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Stop smoking

What to ask your GP

What to ask your GP

Coping with your diagnosis

Coping with your

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Happy family

What's in a cigarette?

Cigarettes don't just contain nicotine. Each cigarette contains over 4000 toxic chemicals many of which are added to make it more appealing to the consumer. Carbon monoxide is one of the better known ones, but there are others worth mentioning too.

Acetic Acid (vinegar)

Acetone (nail varnish remover)

Ammonia (cleaning agent)

Arsenic (ant poison in the USA)

Benzene (petrol fumes)

Cadmium (car battery fluid)

DDT (insecticide)

Ethanol (anti-freeze)

Formaldehyde (embalming fluid)

Hydrogen Cyanide (industrial pollutant)

Lead (batteries, petrol fumes)

Methanol (rocket fuel)

Tar (road surface tar)

People playing catch in a field

The benefits of quitting

The chances are, you already know the long term benefits of quitting smoking. Almost nine out of ten smokers (88 per cent) say that they want to quit because of the health benefits. What most people don't know is that the health benefits of a smoke-free life can begin almost immediately.

After 20 minutes
Blood pressure and pulse rate return to normal.

After eight hours
Nicotine and carbon monoxide levels in the blood reduce by half and oxygen levels return to normal. Circulation also improves.

After 24 hours
By now all the carbon monoxide is completely eliminated from the body. The lungs start to clear out mucus and other smoking debris.

After 48 hours
There is no nicotine left in the body and the ability to taste and smell is greatly improved.

After 72 hours
Breathing becomes easier as the bronchial tubes begin to relax. Energy levels start to increase.

After three to nine months
Coughing, wheezing and breathing problems improve and lung function increases by up to 10 per cent.

After one year
Just one year after stopping, your risk of having a heart attack is about half that of a smoker.

After ten years
After stopping for ten years, the risk of lung cancer falls to about half that of a smoker.

After fifteen years
After stopping for fifteen years, an ex-smoker's risk of having a heart attack falls to the same level as someone who has never smoked.
As your body starts to return to normal, you will also start to look and feel healthier. For example, your fitness will improve, you will have a clearer complexion and whiter teeth and your hair, skin and breath will no longer smell of tobacco smoke.

Longer term health benefits
In the longer term, if you stop smoking, you increase your chances of living a longer and healthier life and your risk of developing smoking-related diseases, such as cancer of the lung, upper respiratory tract, oesophagus, bladder, kidney, pancreas and stomach, coronary heart disease and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (chronic bronchitis, emphysema) will all be reduced.

Friends talking over coffee

Understanding your smoking

When considering quitting smoking it is important to try and be clear to yourself about the extent of your smoking - a light smoker may need different support to a heavy smoker.

Know Your Enemy
It can be extremely difficult to stop smoking as the nicotine in cigarettes has similar effects to heroin and cocaine on the brain dopamine systems. Most smokers take several attempts to quit (the average is around five or six attempts) before they finally succeed. Only three per cent of smokers who attempt to stop without getting some sort of help are still smoke-free after one year.

Don't Do It Alone
The chances of successfully giving up smoking are greatly improved with medical treatments and support. Advice and support from a trained healthcare professional, such as a pharmacist, nurse, doctor or trained smoking counsellor, have all been shown to help smokers quit permanently. You already know quitting isn't easy, so it will help to have the support of those around you.

Don't give up trying. Remember you may not manage to give up first time but there are healthcare professionals as well as treatment and support options available to help you quit for good.

Woman breathing fresh air

Tips to help you quit

Know Your Reasons For Quitting
It may be helpful to list out the main reasons for stopping smoking. Once you know why you want to quit, you can ask your healthcare professional about all the treatment and support options that are available to help you

  • Take care of yourself
    Eat a balanced diet and get plenty of rest. Drink water and exercise regularly.
  • Avoid trigger situations

Triggers and Solutions:

Having a few drinks with friends
Limit your alcohol consumption to one or two drinks

Seeing a cigarette
Feel pleased that all those chemicals are no longer going into your body.

The end of a meal
Get up, help clear the table and do an activity, for example, go for a walk.

