While we're counting down to the New Year, many people's attentions may already be turning to considering their resolutions for 2015. One of the most popular is likely to be giving up smoking, and if you happen to decide this is the right time for you, it is probably the best decision you can make for your health.
Of those who do still smoke, many would love to stop. Around two-thirds of British smokers would like to give up the habit, with around seven million people attempting to quit each year1. Giving up smoking is a difficult challenge, but if you can quit it can halt or even reverse the damage smoking has done to your body over the years. It will also help the health of your family and friends, who may have been affected by passive smoking from your habit.
If the benefits to your health aren't enough to swing the balance, you may also want to consider the benefit it can have on your bank balance. People who smoke heavily can save several hundred pounds a month by giving up, but you can see exactly how much you'll save by visiting http://www.canstopsmoking.com/tools/cost-calculator.
The major health benefits of stopping smoking include:
- Helping you breathe more easily, aiding your overall health and fitness
- Reducing your risk of disability, illness and disease, including cancer, and diseases of the lungs and heart
- Limiting the possibility of your children developing illnesses such as asthma, pneumonia or bronchitis
- Increasing your levels of fertility
- Increasing your sense of taste, making food and drink more flavourful
- Improving the appearance of your skin and teeth.
So how can I stop?
It is not unusual for smokers to have tried to stop several times without quite managing it, while others may have had the best intentions to quit without ever doing anything about it. If this sounds worryingly familiar to you, don't panic.
There are many ways to go about giving up. The most effective approach by far for many people appears to be a combination of expert support and medications that reduce your cravings (either nicotine replacement therapy or medicines prescribed by your doctor).
In fact, if you use professional support together with medication to help manage your cravings you are up to four times more likely to be successful.
Other approaches include hypnotherapy, acupuncture, smoking cessation groups or simply just stopping - these can all be very effective.
Why do you smoke?
Your reasons for smoking are very personal to you - you may smoke in social situations or when you're tired or stressed, you may just smoke habitually - or of course because you feel you just need to. One thing is certain, you enjoy it and the undeniable pleasure it provides you.
But at the same time you also know it's seriously damaging your health and significantly increasing your risk of developing type 2 diabetes as well as a wide range of other health conditions such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, emphysema and dementia. It's also costing you a lot of money, restricting your physical fitness and affecting those around you.
It really is worth trying to understand why you like to smoke in order to find a way of giving up in the future that is best for you. Smoking is a personal decision, but some of these reasons include:
Stress smoking : if feeling under pressure is the main reason you smoke, it might be an idea to try more exercise instead. Exercise helps reduce stress levels and can also help stifle those cravings.
Needing a nicotine fix : if you spend most of the day with a cigarette in your hand and feel uneasy without it, you might want to consider nicotine replacement therapy, or NRT. You have numerous options available to you, from electronic cigarettes, which replicate the feeling of smoking without the harmful chemicals, to nicotine patches, gums, lozenges and sprays as well as medication such as Zyban® and Champix®. Speak to your GP to decide what is right for you.
Social smoking : some of us only think about smoking when we're out with our friends, but that can be avoided if we ask our friends for help. You never know, they may like to join your attempt to give up too.
Part of your daily routine : if you're a long-term smoker and it's just part of what you do each day, you'll benefit by developing some new healthy habits. These can include exercising around the time you'd normally light up, or perhaps go and talk to a friend or colleague rather than heading outside to the smoking area.
You've failed in the past : if this sounds like you, don't be disheartened. 2015 is a New Year, and with plenty of help available to you there's no reason why you can't finally give up the cigarettes and make this a healthier time in your life.
Remember … there will never be a perfect time to quit smoking - a time when you don't have any distractions or stresses. If you had stopped a year ago, this would not even be a consideration for you today - don't waste another year!
Where to get expert support and advice
As a first step, you could have a chat with your doctor - they will be able to talk to you about the best options to go smoke-free as well as direct you to any support services that may be available to you.
You can also find a wealth of advice and support including free NHS stop smoking materials at www.smokefree.nhs.uk and don't forget you can get free telephone support from an NHS smoking cessation expert on 0800 022 4 332 (call charges will vary).