As we progress through January, many people who quit smoking as a New Year’s Resolution may be finding it tough to stay off tobacco, so the Public Health Agency (PHA) has revealed its top tips to help people stay on track.
Quitting smoking can be very difficult however help is at hand. There are over 600 free stop smoking services across Northern Ireland in Pharmacies, GP surgeries, Hospitals, Communities and Workplaces. Using stop smoking support will greatly improve your chances of becoming a non-smoker as does using Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT).
Recent studies* show that a smoker using NRT has up to a 70% improved chance of successfully stopping smoking. NRT aims to reduce withdrawal symptoms associated with stopping smoking by replacing the nicotine from cigarettes. NRT is available as skin patches that deliver nicotine slowly, and chewing gum, nasal and mouth sprays, inhalers, and lozenges.
Gerry Bleakney, Head of Health and Social Wellbeing Improvement, PHA, offers some helpful tips to keep you on track, whether you have already given up smoking or want to:
- If you haven’t already quit, set a specific date on which you want to stop smoking and stick to it. Let people know so they can support you in your quit attempt. Try to encourage a group of your friends or family to stop with you and support one another.
- To get started, it is really useful to have a careful look at what you do at the moment. Review your smoking habit and change your routine to avoid situations when you usually smoke, e.g. if you smoke with a cup of coffee, try tea instead; if you smoke first thing in the morning take a shower instead or if you smoke when you are on the phone hold a pencil and doodle. If you smoke on your way to work, take a slightly different route to help change your routine.
- In the first few days after quitting, drink lots of water and fluids to help flush out the nicotine and other poisons from your body. Try to avoid alcohol and coffee, as these tend to increase the desire for a cigarette.
- Don't fall into the trap of having ‘just one’ cigarette. Be on your guard against temptation – one cigarette can easily lead to another.
- Instead of smoking, use the ‘tangle’ found in the Quit Kit as an alternative for something to do with your hands. You can order your kit free of charge by logging on to the ‘Want 2 Stop’ website or phoning the Smokers’ Helpline. Alternatively occupy your hand with a stress or tennis ball.
- When you feel like smoking a cigarette, try texting or ringing a friend – it will help the craving to pass and take your mind off it.
- Avoid eating high energy, high sugar snack foods in place of cigarettes; try fresh fruit, a low fat yogurt or sugar-free gum instead.
- Avoid skipping meals or eating sweets as both cause rapid rise and fall in blood sugar levels which makes cravings worse.
- Keep active – walk more; go for a swim or a cycle, dance to music at home, do some hovering, gardening or wash the car - any physical activity produces chemicals in the body which make people feel better. Physical activity has been shown to help quit attempts and will help to reduce weight gain.
- Put the money you are saving on cigarettes away so that it can help motivate you when things are tough.
Gerry Bleakney added: “Stopping smoking is the best change a person can make to improve their overall health. The benefits start almost immediately and continue for the rest of your life.”
“After just 20 minutes your blood pressure and pulse rate return to normal and after 24 hours carbon monoxide is eliminated from the body. Lungs start to clear out mucus and other smoking debris.
“Five years later and the risk of heart attack falls to about half that of a smoker. After ten years, the risk of lung cancer falls to half that of someone who still smokes.
“Stopping smoking also has huge financial benefits, and with the cost of tobacco products continuing to rise there really isn’t a better time to quit. Smoking 20 cigarettes a day costs on average £2,536.75 a year, which could be used to pay off bills or for treats to reward your hard work and determination.
“If you quit and then relapse, accept it, work out why it happened, and focus on how you can avoid it in future. It takes several efforts for many people to quit for good but if you are determined you will do it. Last year over 34,000 people decided to stop using our Stop Smoking Services and many others did so, on their own. Be prepared is the motto for success.
Giving his support Health Minister Edwin Poots said: “There is a lot of help and advice out there for people who want to stop smoking and there really is no time like the present, don’t leave it till tomorrow. It’s not easy doing it alone and that is why more and more people are accessing the services available such as getting help with devising a quit plan, accessing top tips and advice. There is help out there and I urge anyone who is toying with the idea of quitting to get in contact with the PHA’s stop smoking services – it really could save your life.”
For more information and useful tips to stop smoking log on to the PHA’s ‘Want 2 Stop’ website www.want2stop.info and order a ‘Quit Kit’ free of charge. Alternatively contact the Smokers’ Helpline on 0808 812 8008.
Contact the PHA Press Office on 028 9031 1611.
Notes to the editor
1. For further information on stop smoking services available in localities across Northern Ireland, contact the Smokers’ Helpline on 0808 812 8008 or go to www.want2stop.info
2. *Stead LF, Perera R, Bullen C, Mant D and Lancaster T (2008) ‘Nicotine replacement therapy for smoking cessation.’ Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2008(1)
3. The ‘Quit Kit’ is available from the website www.want2stop.info
4. NRT is available across the counter or may be received free for smokers who receive stop smoking support from pharmacists trained as stop smoking specialists. Your local GP may also offer specialist stop smoking support and can, when appropriate, offer stop smoking tablets on prescription.