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Stop Smoking - Why? How?

07th, Mar 2022

It might surprise you to know that in the UK, approximately 15% of men, women and teenagers still smoke every day despite all of the health education and the heavy taxation of tobacco products. The good news is that almost 60% of those presently smoking wish that they could stop, and the numbers are dropping year on year. Many people have switched to e Cigarettes and presently 5.6% of the population admits to current use of e Cigarettes (about 3 million people!)

The NHS reports that smoking is still one of the biggest causes of death and illness in the UK with around 78,000 people dying from smoking related illness every year.

  • Smoking increases the risks of more than 50 serious health conditions, some of which are fatal and others cause life changing irreversible damage to your body.
  • Smoking passively, i.e. inhaling the exhaled smoke of smokers, has been proven to increase our changes of developing a smoking related illness, and this is why the law has recently changed so that it is now illegal to smoke in a vehicle in which under 18’s are travelling.
  • Smoking causes 7 out of every 10 cases of Lung cancer, and has a causative effect in mouth, throat, larynx (voice box), oesophageal (gullet), bladder, bowel, cervix, kidney, liver, stomach and pancreatic cancers.
  • Smoking damages your heart and circulation causing heart attacks and strokes.
  • Smoking causes lung conditions like COPD, bronchitis and emphysema.
  • Smoking causes impotence in men and can reduce fertility in both men and women.

So why do people continue to smoke and why is there a new generation of smokers when we know all of this?

Smoking has been associated with looking sophisticated and “grown up” and this is how many young people are ”snared”. Marketing in every walk of life perpetuated this myth until advertising bans prevented this. UK Governments have recognised the dangers and costs to the country and have introduced many measures aimed at dissuading us from smoking, and yet it continues. It is recognised to be a highly addictive habit which is very difficult to beat. 

BUT,

It can be beaten, and almost 60% of those who have ever smoked have now stopped smoking.

So how do you do it?

The first thing is you have to be is ready to stop!

It is difficult, and, for many people, it is a pleasurable pastime and habit, so it is hard to give up. As a result, you need to be ready and motivated.

When the decision has been made to stop the next thing is the strategy.

It works best if you know what sort of a person that you are. Some people just need to stop and “tough it out” and others do better when they stop gradually. One good strategy is to honestly work out how many cigarettes that you smoke in a day and then divide that number into your waking hours. e.g. if you smoke up to 20 cigarettes per day then divide 20 into the 16 hours that you are awake on average and have one every hour, by the clock. Most people don’t have an urge to smoke after having a cigarette for some time, so most people can hang on until the next “allowed” cigarette. That will leave you a few spare perhaps, but if you don’t “need” them don’t smoke them. Also, if you get to the hour mark and don’t feel that you need to smoke, try to wait until the next hour mark. This way you will be cutting down simply by telling your body when it can have a cigarette rather than have it dictate to you!

Make the prize bigger than the price!

In the last budget, a pack of 20 cigarettes went up by 27p, making the cheapest brands on average £9.10 for a pack. That is £63.70 per week, £254.80 per month, or £3057.60 per year. You could finance a very nice car for that, or have a very nice holiday abroad, or have a few luxuries. The secret is to literally put in a jar or an account what you would normally spend on cigarettes and then watch the sum grow. That is positive reinforcement which you can see and experience.

There are products available to help.

Nicotine replacement therapy has been the foundation stone of stopping smoking strategies for 30 years. Nicotine can be taken as a patch, a spray for the nose or a different spray for the mouth, a microtab, a lozenge to suck, chewing gum or even a “dummy “ cigarette called an inhalator, (which also solves the problem of what to do with your fingers and hands if you don’t have a cigarette in them). Most Pharmacies will be able to sell, or even supply on prescription, most of these products. There are specialist stop smoking clinics and trained nurses who are experts in this field and who can arrange for a supply to be issued. All of the Nicotine replacement therapies ( NRT) are very helpful.

On prescription there is only one drug licensed for stopping smoking. Varenicline acts on the brain to help to suppress the urges to smoke. Your family doctor may be happy to prescribe this for you as long as there is no contraindication. It is a 12 week course staring with a 2 week induction period when the levels of the drug build up in the body and usually by the end of this 2 weeks period most people have noticed a massive difference. The big advantage of this drug is that you don’t have to stop smoking to be able to start the treatment. It really does work too! I have been prescribing this for 10 years and have seen excellent results.

Self-treating with e Cigarettes is also an option, but not one that is readily endorsed by the medical profession….it is acknowledged that these products are less harmful than smoking a lit cigarette, but they are not without risk.

So to summarise,

Smoking has been widely criticised for being bad for us, costing us our lives our health and, to some extent, our livelihoods so please consider trying one of the options. And if that doesn’t work try a different one. And if you need to try again, please do so again and again until one time you will succeed. Just keep trying….I have never yet met an ex-smoker who regretted giving up, but I have known many smokers who regretted not trying hard enough when it was sadly too late.

If you have any concerns or are worried about any issue at all, please do not hesitate to get in touch! To book a Private GP appointment with Dr Roger Brown, please call 028 7772 3502

© Roger Brown March 2022


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