How to stop smoking according to a doctor

More and more Brits are choosing to ditch cigarettes, with smoking rates falling by 15.1% since 2016.

To continue to pave the way for a smoke-free generation, health campaigns like National No Smoking Day are encouraging people to quit the habit for good.

National No Smoking Day, which falls on March 13, is encouraging smokers to use the hashtag #TellUsYourWay to share how they plan to quit.

From e-cigarettes to nicotine patches, there are plenty of ways to help you quit smoking. But as any smoker who’s quit or tried to quit before, smoking can be a difficult habit to kick.

So what are the facts about smoking and how can you quit successfully?

Here’s all of your questions about stopping smoking answered by Dr Fiona Sim, a former GP and Special Advisor to the Royal Society of Public Health.

Is ‘social smoking’ as bad as smoking every day?

“The health risks from smoking are related to the amount you smoke, so you are less likely to get ill as a result of an occasional cigarette compared with someone who is a regular smoker.

“But if you are a ‘social smoker’ you are running the risk of smoking more and becoming addicted to nicotine just like regular smokers.

“So altogether, a better idea is to not smoke at all rather than believing wrongly, that you are safe if you are a ‘social smoker.'”

How do I stop smoking? Where do I start?

“Choose a date to stop carefully, when you are ready to make a commitment to quitting and feel able to do it.

“Tell people around you that you’re quitting and if possible, buddy up with someone and quit together.

“It’s also a good idea to get professional advice from your local pharmacist or GP.

“Don’t worry if you don’t succeed at first – it can take several attempts to quit smoking but the health benefits of becoming a non-smoker mean it is worth stopping however long it takes and at any age.

“If you’re pregnant, there are special services to help you quit smoking, not just for your own benefit but for your baby’s, who will otherwise be at increased risk of miscarriage, stillbirth or low birth weight as a result of smoking.

“Finally, set yourself a reward for quitting – you’ll be able to afford a great prize with the money you’ll save by becoming a non-smoker!”

What treatments can help me quit?

“There are several types of treatment available, including nicotine replacement in the form of patches, gum, inhaler, nasal spray, microtablets or lozenges.

“Prescription pills such as Zyban or Champix and e-cigarettes are also good stop-smoking treatments, and e-cigarettes if other treatments haven’t worked for you.

“Try visiting a stop smoking clinic or a pharmacy with a trained assistant so they can help you find the right combination of products most likely to help you.”

Can hypnosis stop me craving cigarettes?

“Hypnosis (or hypnotherapy) is a popular treatment for quitting smoking, although the underlying scientific evidence to support it is slim.

“It’s not licensed for NHS use for this purpose, although lots of smokers try it and succeed in quitting.”

Are e-cigarettes bad for you? Can they help me stopping smoking?

“E-cigarettes are believed by most experts to be a lot safer than smoking tobacco products. Most contain nicotine and so inhaling from an e-cigarette will replace the effect of nicotine in cigarettes, which accounts for their addictiveness.

“So e-cigarettes can help you quit conventional cigarettes and can be especially useful in the early stages of quitting.

“However, because the long-term health effects of vaping are not yet known, the prolonged use of e-cigarettes is not recommended.

“E-cigarettes are not currently recommended for use in pregnancy so it’s usually advised you try other treatments.”

Is going cold turkey the best way to stop smoking?

“Going cold turkey can work but someone trying to quit may find the cravings too much.

“If you do decide to go cold turkey, nicotine will be out of your body in the first week, after which you may well have cravings for a few weeks, and longer for some people.

“Each craving lasts for a few minutes and you’ll need to be prepared to cope with them.

“To succeed, you’ll need to always say ‘no’ to these cravings to avoid relapse. The NHS calls this the ‘not a single drag’ rule.”

What happens to your body when you stop smoking?

“As soon as you stop smoking, your body starts to crave nicotine, which is why nicotine replacement products can be helpful.

“It won’t be long before the good effects start to kick in, though. You’ll enjoy food more because your sense of taste will be improved, your clothes won’t smell of stale smoke, that tell-tale cough will disappear and you’ll be saving yourself money.

“Importantly, your risk of things like heart and circulatory diseases, lung cancer and several other cancers and chronic chest disease (COPD) will start to reduce as soon as you stop smoking.

“And if some damage has already been done, quitting at any age help stop things getting worse.

“Because smoking affects appetite, some people put on weight after quitting, so include a healthy eating and exercise plan within your quit smoking plan.”

Can stopping smoking affect your mental health and sleep?

“Smoking increases anxiety and stress, despite its image as something to relieve stress. Smokers are also more likely to suffer from depression.

“Stopping smoking can therefore improve your mental health and overall wellbeing.

“Smoking can also affect your circulation and with it, the blood supply to a man’s penis. So if a man suffers from erectile dysfunction, it can be as a result of smoking and may be cured by quitting.

“Smoking is also known to contribute to infertility, so it is worth both partners quitting if you are trying to conceive.”

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