Quit while you're ahead


One of the most popular New Year's resolutions is to stop smoking, and if you've decided it's your turn to quit, congratulations. It's one of the best decisions you'll ever make.

Many smokers will say they'd love to stop and the good news is that although it isn't easy, by stopping you can halt and even begin to reverse some of the damage you may have done to your body. You may even improve the health of those around you as they won't have to live with your second-hand smoke any longer.

As well as many benefits to your health, you're also likely to save several hundred pounds each month if you are a heavy smoker.

The benefits of stopping smoking include:

• Reducing your risk of illness, disability or early death from cancer, heart and lung disease

• Reducing the chances of your children suffering from illnesses such as asthma, pneumonia or bronchitis

• If you're trying to conceive, you'll increase your fertility levels if you stop smoking

• Helping you to breathe more easily, and improve your general fitness

• Food and drink may well taste better.

OK, so how do you stop?

This might all sound good, but if you've tried and failed to stop before, don't despair. It might help you to quit if you can understand the reasons why you smoke. Here are a few possibilities:

Stress smokers: if you smoke in response to stressful situations, you might find more exercise will help. It not only reduces your stress levels, but it can also help you deal with cravings

Nicotine junkies: if you chain-smoke throughout the day and feel edgy if you don't have a cigarette in your hand, try using nicotine replacement therapy (NRT). There are a number of options, including electronic cigarettes, which look and feel like the real thing but without the chemicals that cause cancer. You may also be able to take medications such as Zyban® and Champix® to help with nicotine withdrawal - ask your GP for advice about this

Social smokers: if you aren't that bothered about cigarettes except when you're out with your friends, try asking a friend to give up smoking with you. The additional support might help you stay strong and resist the temptation to light up again - especially in those high-risk social situations

In the habit: if you've been smoking for years and it's just part of what you do each day, try developing some new, healthier habits including taking regular exercise and pursuing new hobbies. You may also find hypnotherapy helpful - visit the British Society of Clinical Hypnosis at www.bsch.org.uk for more information

Serial quitters: if you've tried - and failed - in the past, don't be disheartened. There is plenty of help available out there which can ensure 2014 is the beginning to a healthier stage of your life.

GETTING HELP

You can 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).