your lighter(s), matches and cigarettes.
- When the urge to smoke strikes eat a healthy snack.
- Drink a lot of ﬂuids and reduce your intake of alcohol or caffeine. These can increase your
desire to smoke.
- Exercising will help you relax.
- Spend time with non smokers.
- Seek support for quitting.
- Tell others about your milestones with pride.
- Don’t be too hard on yourself if you relapse. Most people try quitting several times before
successfully kicking the habit.