If you’re currently thinking of quitting smoking then you’ve taken the vital first steps to a healthier life and you should be proud, we are! We’re not going to lie, it’s hard giving up an addiction. Smoking is something that you have had in your life for a significant amount of time, it’s part of your routine but if you’re thinking about quitting then you’re ready to quit!
Think about what’s made you want to quit… Maybe it’s so that you can run with your children in the park without getting out of breath easily, or maybe it’s that you’ve noticed your teeth have a yellow tinge that wasn’t always there, or maybe it’s just that you’ve simply decided you’ve had enough.
Whatever the reason, Tees Active are here to help!
We’ve put together a few tips below to help you quit smoking and take control of your health.
If you haven’t quit already, it’s good to set a quit date. Setting a date gives you time to prepare to quit with everything mentioned above as well as gain the confidence to succeed. But don’t put it off for too long, pick a date that’s within a week or two otherwise you give yourself too much time to back out.
You can create a free, personalised quit plan to help you stay focused and motivated. The quit plan will also help you to calculate your savings from quitting, figure out your reasons for quitting and realise your triggers.
To get motivated, you need a powerful, personal reason to quit. It may be to protect your family from second hand smoke or lower your chance of getting lung cancer, heart disease, or other conditions. It could be the reasons mentioned above or because you want to look and feel younger. If you choose a reason that is strong enough to outweigh the urge to light up, you’ll have all the motivation you need to quit for good.
Think positive, you can do this! If you have tried quitting before and it didn’t work, don’t let that put you off from trying again. Look back at the things that experience taught you and think about how you will do it this time.
Smoking is an addiction and the brain is hooked on nicotine. Before you throw your cigarettes away and go cold turkey, line up support ready for when you need it. Speak to your doctor, try Nicotine Replacement Therapy or use one of the services we’ve listed below to provide you with advice. There’s quit smoking classes, apps, medication – everything you need to help you to quit is available, and almost all free, so be prepared and make sure you’re ready for that day when you have your final cigarette.
Our NHS recommends sticking to the “not a drag” rule and says this can really help. Whenever you find yourself in difficulty, say to yourself, “I won’t even have a single drag”, and stick with this until the cravings pass. They also recommend thinking ahead to times where it might be difficult and you are tempted to smoke, a party for example, and plan your actions and escape routes if necessary in advance.
During the first few weeks after you quit, you are more than likely going to feel uncomfortable and crave a cigarette. These unfortunately unpleasant symptoms of quitting smoking are known as withdrawal. Withdrawal is common among smokers who quit, whether they are doing it cold turkey or with the help of tools we’ve put together to help you.
During withdrawal your body is getting used to not getting it’s usual nicotine from cigarettes. For most people the worst symptoms of withdrawal last a few days to a few weeks, so keep reminding yourself that it will end eventually! During this time, you may feel a little depressed, be unable to sleep, become cranky, frustrated, or mad, feel anxious, nervous, or restless and you may have trouble thinking clearly.
Nicotine Replacement Therapy isn’t for everyone but can really help with nicotine withdrawal, as it can reduce symptoms and double your chances of quitting for good. This comes in many forms, including gums, patch’s, inhalers, nasal sprays and lozenges. Many are available without a prescription. Find out more information about the different types of Nicotine Replacement Therapy and find the best one for you here.
Discuss the Nicotine Replacement Therapy products available over the counter with your pharmacist or talk to our local NHS stop smoking adviser, Stockton Specialist Stop Smoking Services, or GP about receiving Nicotine Replacement Therapy on prescription.
If you plan to use nicotine replacements, remember to have it available on your quit day. Read the instructions on the package and follow them carefully.
You won’t be able to avoid your triggers, but you can manage them. Learning how to deal with them takes practise, so when a craving is triggered it’s good to have a plan. Unfortunately for a lot of people, alcohol is a trigger as smoking and alcohol go hand in hand and you’re used to smoking when you have a drink. Likewise if you often smoke when you drink coffee, switch to tea for a few weeks. If you usually smoke after meals, find something else to do instead, like brushing your teeth or taking a walk.
Triggers are different for each of us and can be specific people, places or activities that make you feel like smoking. Knowing your smoking triggers can help you learn to deal with them more easily, learn what your triggers are here.
Cravings are the intense urges to smoke that every smoker has experienced. Every craving is temporary and having healthy ways to distract can help them fade more quickly. Plan ahead and come up with a list of activities you can do when you get a craving. Find more information on how to manage your cravings here.
Once you have quit smoking you want a clean slate, a fresh start to your new smoke free life.
So, it’s time to clean! Clean the house, get rid of the smell of smoke, your ashtrays and lighters. Wash your clothes, upholstery and furniture. Use air fresheners to get rid of the familiar scent. If you smoked in your car then you guess it, clean that too! When trying to quit you don’t want to see or smell anything that reminds you of smoking. It makes it a lot easier!
Was an after dinner cigarette one of your favourites? Then maybe change your diet! Our NHS states that a US study revealed that some foods, including meat, make cigarettes more satisfying. Others, including cheese, fruit and vegetables, make cigarettes taste terrible. So why not try swapping your usual steak or burger for a veggie meal instead! You may also want to change your routine at or after mealtimes. Getting up and doing the dishes straight away, settling down in a room where you didn’t smoke or going for a walk may help curb the cravings.
