Staying on track


It's not uncommon for people who are trying to give up smoking to stumble in their attempts to some degree. Even the most earnest efforts to stop smoking can take several attempts to quit for good. The best thing you can do is recognise what went wrong, so you can avoid the same thing from happening again. Plan another quit date as soon as possible - and stay positive.

Preventing relapse

Cravings are very powerful urges to smoke, brought on mainly by the withdrawal effects of stopping, but often made worse by stressful situations, drinking alcohol, seeing other people smoking or being in a situation typically associated with smoking - such as after a meal.

Giving in to cravings is the main reason why people who are quitting pick up their cigarettes again. Tactics for resisting cravings include making changes to your behaviour and taking advantage of stop-smoking medications such as nicotine replacement therapy (NRT), Zyban® and Champix®.

NRT is available in several forms, including patches, gum, microtabs, lozenges, inhalator, mouth spray and nasal spray. NRT supplies your body with the nicotine it craves but without the toxic chemicals found in cigarettes - so it helps to reduce cravings without increasing your risk of cancer. The idea is, of course, to gradually cut down the dosage, so that after a few weeks you can go without all together.

Your lifestyle should determine which formats suit you best. For example, the patch is good for slow and steady release of nicotine into your system - many people find it useful for general on-going relief, whereas for those who experience sudden cravings, the mouth or nasal spray provides a quick burst of relief. Your doctor or pharmacist will be able to discuss your smoking patterns and lifestyle with you to help you decide on the right options.

There are also two main medicines that you can consider. Champix tricks the brain into thinking that you have nicotine in your system and Zyban helps to reduce the intensity of the cravings. Both medicines are available on prescription from your doctor who will advise you on their suitability for you.

Lifestyle and perspective

You should seriously consider your lifestyle and behaviours to avoid common smoking habits and danger situations - for example, if you usually have a cigarette after a meal then plan something to get up and do immediately afterwards; if you smoke first thing in the morning take a shower instead. Any changes to activities that you associate with smoking will help. Stay strong in the first few weeks in the knowledge that the cravings will lessen and disappear.

Increased physical activity, whether it's a quick walk in the park, a swim or doing some gardening can also help you to reduce cravings as well as help to reduce stress and keep your weight down.

Above all, when the urge to smoke intensifies, remember that it will be short-lived and that each time you resist, you are one step nearer to quitting for good.

Finally - get some help

SmokeFree is the NHS smoking cessation support programme. It's a great source of information, advice and support and there's even a telephone helpline where you can talk to a smoking cessation expert - all free of charge. Order your QuitKit now by visiting www.smokefree.nhs.uk or call the SmokeFree helpline on 0800 022 4332.