Reasons to give up smoking
We've all seen the ad campaigns spread across billboards, centrefolds, TV screens and printed on the packaging of your standard cigarette packet. Blackened lungs, decaying fingernails, yellowed teeth - a real wake-up call. The grotesque imagery used in these advertisements is there to make consumers aware of the risks they are taking every time they light up a cancer stick. Yet somehow it just isn't enough. As with most things that we find ourselves addicted to even though we know it’s not good for us, one little grim reminder of the insufferable consequences sometimes just isn't enough to make us want to stop.
But if you're looking for a couple more reasons to help you stub out those sticks, read our guide to giving up smoking and see if our top tips contain the motivation you need...
Do it for your finances. Multiply what you spend on tobacco each week by 52 and figure out just how much you've been spending each year on your dirty habit - imagine what incredible adventures could be had if you used that money for something else. A new car? a holiday? By giving your wallet a break from the cigs, you'll reap the rewards financially and end up happier and healthier!
Do it for your health. Countless health problems can arise from inhaling tobacco: lung cancer, heart disease, risk of a stroke, cataracts, coughs, wheezes etc. Around 100,000 people in the UK die every year from smoking related diseases. There are enough health risks in our world to avoid; don't go looking for them.
Do it for your looks. Smoking too much can cause your hair to thin, skin to wrinkle, fingernails to become yellow and brittle, leads to poor dental hygiene, bad breath and stained teeth - the chances are that when you finally put an end to your smoking, you'll not only look better but feel brighter - that's what freedom taste like.
Do it for your time. How much time do you waste having to roll your cigarettes and then stand outside whilst you smoke them? It may only seem like a couple of minutes here and there but when time is so precious, who can afford to waste it? By smoking you also reduce your life expectancy, so by quitting you are essentially stopping those minutes from being knocked off your life. There really is no greater reward.
Why is it difficult to stop smoking?
Tobacco is the world’s single greatest preventable cause of death. The reason it is difficult to stop smoking tobacco is because it contains the alkaloid nicotine, which is highly addictive. It stimulates pleasure centres in the brain which can cause physical withdrawal symptoms if a user discontinues high levels of nicotine intake. Withdrawal symptoms can include cravings, irritability, headaches, sore throat, fatigue and flu-like aches and discomfort. It’s extremely difficult to reduce your nicotine intake while you are still smoking tobacco cigarettes.
The lifestyle can also become an addiction in itself. Social smoking is a big reason why so many people turn to the habit in the first place, and find it difficult to quit when everyone else around is enjoying it. Routine and 'cues' are often a cause for someone to find it difficult to quit, as they're used to their 'breakfast smoke' and perhaps thoroughly enjoy getting a midday break at work by being able to step outside and light up. It's all about self discipline and breaking away from that normality you've created with your smoking.
You may also, actually just enjoy smoking and feel too weak to be able to give it up - your body is used to the nicotine and you may not have the drive yet to do something about it. In order to take the first steps to stopping, you have to be 100% committed so that you have the strength to follow it through successfully!
What happens to your body when you stop smoking and what to expect
So if you've decided to take the plunge and sacrifice your cigarettes for a healthier and more beneficial lifestyle, then you'll need to be cautious about how you go about it. Within the first twenty minutes of quitting, you'll notice that your heart rate will begin to drop back down to a normal level and after two hours, your blood pressure will do the same. Around twelve hours after quitting, the carbon monoxide levels in your body also lower whilst the oxygen in your blood increases.
48 hours after quitting, your nerve endings will begin to repair meaning your sense of smell and taste will start to improve. After three days the nicotine that you last inhaled will now be completely out of your system - hoorah! But it also means that experiencing withdrawal symptoms at this point is highly likely. Within around three weeks, your body will be able to tolerate more physical activities (such as running, or even going up stairs) without you feeling out of breath.
