Smoking - giving up

Out of every thousand people who start smoking when they are teenagers and continue to smoke 20 a day, one will be murdered, six will die in road accidents and about 250 will be killed before their time by smoking.

The reasons people give for smoking cigarettes are numerous, as are the reasons for taking it up in the first place: smoking is one of those habits that you might have started when you were much younger and it was very much a part of the social scene. Or that since coming to University you've felt that its helped you relax, to concentrate, to feel a part of what others appear to be doing.

But cigarette smokers are fast finding themselves being encouraged to give up and not only by the health professionals but by those who don't want to suffer the detrimental effects of passive smoking. Why? because 120,000 deaths per year in the U.K. are caused by smoking.

So what is in cigarette smoke that causes so much damage? Tobacco smoke actually contains over 4,000 chemicals many of which are harmful, including tar, carbon monoxide and nicotine. It's the tar and carbon monoxide (the same gas that comes out of car exhausts) which are the primary causes of smoking related diseases. The nicotine is the drug that causes the addiction, reaching your brain 7 seconds after inhaling your cigarette and is responsible for the craving which makes it seem so difficult to stop.

However, take heart! 12 million people in Britain have stopped smoking and stayed stopped. We at the medical centre are committed to helping anyone who has decided to be free of smoking to try and stop. So DO come and ask for our support and help yourself to be free of the decision of whether to have that cigarette or not.

How to Stop smoking

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It's important that you stop smoking because you want to. If your reasons for quitting outweigh your reasons for continuing to smoke then you are ready to quit.

So plan to stop - Choose the right time for you - National No Smoking Day is renowned for being a focus for stopping smoking and many people successfully give up on this day every year, it is the second Wednesday of March. However, we can support you whenever you choose to try.

Have a look at the We Quit campaign. They will give you ideas and explain the benefits of giving up.

The benefits are immediate - start by listing your reasons for stopping: these could include:

  • Saving money: smoking 20 cigarettes a day for a year costs the equivalent of a round the world air ticket.
  • Fresher smelling breath, hair and clothes.
  • Breathing more easily.
  • Helping to reduce pollution.
  • Feeling good about yourself for having stopped.
  • Less chance of getting lung cancer. After 10 to 15 years of not smoking again an ex smokers risk is only slightly greater than that of someone who has never smoked.
  • Feeling fitter.
  • No more morning cough.
  • More control over your life.
  • Less likely to have a heart attack. After 10 to 15 years of not smoking again the relative risk of a heart attack is reduced almost to the evel of a non smoker.
  • Remind yourself that you haven't failed until you stop trying.

Having chosen your quit day, identify times in the day when you always smoke and stock up on ideas to distract your cravings in advance: these could include sugar free chewing gum, fresh fruit or fruit juice - Vitamin C helps the body to get rid of nicotine more quickly. So if you always have a cigarette with your morning tea/coffee stock up on fruit so that your hands are peeling an orange or kiwi and the Vitamin C is working for you at the same time. Low nicotine levels first thing in the morning are the reason that 52% of smokers light up first thing in the morning.

One person stocked up on lollies and when he felt vulnerable sucked a lolly and then chewed the stick. This helped him over the first three weeks and he now no longer needs the lollies because the cravings have dwindled. Bear in mind that craving increases in intensity for up to 3 minutes or so and then subsides. These simple distractions need only occupy the danger times.

The following might help too!!

Quick Relaxation Exercise:

You can do this relaxation exercise to calm yourself when you feel the need to light up or your irritability is giving you problems. You can do it in crowded places, or sitting down. Use it when ever you feel tense.

  • Relax by taking a good deep breathe. Breathe slowly and deeply.
  • Let your shoulders droop and sag.
  • Unclench your teeth by opening your mouth. Smile if you can, it releases tension.
  • Allow the wrinkles in your forehead to unwrinkle.

The following exercise is really useful first thing in the morning so that you fill the time you would normally light up by relaxing and breathing deeply. Expect to cough initially but as the first weeks go by, your ability to breathe deeply will be greatly improved and you will have developed the corner stone of stress management skills.

Breathing Exercise:

Place one hand on your chest and one on your stomach. As you breathe in through your nose allow your stomach to swell. This means that you are using the diaphragm to breathe in and allowing air right down into your lungs. Try to keep the movement in your upper chest to a minimum and keep the movement gentle. Slowly and evenly breathe out through your nose. Repeat and get a rhythm going. You are aiming to take 8-12 breaths a minute: breathing in and breathing out again counts as one breath. Practise until it becomes a habit and switch to regular breathing when you next become anxious.

A lot of students say that they smoke socially,'I smoke because my friends do', Maybe you don't say that you want to stop smoking to those around you, but DO! friends will help and you may find that you are not alone in your desire to stop and everyone is smoking because everyone else is.

Another tip is to avoid the social scene for a few weeks until you are past the most difficult time and then treat yourself to something special and memorable with all the money you will have saved. Instead go for a walk with a friend, practice relaxation, have a long luxurious bath, clean your teeth more frequently.As one student said to me last week in the foyer, "I set off earlier to work in the library and have used work as a major distraction both in the morning and at night". These were the times he identified as difficult. For some people nicotine patches are of enormous benefit. They cost a little less than it costs to smoke 20 a day. ask at your local chemist. They are also available on prescription. Just ask your Doctor or Health Visitor for an appointment to discuss your habit and your options.

Take each day as it comes. Your goal is to get through today so being prepared with something for your hands to do, helps e.g. worry beads, fiddling with blue tack, a coin, a worry stone. Also initially there can be some temporary but unpleasant withdrawal symptoms. Knowing what they are can help you to stay with it because they are temporary. If you feel the need to talk to someone Quitline 0800 002200

  • coughing may increase as the lungs clear out accumulated mucous. Just feel positive about the fact that with each cough you are improving your ability to breathe freely.
  • some bowel upset either constipation or diarrhoea may occur. Avoid indigestible foods such as chips and try and avoid too much tea or coffee.
  • about half of all quitters become irritable, even angry. It will pass - warn your friends and family in advance. Exercise reduces stress - relaxation techniques can alleviate the tension.
  • some sleep disturbance may occur so try a warm bath before bed or a milky drink.

CONGRATULATE yourself, focus on the positive aspects of your success we know it can be hard to break the addiction as well as the habit so view every day you don't smoke as a huge achievement - it is!!

Do come and see us, Doctors, Nurses or Health Visitors at the medical centre on campus or at St. Bartholomew's Medical centre for more information, leaflets and support. Oxfordshire Smoking Cessation Advice Service (01865 226663) is also available and runs local groups. Good Luck !!


The Medical Centre