As smokers we all want to get off cigarettes, after all cigarettes are the no.1 preventable killer in the world. Each year cigarettes kill over 7 million people and that number is rising. It is predicted that by 2030 the number cigarettes kill each year will rise to 8 million.
But it is not just death that a smoker has to worry about, for every person a cigarette kills 30 people suffer with a serious smoking-related illness.
It is not surprising then that every year 55% of smokers try and quit, and if you have ever tried to quit yourself it is also not surprising that only 7% of these smokers succeed.
The good news though is that there are plenty of different ways to make the attempt easier, though each one requires willpower as well.
Each of these options have their upsides, but everyone is different and some of these will work better than others for individuals.
STOP SMOKING SERVICES AND MYTHS AROUND QUITTING
Before we start though we should set some things straight. Every smoker is different and though one of these might work well for some smokers, it may well be useless for others.
All of these methods are helped when supported by stop smoking services such as the ones the NHS provides. It has been shown that trying any of these with support increases your chances of finally quitting.
Some smokers also think that nicotine is inherently dangerous, and while nicotine is highly addictive it isn't the true danger of cigarettes. If the worry of nicotine puts you off patches or gum the NHS says there is nothing to worry about.
Lastly you can absolutely combine 2 or more of these methods to quit. Again the NHS advises: "A popular strategy is to use nicotine patches to provide a background level of nicotine, in combination with a faster acting product such as gum, lozenges, nasal spray, or an e-cigarette to help with sudden cravings."
With all that understood have a look at the most popular methods and hopefully you will find a way to finally get of cigarettes.
1. COLD TURKEY
Perhaps the oldest known way of quitting, cold turkey is when you just decide to give up one day.
Out of all the method it is the simplest, doesn't require any medication and normally means stopping all at once, rather than slowly stopping.
Though it is a simple technique, it is also the hardest one to succeed with. The success rate of going cold turkey is around 5%, with most smokers who try this method will fall off the wagon after a couple of weeks.
There are some tips though that can help with going cold turkey and if you decide to go this route they might really help. We also expand on these more here.
- Setting a quit date or quitting spontaneously without any prior planning
- Avoiding situations (like going outside on a night out) where you used to smoke
- Trying out new activities to replace old smoking habits
- Changing routines that you associate with smoking
- Get support on your quit journey by a friend or family member
- Setting aside the money you save from not smoking to reward yourself later on
Lastly, as you will be cutting yourself off completely from nicotine you will probably suffer through withdrawals. To prepare for this have cough lozenges and over-the-counter medication on hand for nausea, cough, and other flu-like symptoms you may experience.
Though there are many different opinions on hypnosis and what it exactly is, at its core it's just a way of putting the subject into a relaxed state and encouraging suggestions.
Despite it seeming just an advanced form of meditation or relaxation, clinical hypnosis has been used to treat certain physical or psychological problems. For instance, it is frequently used to help patients control pain.
When a smoker goes in for hypnosis to stop smoking they are often asked to imagine unpleasant outcomes from smoking. For example, the hypnotherapist might suggest that cigarette smoke smells like truck exhaust, or that smoking will leave the patient's mouth feeling extremely parched.
While hypnosis has some anecdotal evidence to show its effectiveness, there is no actual data on whether it works. This is largely part to people using hypnosis to bolster other methods of quitting (like patches or e-cigarettes) and so it is impossible to figure out exactly how useful it is on its own.
Studies have shown though that people who use hypnosis are more likely to quit than just counselling alone, though again the data is muddled.
Hypnosis also does not work for everyone. About one in four people are not able to be hypnotized and even when it is successful the intensity of hypnosis can vary from person to person.
Hypnosis might very well be a useful aid when trying to quit, though it perhaps shouldn't be the only method a smoker uses.
3. NICOTINE PATCHES
Nicotine patches, as the name suggests, are over the counter medication patches that gives out a low constant feed of nicotine.
Patches are the slowest way of getting nicotine out of all these methods, but unlike the others though patches allow your body to get an even supply of nicotine. They do not give the hit of nicotine like you would get with a cigarette which can be difficult for some smokers.