Different ways to stop smoking
Cold turkey (low success rate) - In three days, a quitter’s nicotine level will drop to zero and within two to three weeks, all physical withdrawal symptoms will cease. However, during this time period the quitter is more likely to relapse and cave in due to their body craving the nicotine that has been so quickly eliminated from their system. Using a nicotine replacement system is a far healthier, safer and more efficient way of eventually getting your body used to lower levels of nicotine before stopping altogether.
Hypnosis or behavioural therapy - Hypnotherapy may sound like a daunting alternative, but success rates have indicated that multiple-session hypnosis is 10 times more successful than going cold turkey. Hypnosis works on the psychological side of smoking, rather than the physical addiction of it. The desire to smoke, after having done so for a long period of time, is now embedded in your subconsciousness - it can be hard to give it up when your mind and body have become so tuned into this regular pattern, so hypnosis is all about rewiring.
What support is available? Don't be afraid to take a trip to your GP and explain that you want to quit smoking - they'll have an abundance of solutions to talk you through so that you can find the right one for you. Face to face counselling, quit kits, web forums, apps, nicotine reduction methods, self-help groups etc. are all examples of what can be used to aid your decision.
Distract yourself - Many people find using stress toys or 'fidget cubes' helpful in supporting their psychological need to quit smoking as it distracts the mind from wanting a cigarette in their hands. Finding new hobbies will also help to distract your mind from cravings - why not start a physical activity such as swimming or going to the local gym, where you cannot possibly smoke, in order to not only keep you busy but help your fitness improve too.
Nicotine reduction methods - You've probably heard all about these very common methods of quitting by measurable nicotine reduction such as chewing gum, nicotine patches, and vaping. These all help to eliminate the user from experiencing severe withdrawal symptoms and ease them into a nicotine-free lifestyle. Vaping is a modern phenomenon which has assisted thousands of people in their quest to quit smoking, meaning that those who struggle with relapses can still get a hit of reduced nicotine, with the added bonus of a more palatable taste from the e-liquids you can vape through your e-cigarette. Vaping has actually been proven to be more effective than gums and patches, due to the culture and lifestyle that has grown with its popularity, plus the physicality of having the device in your hands. Also - if a 20-a-day smoker switches to vaping, their savings can be in excess of £2,000 a year.
Set goals - Every year I begin by writing a list of things I want to achieve, places I want to go and things I wish to experience by the end of it. I set myself written goals because if I have them physically in front of me, then there is no denying or ignoring them. Set yourself weekly targets and keep them on a tally or logged in a smartphone app - whatever works for you, but record how long you've gone without smoking so you can see a tangible and physical indication of success in front of you. It'll keep you motivated to stay smoke free for sure!
Write a personal plan and stick to it
You may want to devise a Quit Plan for yourself. Start this by setting a quit date - are you getting married in the summer and want to have pearly whites and fresh breath for your special day? If so, you'll want to be quitting at least 4 weeks beforehand in order to reap the benefits and see a difference. Get that goal date in mind and mark it in BIG letters on a calendar so that there's no escaping.
Choose your reasons for quitting and turn them into a motivational poster, or scrawl the reasons on sticky notes or labels that you can post somewhere that you'll see them every day, as a constant reminder not to give up. Knowing your triggers will also help you to stay in control, so develop a list of things that cause you to want to smoke and work out a way you can either avoid them, or fill the void with something else. For example; if you're feeling stressed or anxious and you would usually turn to smoking, introduce a stress ball to squeeze or a pen and pad to doodle with until you can feel your anxiety levels lowering. You'll be amazed at how wonderfully lost you can find yourself getting with a biro.
Don’t quit quitting
At the end of the day, the only person that can help you, is yourself. You have to stay strong, positively influenced and completely driven to make this dramatic life change. However, it doesn't hurt to get others involved too! A great tip for quitting is to make others aware of your decision so that the social pressure adds to your motivation. Perhaps you could even find a loved one to quit with you, so that you can exchange tips and tricks with one another to stay on top. Whatever floats your boat, go for it, there will be no looking back and you'll be forever grateful that you made this decision NOW, rather than later. Good luck folks, we wish you all the best as you head into your new healthier lifestyle!