Stoptober - you know you want to!

When I realised Stoptober time had come round again, I wondered idly how long it had been around. I was astonished to discover this is only the third Stoptober ever in the UK. These days, my patients seem more likely to aim to quit in Stoptober than as part of their New Year's resolution, so it seems to have become a national landmark.

It's such a simple idea - people who manage to quit for 28 days are five times more likely to stay smoke-free (1) . It's such an important idea - the list of harms from smoking is long and gruesome and the health benefits, which begin within hours of quitting, just keep on rising. We've come a long way - in 1974, smoking was almost the norm for adults, with 45% of UK adults lighting up on a regular basis. (2) But we still have a long way to travel - six million people in the UK (22% of men and 19% of women) still smoke. (3)

So what's new about this Stoptober? A new campaign from Quit with Help provides some timely reminders of just why it can be so hard to give up. Because it seems smokers are still going it alone, despite all the evidence that getting the right support helps. Ninety-seven per cent of smokers who 'go cold turkey' have started smoking again within a year (4), while even brief advice from a healthcare professional can increase your chance of quitting successfully by up to 30%. (5) Overall, people are more likely to quit using any of the licensed products designed to help with smoking cessation (6) than without, but the best results of all come from a combination of intensive support from a trained counsellor and licensed products. (7) And this support is now widely available for free on the NHS - and you're four times more likely to quit successfully with NHS help.

Yet a new survey shows that less than one in three smokers seeks help from an NHS professional. We all know we need help for major challenges in life - 75% of people in the survey admitted that getting outside support played a major role in their success in changing jobs, losing weight, moving house or ending an unhappy relationship. But 17% felt there was a stigma attached to getting help to quit smoking, 16% thought it was their own fault for starting and they didn't deserve help and almost half felt they 'should' be able to stop without help.

Here's a newsflash - every doctor, nurse and pharmacist knows how easy it is to start smoking and how hard it is to stop. Millions of pounds of research go into getting that addictive 'hit' to your brain as quickly, and as powerfully as possible when you light up. (8) More than two thirds of smokers want to quit and many have tried time and again without success. (9)

So the Quit with Help campaign suggests a catchy way to work out how to make this time the time you really do it:

Q - Question why you've failed before, if this isn't your first attempt.

U - Understand that your addiction is both physical and psychological - it certainly isn't just a 'lack of moral fibre'.

I - Investigate the support available at

T - Talk to a healthcare professional. They're ready, they're willing and they really could make a difference!


1) West R, Stapleton J. Eur Respir Rev 2008; 17: 110, 199-204

2) NHS information centre for health and social care Statistics on NHS Stop Smoking Services: England, April 2011 - March 2012 . Available

3) Action on Smoking and Health UK (ASH). ASH Essential Information on Nicotine and Addiction. February 2009. Accessed online at


5) World Health Organisation (WHO). "WHO urges health professionals to engage in tobacco control." 31 May 2005. Accessed online at:


7) Stead LF, Lancaster T. Combined pharmacotherapy and behavioural interventions for smoking cessation (review) The Cochrane Library 2012 (10) file:///C:/Users/sarah/Downloads/CD008286.pdf



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