Anyone who has attempted to or has successfully quit smoking will tell you that food cravings can be the hardest cravings to curb. Instead of smoking when they get the urge, a lot of people turn to food. This can be detrimental and result in weight gain so if you sense yourself going for a snack why not do some exercise or gardening or go for something healthy like fruit and veg, instead of the chocolate in the fridge!
The US study mentioned above in regards to food also looked at drinks having an impact on smoking and found that fizzy drinks, alcohol, cola, tea and coffee all make cigarettes taste better. Who knew!
So when you’re out, drink more water and juice. Some people find simply changing their drink, for example, switching from wine to a vodka and tomato juice, affects their need to reach for a cigarette. Although sometimes it’s better to stay away from alcohol when you quit as it can be a trigger for a lot of people.
Your friends, family and even colleagues are all there to help you through this time so turn to them for support, help and advice when you need it. Start by telling them that you’re quitting smoking and by knowing, they can encourage you throughout your journey. When cravings are really bad, they will be there to support you. You just need to ask, sometimes you won’t even need to do that.
One reason people smoke is because nicotine helps them relax. Once you quit, you’ll need new ways to unwind but don’t worry, there are many things you can do to relax. Exercise is a great way to blow off steam, listening to our favourite music also helps, meet up with friends, treat yourself to a massage or a pamper of some kind, or make time for a hobby.
It’s always best to try and avoid stressful situations during the first few weeks after you stop smoking. If you find yourself in one, take a few deep breaths and get some fresh air.
According to our NHS, a review of scientific studies has proved that exercise, even a 5-minute walk or stretch, cuts smoking cravings and may even help your brain produce anti-craving chemicals!
Exercise distracts you in a healthy way and keeps you busy until the cravings pass, withdrawal symptoms and cravings for cigarettes decrease during exercise and for up to 50 minutes after exercising!
While any exercise is good exercise, aerobic exercise strengthens your heart and lungs, helping repair some of the damages made by smoking. Aerobic exercise is physical activity that makes you sweat, causes you to breathe harder, and gets your heart beating faster. Swimming, cycling, running, dancing, walking and boxing are just some forms of aerobic exercise that you can take part in.
For more information on the types of physical activity that you can do with Tees Active to help keep the cravings away, click here.
After 20 Minutes
Check your pulse rate, it will already be starting to return to normal
After 8 Hours
Your oxygen levels are recovering, and the harmful carbon monoxide level in your blood will have reduced by half
After 48 Hours
All carbon monoxide is flushed out. Your lungs are clearing out mucus and your senses of taste and smell are improving
After 72 Hours
If you notice that breathing feels easier, it’s because your bronchial tubes have started to relax. Also your energy will be increasing
After 2 – 12 Weeks
Blood will be pumping through to your heart and muscles much better because your circulation will have improved
After 3 – 9 Months
Any coughs, wheezing or breathing problems will be improving as your lung function increases by up to 10%
After 1 Year
Great news! Your risk of heart attack will have halved compared with a smoker’s
After 10 Years
More great news! Your risk of death from lung cancer will have halved compared with a smoker’s
There are many benefits of quitting smoking, from improving your health to improving the health of those around you, your way of life can greatly improve because you decided to quit smoking. Here are 10 ways from our NHS of how your health will improve when you stop smoking:
It is difficult to quit smoking on your own but quitting cold turkey is not your only choice. There are many services, nationally and locally, that are available to help you quit smoking for good and take control of your health.
For some people, choosing another option and getting help improves their chances of success. Take a look at these services that are all here to help you quit smoking:
The Stockton Specialist Stop Smoking Service offers free advice and support to the residents of Stockton-On-Tees borough council areas. They also provide a 12-week stop smoking treatment and support programme tailored to your individual needs. They offer access to their services by telephone, face-to-face consultation and also remote video consultations using the secure NHS Attend Anywhere video service.
If you have any questions about the services that they offer and how they can help you stop smoking call 01642 383819 or 01642 383818 Monday – Friday between 9am and 5pm or visit their website for more information.
The NHS Smokefree app is available to download for free and is proven to help people quit smoking and start breathing easier. The app allows you to track your progress, see how much you’re saving and get daily support. If you can make it to 28 days smoke-free, you’re 5 times more likely to quit for good! You can find out more about the NHS Smokefree app in the Google Play or Apple Store as well as the NHS Stop Smoking website.
Our NHS have created a Facebook group for people to join and help each other to quit smoking, after all who better to help keep you motivated than other people who are also going through the same thing! The group allows members to interact with each other in a friendly and supportive environment and people share the tips they’re doing to help curb the cravings as well as so much more!
Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT) is medication that provides you with a low level of nicotine, without the tar, carbon monoxide and other poisonous chemicals present in tobacco smoke. These can be bought from pharmacies and some shops. They’re also available on prescription from a doctor or NHS stop smoking service.
It’s available as: skin patches, chewing gum, inhalators (which look like plastic cigarettes), tablets, oral strips and lozenges, nasal and mouth spray.
For more information on who can use which replacements, what they do and their side effects please click here.
Find out more about how Tees Active are working with partners to drive positive change in the community.