Although the number of people who smoke has dropped significantly by 1.6 million over the last six years, according to Chemist 4 u, more than 15% of over 18s in the UK still currently smoke while 5.5% vape. "Current records state that smoking is responsible for around 96,000 deaths in the UK every year, and smoking-related diseases cost the NHS £2 billion a year.” The website adds that over 60% of current smokers want to quit.
If the majority of smokers want to quit, why is it so difficult for them to do so? The British Lung Foundation explains: “Tobacco smoke contains over 5,000 chemicals, including nicotine. Nicotine is highly addictive, and smokers will develop a level of physical dependence to their use of tobacco. Nicotine is thought to be as addictive as heroin and cocaine.
“Some people who smoke also have a greater physical dependence on tobacco than others. This may be because they smoke more cigarettes or have smoked for a long time. Those people will experience more extreme withdrawal symptoms when they try to quit.”
It’s true that quitting smoking is difficult, but it’s certainly not impossible. There are lots of reasons to want to quit smoking, but the most pressing would be for its health implications. The NHS says that smoking causes around 7 out of every 10 cases of lung cancer. It can also damage your heart and your blood circulation, increasing your risk of developing conditions such as coronary heart disease, heart attack, stroke, peripheral vascular disease and cerebrovascular disease.
Additionally, smoking can worsen or prolong the symptoms of respiratory conditions such as asthma, or respiratory tract infections such as the common cold, and in men it can cause impotence because it limits the blood supply to the penis.
If all of that isn’t enough to help you quit, here are some additional tips to help you give up the cigarettes for good in 2020:
1. Let others know of your plans to quit
If everyone knows that you are trying to quit smoking then they can hold you accountable if they spot you with a cigarette in your hand. If there is societal pressure on you to quit you are more likely to stick to it.
2. Talk to your doctor first
Your doctor can offer advice on the best ways to quit according to your own individual health needs. They can suggest aids such as nicotine patches and gum, or suggest you take up vaping instead to ease the transition.
3. Focus on why you want to quit
Think of the implications of smoking on your health as listed above. Make a list of your own reasons for quitting and place it somewhere visible so that you can read it when you are feeling like you want to give up. This will motivate you to keep going when things get difficult.
4. Consider altering your diet
The NHS says that a US study revealed that some foods, including meat, make cigarettes more satisfying. “Others, including cheese, fruit and vegetables, make cigarettes taste terrible. So swap your usual steak or burger for a veggie pizza instead.
“You may also want to change your routine at or after mealtimes. Getting up and doing the dishes straight away or settling down in a room where you don't smoke may help.”
5. Same goes for drinks
The NHS adds that “fizzy drinks, alcohol, cola, tea and coffee all make cigarettes taste better. So when you're out, drink more water and juice. Some people find simply changing their drink (for example, switching from wine to a vodka and tomato juice) affects their need to reach for a cigarette”.
6. Hang out with people who don’t smoke
It’s much easier to turn down a cigarette if you are with people who aren’t nipping outside every 20 minutes for a smoke. Explain to your smoker friends that it’s nothing personal, you are just trying to distance yourself from temptation to smoke.
The NHS also says that if you want to quit smoking, it helps to get moving. “A review of scientific studies has proved exercise, even a 5-minute walk or stretch, cuts cravings and may help your brain produce anti-craving chemicals.”
It also helps to have another healthy habit to distract you from wanting to smoke, so why not try different sports, go walking with friends or join a local sports team. If you’re busy you can delay your urges to smoke more easily.