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Why quit smoking?

Each cigarette contains poisonous chemicals that affect the body, both in the short term and the long term. So giving up smoking brings both immediate and long term benefits.

Short term benefits
It takes just one smoking free day for the effects of smoking on blood pressure to fade and for carbon monoxide to be eliminated from the body.

Within a few more days, energy levels are increased, the skin can appear healthier and there is less chance of developing coughs and colds. Smell and taste improve and clothes smell fresher.

And of course, there are good financial reasons for quitting at today's prices, a 20-a-day smoker spends over £1600 a year on cigarettes.

Long term benefits
It's estimated that 120,000 people in the UK die prematurely every year because they smoke. Stopping smoking at any age can increase life expectancy. The chances of developing cancer, heart disease and lung disease are reduced.

If you are pregnant, there are even more reasons to give up. Smoking when pregnant can cause low birth weight, premature birth, bleeding and even miscarriage. Smoking during pregnancy also increases the child's risk of developing a range of illnesses throughout their life, from serious respiratory infection to cardiovascular disease.

The challenge of giving up
Smoking is a physical addiction and a psychological habit. This is what makes it so difficult to stop.

The nicotine in tobacco smoke is addictive. The "pleasure" of smoking for regular smokers is really the relief of satisfying the body's craving for nicotine.

Smoking also becomes a habit it becomes associated with various emotional occasions, situations and events. For some people, the habit can be even harder to break than the physical addiction.

But despite these challenges, it can be done in the UK there are now 13 million ex-smokers


Smoking How to Quit

1. Get professional help Ring the helpline on Freephone 0800 169 0 169 for information and advice. Pregnant women seeking help in stopping smoking can call the pregnancy Quitline on 0800 169 9169. Specialist helplines are also available in Asian languages. Your doctor, pharmacist, or health visitor should also give advice and they should tell you if there are special services for smokers in your area. See also ASH’s quitting links for further help and resources.

2. Prepare mentally You are not alone! 70% of British smokers would like to quit and about three million try each year. More than 11 million people in Britain have quit and are now ex-smokers. However, it can be tough and you will need lots of willpower to break the hold of nicotine – a powerful and addictive drug. An important part of this is to know what you would gain and what you would lose from stopping smoking. One ex-60-a-day smoker (Allen Carr, author of best-selling The Easy Way to Stop Smoking) says:

"there is absolutely nothing to give up there is no genuine pleasure or crutch in smoking. It is just an illusion, like banging your head against a wall to make it pleasant when you stop."

3. Demolish smoking myths Soon after smoking a cigarette the body and brain start to want more nicotine and many people begin to feel increasingly uncomfortable until they have the next cigarette. Smoking feels pleasurable, but much of the pleasure of smoking is relief of withdrawal from nicotine. There are times that many people feel distracted or unable to enjoy themselves because you they were not able to smoke. This is nicotine withdrawal in action. If you see it this way, cigarettes are not a familiar friend but more like a greedy parasite demanding constant attention.

4. Understand what to expect Most people find the first few days difficult and for some it can be a long struggle, but things will typically start to get better after the third or fourth day. Nicotine withdrawal may make you restless, irritable, frustrated, sleepless, or accident prone - but these things will pass and you will quickly start to feel the benefits. See the ASH fact sheet on what happens when you give up smoking.

5. Make a list of reasons why you want to stop smoking It means different things to different people, but if you know what you want from stopping, it could help you through the most difficult moments. Reasons could include some or all of:


q Better all-round health - stopping smoking reduces risk of 50 different illnesses and conditions.
q Heart attack risk drops to the same as a non-smoker three years after quitting
q Cancer risk drops with every year of not smoking
q Live longer and stay well - one in two long-term smokers die early and lose about 16 years of life
q Set a good example to the kids (or other people’s kids) - don't want to be a smoking role model
q Have lots of money to spend on other things - smoking 20 a day can cost £1,600 per year
q Improved fitness and easier breathing – better at sports and getting up stairs
q Better chance of having a healthy baby
q Food and drink tastes better
q Better skin and complexion, and no early wrinkles
q Fresher smelling breath, hair and clothes, and no more cigarette smells around the house
q Back in full control and no longer craving or distracted when I am not smoking or not able to smoke
q Travel on trains, aircraft, buses will be easier
q Work will be easier and I won’t have to spend so much time outside or in the smoking room
q Don't want to support tobacco companies
q Concern about environmental impact of tobacco growing
q Other

6. Consider the money Main brand cigarettes now cost £4.48 after the April 2003 budget.

7. Set a date Some people make a New Year’s Day resolution, others pick their birthday, and you can join in with others on No Smoking Day - the second Wednesday of every March - when up to a million smokers have a go. Any day will do, but choosing a date will help mental preparation.

8. Involve friends or family If you live with someone else that smokes, it will be much easier to quit if you do it together. When expecting a baby, both parents should do it together. One common mistake is not to take the effort to quit smoking seriously enough. Really putting your whole commitment behind it will help you have the right frame of mind to face the challenge.

9. Deal with nicotine withdrawal Nicotine is a powerful addictive drug (see ASH fact sheet on nicotine) and you can roughly double the chances of successfully quitting smoking by using nicotine replacement therapies such as patches, lozenges, inhalers, and/or gum. The idea is to come off nicotine gradually by using a low nicotine dose to take the edge off the cravings and have a ‘soft landing’. Nicotine products include Nicorette , NiQuitin CQ and Nicotinell. An alternative to nicotine products is the drug Zyban which is only available on prescription. Although it is proven to be effective, as with all drugs there is a risk of side effects and you will need to discuss with your doctor whether this form of therapy would be suitable for you.

10. Other treatments may help Hypnosis, acupuncture or other treatments may help some people, but there isn't much formal evidence supporting their effectiveness. Our advice is to use with caution, but even if they help mental preparation, then they have some value. Herbal cigarettes are pointless - you get all the tar, but nothing to help you deal with nicotine withdrawal. Quit has a good guide to treatments.

11. Find a (temporary) substitute habit Smoking also involves having something to do with the hands or mouth. Non-smokers manage without this, so it will not be necessary in the long term. But if this is part of the smoking habit, you may need to deal with it. It might be an idea to use chewing gum, drink more water, fruit juice or tea, or to chew or eat something (but see weight gain below!).

12. Deal with any weight-gain worries Yes it is true: many people do gain weight when they quit smoking. Nicotine changes the appetite and body's energy use (metabolism). Even if you do gain weight it will be worth it if you quit, but if you want to avoid weight-gain then you can prepare. For example, you can change your diet or avoid alcohol, or take more exercise. (You may find QUIT’s guide Quit smoking without putting on weight helpful.

13. Avoid temptation In the difficult first few days you can change your routine to avoid situations where you would usually smoke. For example, it might be worth avoiding the pub on the first Friday night after you quit.

14. Stop completely Although it might seem like a good idea to cut down and then stop, this is actually very difficult to do in practice. If you cut down, the likely response is that you will smoke each cigarette more intensively and end up doing yourself just as much harm. The best approach is to go for a complete break and use nicotine replacement products (see above) to help take the edge off the withdrawal symptoms.

15. Watch out for relapse You will need to be on your guard especially in the first few days and weeks. "I'll have just one, it can't harm" is the top of a long and slippery slope. If you are upset or under pressure, it is really important to fight off the temptation to smoke – don’t let this be an excuse for slipping back. You could lose everything you've achieved just in a momentary lapse.


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