Do you think there is any adult out there who is unaware that smoking is bad for you? That irrefutable medical evidence blames smoking for causing cancer, heart disease and increasing your risk of stroke, among many other unfavourable conditions? It is a pretty fair assumption – in the UK at least – that everyone is well aware of the dangers of smoking by now.
Yet smokers still smoke, so surely reminding them of the health concerns again and again is not going to get any more persuasive? Rather than telling all smokers they should quit, perhaps it’s time to start focusing efforts on those of you who do want to kick the habit, but find it too difficult.
The grip of nicotine
Like any drug people abuse, nicotine works by stimulating chemical reactions in the brain. It takes about seven seconds from inhalation to stimulate the release of dopamine – one of the chemicals in the reward system of the brain – and it is the extra production of dopamine which forms the addiction, and causes withdrawal symptoms when it is suddenly taken away.
One of the peculiarities of smoking is that it is the nicotine that is wanted, yet nicotine as a drug in its purest form has very few adverse effects on your health. It is the delivery system, the thousands of other chemicals that are produced when tobacco is burned – which you would have no interest in without the nicotine content – that is so extremely dangerous. The fact is that tobacco has been part of western culture for a long time and, relatively speaking, the truth about its harmful effects has only recently become known; these factors mean it is still sociably acceptable among many and that it makes it even harder to quit.
Help is at hand
Anyone looking to quit smoking, however, does have more help at hand than ever to overcome the nicotine addiction. A good place to start is the NHS Smoke Free website, which has a range of resources and advice available to help smokers kick the habit.
Star with a quit plan, built around the date on which you plan to stop. This date should be at least a few weeks in advance, to allow you to cut down your nicotine intake in the meantime – it will be less of a shock to the system. Put down in writing all the reasons why you want to quit – it will be a useful reminder when the cravings kick in – and don’t forget to include the strong financial incentive you have. Smoking 20 cigarettes a day costs £50 per week, which over the course of a year is a whopping £2,600 – think of the holiday you could take with plenty left over to clear some outstanding debts.
When the quit day comes, don’t just assume that you can beat the cravings on your own. Nicotine is one of the most addictive drugs out there, so using replacement medication which doesn’t have any of the harmful effects of smoking is a good way to satisfy those cravings while you work on breaking the habit of smoking – it can be difficult to work out what to do with yourself in certain situations where you would normally smoke, so concentrate on overcoming these. There are many nicotine-replacement gums and medications available from high-street chemists such as Lloydspharmacy which are still cheaper than smoking.
As mentioned, quitting smoking is about more than just beating the physical addiction to nicotine, it is about removing the habit, the social aspect and the dependency that you have on cigarettes.
Think about the times you always find yourself smoking, as imagine how you can change those situations. If you enjoy the social aspect of popping out of popping out for a smoke break with your colleagues at work, see if your non-smoking colleagues will help you out by downing tools and having a quick chat at your usual smoking times. Perhaps chewing sugar-free gum can give you something to do and take you mind off cigarettes during this time; many people replace cigarettes with a sugary treat, but removing nicotine from your system will enhance your appetite, so it is easy to get carried away and gain weight if you take this route. Consuming alcohol will enhance your cravings – all ex-smokers say so – so it might be wise to cut back on your intake for a short while after quitting – you’ll save money here too!
Whatever method you choose, always keep in mind the reasons you have thought up for quitting and get your friends and loved ones to be your support network. With this help, you’ll be on the right path to a smoke-free future.