A stressful situation
Divert your attention and breathe in and out slowly.

  • Ask for help
    People who quit with a support system in place have a much higher rate of success.
  • Remember why you're quitting
    If a strong urge to smoke clouds your thinking, revisit your list of reasons for quitting and remind yourself of all the benefits.
  • Be patient
    Quitting means letting go of patterns of behaviour that you've held for many years. It's only fair to expect that breaking your smoking habits will take time.
  • Financial benefits of quitting
    If you smoke 20 cigarettes a day, you could save around £1,800 a year by quitting smoking. Think: what could you do with that money?
  • Don't beat yourself up
    If you do weaken and have one cigarette, don't despair. Climb straight back onto your quitting program.

Friends outside

Changes in smoking laws

Since smoking bans in enclosed public places have been introduced throughout the UK many smokers are attempting to quit. But there are still about 10 million adult cigarette smokers in the UK.

The human cost of smoking is that an estimated 114,000 people die from smoking-related diseases such as heart disease and lung cancer every year in the UK. That compares with 3,500 dying from traffic accidents. Cigarette smoking is responsible for one in every five deaths in Britain, equating to 2,300 people dying every week or one person roughly every four and a half minutes. The impact is greater in younger age groups and men with one in three male smokers dying prematurely as a result of smoking.

Government policy aims to reduce the numbers of smokers in the UK by 1.5 million by 2010. Introducing a ban on smoking in enclosed public places in England in July 2007 is a step towards achieving that aim. The government estimates that this change in legislation will result in 600,000 fewer smokers over time.

And, in the latest bid to encourage young people not to begin smoking in the first place, the age limit to buy cigarettes increased from 16 to 18 years on the 1st October 2007

There has never been a better time to stop smoking.

Grandfather with grandaughter

Become a successful quitter

Studies have shown that even brief advice from a healthcare professional can increase the likelihood of you staying off cigarettes by 30%.

Double your chances of successfully quitting by considering using medical treatments available from your pharmacy, doctor or on general sale.

You're not alone when it comes to quitting

If you really want to quit smoking, there is help available that will make it easier for you to give up for good. However, as everyone has a different way of dealing with things, there is a range of support and treatment options available so you can find one that suits you best.

There's no need to pick just one method for quitting as studies show that a combination of both medical treatment and intensive support, for example, a smokers' clinic, increases your chances of quitting by up to 4 times.

Talking with a doctor

How medicines fit in?

There are three different types of medical treatments available on the NHS or on general sale to help you quit smoking. These treatments differ in several ways, for example, in how you use them, whether you get them from your doctor, pharmacist or over the counter, how they work to reduce the body's craving for nicotine and their success rates.

Your local healthcare professionals, such as your doctor, practice nurse or local NHS Stop Smoking Adviser, will be able to advise you further about the different treatment options available.

Your Support Options

As well as medical treatment, the NHS and specialist stop smoking charities can offer you support - providing you with the skills and information you need to become a non-smoker. You'll have help planning and preparing yourself before the big day, then after you quit you'll be given the motivation and advice you need to help you keep going.

There are both individual and group sessions which you can attend or there's even a number you can ring for `over the phone' counselling. All support programmes tend to run over the course of a few weeks, so you'll always have the support you need, when you need it.

Talking to your healthcare professional or your doctor will help you find the right support option for you.

Older man with family

Successful quitters

Sue, 37, Birmingham
I started smoking at 14 and was smoking 20 a day, but it gradually increased to 30 a day. I couldn't even walk up a flight of stairs without being out of breath so I decided I had to quit. I had to do it for my 5 year old daughter. It's been a hard journey but I'm so proud of what I've achieved. Now I'm trying to help other people to quit and training to run the London Marathon - who would have thought it?!

Max, 74, Derby
I smoked from a very early age and before I quit I was smoking 60 a day. I began to think about the health effects inhaling smoke could have on the body and one day I just decided to stop. I said to myself, "I have to stop smoking from this moment" and that was it - I never smoked again. Quitting has given me a new lease of life with a healthy body and mind - I even graduated from University at 70! I'd tell anyone who is thinking of quitting to do it.

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