Giving up smoking is never easy but for those who are determined to quit, there's more support available than ever before. So where do you start?
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Are you mentally ready?
Have you considered how you will cope when the cravings kick in? Do you have a plan for avoiding or resisting temptation in situations when you usually light up? You're more likely to quit if you have a plan of action and support in place before you give up. Many people find it helps to set a date and 'work up' to quitting.
Once you've made the decision to quit, it's a good idea to visit your GP. They will be able to suggest an appropriate program for you or advise of local group sessions offering on-going encouragement and support. You can also call a trained expert on the NHS helpline.
If medically appropriate, your GP may prescribe tablets to help you quit. The two most commonly prescribed are Zyban and Champix.
Zyban changes how your body reacts to nicotine. Available through prescription only, you take the tablet one or two weeks before quitting and then for a couple of months after. It should help quell cravings and see you through those difficult early days.
Champix works by reducing the craving for cigarettes and easing the effects if you smoke. The prescription-only tablets are taken one or two weeks before quitting and the treatment lasts 12 weeks in total. Though you continue smoking initially, the pills are designed to take some of the stress out of quitting when you do give up.
The NHS recently launched a Quit Kit for those who struggle to give up with willpower alone. It contains a week's free trial of nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) patches, stress-busting exercises to help you beat the cravings and a Health & Wealth wheel so that you can see the difference quitting is making to your wellbeing.
You should also ask your doctor about other forms of help and advice offered by the NHS, such as individual and group sessions with face-to-face support from experts, the 'Smokefree Together' programme, developed by smokers and former smokers to offer support when you're at home via email, phone and text, and the NHS Smoking Helpline, which is open seven days a week should you need to talk to a trained adviser.
Nicotine gum, lozenges and microtabs all provide a blast of nicotine when you need it most - both the gum and the lozenges will release the nicotine slowly, while the microtabs dissolve quickly to take away cravings.
Alternatively nicotine patches can be worn round the clock and release nicotine gradually during the day, directly into the bloodstream. Patches with differing amounts of nicotine are available so that you can slowly cut down. As you're not directly replacing each cigarette with a lozenge or gum, they help you to break the physical habit as well as the nicotine addiction.
Replacing the physical habit
If you miss the physical habit of smoking, a plastic inhalator may help as it gives your hands something to do. Many people find that electronic cigarettes help, as they provide smokers with the nicotine hit they crave without any of the harmful side effects of lit tobacco.
These devices look and taste like traditional cigarettes and even emit a smoke-like substance which is a simple water vapour. To find out more and read reviews of the different types available, visit www.e-smokereviews.com.
Finally, many smokers say they have been able to quit with the help of Alan Carr's Easy Way to Stop Smoking book. For just a few pounds on Amazon, it has to be worth a try!
10 tips to help you quit
1. Keep a list of the reasons why you want to quit with you and read it when you need a willpower boost.
2. Give up completely if you can. People who cut down gradually tend to smoke more of each cigarette so nicotine levels remain the same.
3. Tell friends and family you are stopping and ask for their support - even better, see if you can persuade them to quit with you.
4. If telling others proves too much pressure, just decide for yourself that you are stopping and count the days you've managed to remain smoke free.
5. Prepare for the withdrawal symptoms. They peak after 12-24 hours and gradually ease within a month.
6. Avoid drinking alcohol in the first few weeks, which may affect your willpower.
7. Keep a diary or mark days off a calendar – it will help show you how far you've come and encourage you to carry on with the good work.
8. When the cravings start and you feel deprived, mentally list all the positives. You smell better, feel better and can taste your food more. You're less likely to cough and suffer with colds – not to mention adding years to your life.
9. Avoid situations where you would normally smoke. Find other ways to combat stress or suggest different social outings (rather than sitting outside the pub) go and watch a movie at the cinema.
10. Should you fail, examine what caused this to happen. You will be better prepared next time. Most people who successfully quit have tried three or four times before. Don't give up – learn from the experience and know that it can be done and that you CAN do it.
For more information visit: http://www.nhs.uk/livewell/smoking/Pages/stopsmokingnewhome.aspx
Do you have any good advice for others wanting to quit? Leave a comment below...