January is possibly the gloomiest month of the year – short days, long dark nights, bad weather and the aftermath of all the festivities may have taken a toll on our finances as well as our health. However it’s also the time of the year when people are more likely to commit to bit of a health kick – often joining a gym (at quite an expense), drinking less alcohol or trying a healthier diet.
However, if you smoke, one of the most effective things you can do to improve your health (as well as your finances) is to stop smoking. And January is the most popular time to do it, with more people quitting in this month than any other time of the year.
So what’s the best way to kick the habit?
Paul Lambert is an Advanced Health Improvement Specialist, an expert in tobacco control and health problems caused by tobacco use, with The Office of the Director of Public Health in Leeds. He has some thoughts on good ways to go about quitting in the new year.
- Get the right kind of support
There’s no magic cure. What works for one person may not necessarily work for another, but what we do know is that you are more likely to quit and stay quit if you get some professional support from a stop smoking service. Evidence consistently shows people are four times more likely to quit and stay quit if they attend a NHS stop smoking service than people who have no support. However, despite the improved success for people attending a service, less than five per cent of smokers access it.
There’s a whole host of possible reasons for this, but even if you are going to quit smoking on your own, there are things you can do to improve your chances of staying stopped. These are the most popular treatments and aids ex-smokers used:
- e.cigarettes (aka vaping) – The sale of these devices has been meteoric over the past few years and overtook sales of nicotine replacement therapy (eg patches) as the most popular quitting aid. There have been controversial issues on e.cigarettes and debates continue over how they should be licensed, regulated and marketed, but the overall consensus is that they are much safer than smoking tobacco. Public Health England recently undertook a comprehensive review of the evidence and stated they are up to 95 per cent safer than tobacco. So if you’re struggling to quit, it might be worth considering switching to an e.cigarette.
- Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT) – Patches, gum, sprays, lozenges and tablets are just some of the medically licensed products used to help smokers quit smoking. They are available on prescription but can also be purchased from pharmacies and other retail outlets. NRT has shown to increase the chances of stopping smoking and there’s not much difference in terms of success between the types of NRT. Personal choice will largely determine which one to use, although a pharmacist, doctor or stop smoking advisor will be able to advise of how best to use them to maximise success rate.
- Varencline (Champix) – This is a medicine available via your GP on prescription only. It doesn’t contain nicotine and works by mimicking the effect of nicotine on the brain, thus reducing the cravings to smoke as well as relieving withdrawal symptoms. The drugs works by partially blocking receptors in the brain that nicotine attaches to and reduces the ‘satisfaction’ smokers experience from smoking. Studies have shown varenicline improves the chances of successfully quitting, similar to NRT. While most people do not get side effects from taking varenicline, the most commonly reported one is nausea or feeling sick, although your GP will advise on whether varenicline is suitable for you, based on your medical history.
All of the above options have been shown to help people quit smoking, although combining them with support from the NHS stop smoking services further increases the success rate.
Leeds stop smoking service is happy to support you in your quit attempt and improve your success rate regardless of which aid you decide to use. For more information on stopping smoking or to make an appointment with Leeds NHS Stop smoking service please visit:
Or you can contact the service: tel: 0800 169 4219, text: SMOKEFREE to 60066 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org