Staying Smoke Free
Why is it so Hard to Stop Smoking in the First Place?
Smoking is first and foremost an addiction, but it is also a very pleasurable addiction. Even if we hate the fact that we smoke, we enjoy doing it. Cigarettes (and other forms of tobacco) deliver a nicotine hit directly to the brain, providing instant stimulation and relief from cravings. Some people find that cigarettes can also take the edge off hunger pangs and help with concentration.
Perhaps the main reason why it’s hard to stop smoking is psychological. Tobacco provides users with a combination of reward/comfort/pleasure sensations that are very hard to live without. Once your body becomes accustomed to cigarettes, the brain rewards each nicotine hit by releasing the chemical dopamine, creating a pleasurable sensation. Cigarette smoking is also associated with good food, alcohol, sex, stress release, and breaks from our daily routine - all highly potent motivators.
Why do People Relapse and Start Smoking again?
It’s often said that giving up smoking is the easy part - the hard part is not starting again. There is a high relapse rate amongst ex-smokers1, many of whom return to the habit long after they have defeated any nicotine cravings. There are several known reasons why people start smoking again.
- Life stress and anxiety
- Peer pressure
- Boredom and a feeling that ‘something is missing’
- Occasional social smoking that leads to full time smoking
Often there is a combination of factors that causes people to start smoking again. Some may simply regret quitting and resent the fact that they’ve deprived themselves of an enjoyable habit.
There is a considerable body of research that suggests that how we give up smoking may affect whether we relapse and start smoking again.
There are 4 main strategies for giving up smoking (and some of these may be combined).
Remember the Benefits of Stopping Smoking
It can pay dividends to remind yourself of the benefits of stopping smoking and the massive personal victory that you won when you managed to give up smoking. The health benefits alone should be enough to sway you any time that you find yourself looking towards a packet of cigarettes.
As soon as you stop smoking you immediately reduce your risk of contracting all kinds of fatal or debilitating smoking related diseases. If you have children or a family, you’ll be able to sleep more soundly at night knowing that you’ll be there for them in years to come.
Lung Cancer and Other Cancers
Pretty much everybody knows that smoking causes lung cancer. It’s less well known that smoking also causes oropharyngeal cancer and esophageal cancer - both of which kill thousands of people every year in the UK. It can also cause other cancers almost anywhere on the body.
Heart Disease - the Silent Killer
Smoking is a major cause of heart disease in the UK. It can also cause life threatening or physically debilitating strokes that can strike without warning. Another smoking related illness is blood vessel diseases that can result in the amputation of limbs.
COPD - and other Lung Diseases
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is a serious smoking related illness. It is a life changing condition that dramatically reduces its sufferers quality of life, and can eventually kill them. Other smoking related lung conditions include bronchitis, emphysema, shortness of breath and wheezing.
Infertility and Reproductive Problems
Cigarette smoking lowers mens’ sperm count and can cause fertility problems in women3 who want to conceive.There is also evidence that smoking causes birth defects, premature birth and may be a contributing factor to cot death syndrome.
Top Tips for Staying Smoke Free
Develop new habits and routines
Smoking is a deeply ingrained habit1 and a highpoint of many smokers’ daily routine. If you can find new and interesting activities to fill the gaps that smoking leaves, you’re already half way to staying smoke free. The extra money that you’ll suddenly have as a non-smoker can really help to start an exciting new hobby.
Know your triggers
If you know the trigger points that lead to a craving for nicotine, it’s a lot easier to stay smoke free. Trigger points can be stressful events or moments in your life, pleasureable activities like food, sex or alcohol, or just habitual triggers like a workbreak or waiting for a train. Even if you can’t - or don’t want - to avoid triggers, you can be mentally prepared for them.
Keep your mouth busy
There are all kinds of Freudian explanations for the undeniable satisfaction that comes with putting a cigarette in your mouth. But it’s enough to say that if you’re keeping your mouth busy on other things, you’re less likely to put a cigarette in it. Try chewing gum or sipping water or a hot drink. Nibbling on healthy low calorie snacks can also help reduce the reflexive urge to reach for a cigarette.
Regular exercise is one of the best ways to avoid a relapse and start smoking again. The good news is that you don’t have to be an athlete to get moving. It can be enough just to go for a quick walk around the block if you’re feeling a craving for a cigarette. If you’re at home, try a few press ups, squats or a similar exercise. Burning off a bit of nervous energy can take your mind off nicotine in less than a minute. You’ll also feel better on every level if you do even gentle exercise!
Manage your stress
Almost every smoker uses cigarettes as a tool for stress management4. When you stop smoking - or even before you give up smoking - you need to address the issue of stress management. There’s a whole industry dedicated to healthier living, and no lack of resources for those who want to reduce stress in their lives. As an ex-smoker who wants to avoid a relapse, your first step is to identify stress related triggers and learn to manage them.
Keep track of your food choices
You may find that certain foods trigger a craving for a cigarette. Overeating can also provoke the body into demanding a stimulant in the form of nicotine. Everybody has their own experience of food related cigarette cravings, but there seems to be a consensus that very sweet or salty foods can trigger cravings. You don’t necessarily have to avoid these foods, it’s enough to know that you may want to smoke a cigarette afterwards, and be mentally prepared to deal with the urge.
Occupy your time
Boredom is the tobacco producers best friend. Millions of people around the world automatically light up a cigarette whenever they feel bored. If you’re busy and your mind is occupied, you’re much less likely to think about smoking. Having a plan to occupy your time in a pleasurable way is a great aid to giving up smoking - and to never starting to smoke again. If you ever wanted to find a new hobby, get fit, or learn new skills, it could be the perfect opportunity!
Treat yourself with the saved money
One immediate benefit of giving up smoking is that you’ll suddenly have a lot more money in your pocket - perhaps as much as £80 a week if you have a 20 a day habit. Remind yourself that giving up smoking was a major personal achievement and you deserve a reward. Set a budget to buy yourself a small treat every day, a bigger treat every weekend, and a special treat once a month. Think about your treats and rewards any time that you feel like smoking again.
Our Service in 3 Simple Steps
Complete a simple online health questionnaire
Our GP will issue your prescription, if the medication is safe for you
You will receive your medication the next day