Unlike going cold turkey, with a nicotine patch you limit or avoid the withdrawal symptoms of quitting smoking. They can also help with cravings, though as you don't get the traditional hit of nicotine patches do have some trouble combating sudden cravings. They are effective though as it has been shown that smokers who use patches or gum double their chances of quitting compared to going cold turkey.
In general then patches are great at dampening the constant cravings, allowing smokers to forget about cigarettes during the day.
However patches do not address the behavioural aspects of smoking, and that can be just as powerful as the chemical addiction. There are ways to get around these learned behaviours around smoking (like hypnosis) and with nicotine patches dulling the chemical addiction they can really help.
4. NICOTINE GUM
Like nicotine patches, nicotine gum is an over the counter medication that you can chew on to get a hit of nicotine.
Unlike patches though gum is a much quicker way of getting nicotine as is absorbed through the mouth and stomach rather than the skin.
As we just mentioned, NRT (nicotine replacement therapies) like gum or patches almost double the chances of quitting compared to going it alone.
The same drawbacks of patches though apply to gum as well, as they only address the chemical addiction. However as chewing gum is much more active than patches they can help to switch the habit from puffing away to chewing on something.
Satisfying the oral fixation can be a real help when trying to quit and in conjunction with other methods has been the ticket to finally quitting for thousands of people in the UK alone.
5. CHAMPIX AND ZYBAN
Unlike the other items on this list, these are drugs that can only be given out by a doctor or qualified health professional.
The main drug that is used these days is champix, and is the most effective medically approved method of quitting.
It works in 2 different ways; firstly it reduces cravings for nicotine like patches or gum, but it also blocks the rewarding and reinforcing effects of smoking.
It's taken as 1 to 2 tablets a day and smokers are suggested that they should start taking it a week or two before you try to quit. It normally lasts for 3 months but can be extended if your GP or health professional thinks it necessary
Zyban is similar to Champix, as again it is only available on prescription. At the moment it is actually not known why Zyban works, as it was originally created and approved as a medicine for depression.
However it has found great success to help smokers quit and like champix focuses on the part of the brain that controls addictive behaviour.
Both drugs though do have slightly more severe side effects than others on the list (that is why they are prescriptions and not over the counter medicines) but it is important to stress that most people who use either of these drugs do not suffer from these symptoms.
The symptoms to look out for are
- feeling and being sick
- difficulty sleeping (insomnia), sometimes with vivid dreams
- dry mouth
- constipation or diarrhoea
As with any medicine though if you want to know more please talk to your doctor.
One common myth around these drugs cause depression, which has been proven not to be true. In fact as was mentioned Zyban was originally intended as an anti-depressive and Champix has shown no signs in testing to cause depression.
Unlike the other methods on this list, e-cigarettes are not medically approved yet. However they have been shown to be effective, with over almost 2 million smokers having completely quit using e-cigarettes in the last 7 years.
They are perhaps the most cigarette like out of all the options on this list, and produce a vapour which you breathe in like you would smoke from a cigarette.
What makes them better than cigarettes is the lack of toxins and carcinogens that cigarettes have. In an average cigarette there are over 4000 chemicals (including tar, arsenic and cyanide) and 50+ carcinogens.
E-cigarettes in the other hand only contain 4 ingredients; Nicotine, Propylene Glycol,Vegetable Glycerine and Flavouring.
Nicotine of course is a part of e-cigarettes and like patches and gum is there to stop the cravings.
As e-cigarettes are still new, there hasn't been enough time to tell what the long term effects of them are, but as they do not contain all the toxins of cigarettes Public Health England states e-cigarettes are 95% less harmful than cigarettes.
The advantage of e-cigarettes is that it feels like a cigarette, as you breathe in the nicotine (in the form of vapour) and it is absorbed into the lungs. Due to this e-cigarettes can also appease the behavioural aspect of the the smoking habit as smokers will be using them the same way they did a cigarette.