In partnership with The Health Improvement Commission
Here in Guernsey, a study has shown that there is a strong desire amongst those who smoke to break the habit, with data from the last Wellbeing Survey showing that 36% actually intend to quit. However, we know that stopping smoking is difficult under normal circumstances, and when you throw a global pandemic into the mix, it can be tougher still to give up the nicotine. A recent poll showed that over half of smokers find themselves 'stress-smoking' more since the pandemic started and 10% of smokers who had previously quit started smoking again due to the strain of the Covid outbreak. Now, there's no judgement here from us. These are just the stats we have. However, if you are a smoker who wants to give up the habit, then help is at hand and we're here to show it to you.
Together with The Health Improvement Commission, we’re looking at ways to help you break the habit. When you combine forward planning with the right support and some small lifestyle changes, it can become easier to resist the temptation and learn to say 'no' to tobacco. Here are 7 tips to help you to quit today.
It's a good place to start to focus on why you want to quit. Identify your reasons for stopping smoking… Are you concerned about your health? Or even the effects of passive smoking on the health of those around you? Do you want to save money? Maybe you are worried about the ageing effects of smoking? Getting clear on your why will help to keep you motivated should your resolve start to waiver. And don’t allow negative thoughts from previous attempts creep in… you’ve got this!
Let's not take this lightly. Nicotine is addictive. So, when you first stop smoking you may have cravings and experience withdrawal symptoms. It's advisable to plan ahead and line up some support to help you deal with this. Did you know you are up to four times more likely to quit successfully with expert help? So speak to your GP, or contact Quitline for free advice and local support. Quitline also runs friendly and informal drop in sessions, as well as offering one to one support. Plus, they run free Nicotine Replacement Therapy sessions and can help you to obtain stop-smoking medication on prescription, which has shown to double your chances of successfully quitting.
In addition to professional support, it may help to set a date to quit and tell your family, friends and colleagues about your plans. Their support is key to helping you get through the initial days and weeks. They can help you to keep going and encourage you to resist temptation if they know your intentions. Otherwise, they might accidentally derail your plans, especially if they are smokers themselves, by offering you a cigarette or asking you to join them on a “ciggie break”. If someone in your family or one of your friends is thinking about giving up too, why not suggest you do it together? Choose supportive people who will help and encourage you.
You know there will be times when it will be difficult to resist the temptation to smoke. However, by identifying your trigger points, you can plan ahead and think of ways to deal with the temptation in advance. For example, if you are a social smoker, it may be a good idea to avoid going to the pub in the early days of your lifestyle change until you feel stronger. If you do go on a night out, spend time with the non-smokers to reset your habits. And empty your cupboards. Make sure there are no emergency supplies to hand at home. You’re less likely to smoke on impulse if you have to go to the shop first to buy cigarettes.
Most cravings last for around five minutes, starting out as an intense desire to smoke and gradually decreasing until the feeling has passed. That’s not a long time, but it can feel like a lifetime when you’re fighting that craving! Very Well Mind suggests that you interrupt your thought pattern as soon as the craving hits you by developing 5-minute strategies, which will help distract you. These strategies can be as simple as going for a short walk, calling a friend for a quick chat, or making a list (of course!) of the reasons you decided to stop in the first place… keep that list to hand to remind yourself of the reasons if you find your resolve wavering.
Advice from the NHS suggests that a few simple changes to your diet can also increase your chances of success when you stop smoking. This advice stems from a US study which found that some foods, such as meat, can make cigarettes feel more satisfying whilst other foods such as cheese, fruit and vegetables can make cigarettes taste terrible. The same US study also found that drinking tea, coffee, and alcohol can make cigarettes taste more appealing, so by simply switching to water or juice you can reduce the need to reach for a cigarette in the early days.
Don’t forget to give yourself a break! Many smokers say that they turn to cigarettes to help them relax, so it's a good idea to look for new ways to unwind. Take up a new hobby to keep you distracted, or make time to connect more with friends. You’ll have spare cash now that you’re not blowing it on cigarettes, so why not treat yourself to a massage or head to one of the local beauty salons for a facial or a manicure. After just 72 hours, you’ll notice that your breathing is easier and your energy levels are increasing, so go for a walk, head to the gym or a yoga class to reap the benefits. Whatever you do, try to keep life as stress-free as possible in the first few weeks to give yourself the best chance of success.
Good luck on your smoke-free journey!
Contact Quitline for free and confidential advice and support.