What will it take for you to quit smoking?
Why should I quit smoking?
The benefits of quitting smoking goes way further than you may think so here is a compilation of things that happens when you quit smoking:
Smoking is one of the biggest causes of death and illness in the UK. Every year around 78,000 people in the UK die from smoking, with many more living with debilitating smoking-related illnesses.
COPD is a common condition, with a global prevalence of around 12.2%, of which 15% in men and 9.9% in women. The condition is estimated to cause more than 3 million deaths worldwide annually and expected to be one of the top four causes for death by 2030.
It has been estimated that 1.2 million people in the UK have COPD, representing 2% of the total population. The disease occurs nearly exclusively in those over forty, and is commonly underdiagnosed.
Cigarette smoking is by far the dominant cause of COPD. Ten to 20% of smokers will go on to develop the illness, but just 10% of total cases occur in non-smokers.
Cigarette smoke damages the interior of the lung, causing injury to the airways and the alveoli. Over time, these injuries can progress into COPD. Smoking may also contribute to a greater likelihood of respiratory infections in those with COPD.
The single best way for an individual who smokes to reduce the impact of COPD on their life is to quit smoking. Many people with COPD continue to smoke – around 37% across the UK in 2005, according to a 2010 survey-based study.51 Quitting smoking slows the rate of lung function decline, disease progression and risk of respiratory infections.
As smoking is by far the primary cause of both lung cancer and COPD, many COPD patients will also have a significantly increased risk to develop lung cancer. Lung cancer is a more common cause of death in mild to moderate COPD than respiratory failure.
The mechanism by which smoking causes lung cancer and COPD may be linked in some cases, with injury to the lung resulting in mutation and the later development of cancer as well as the inflammatory response which precedes COPD.28 Lung cancer and COPD are linked even when controlling for smoking status.
Depression and anxiety disorders are common among COPD patients, with as many as 20-60% suffering. This may be linked to the experience of physical distress, as the discomfort and pain of the disease causes anxiety and mental anguish.
Smoking increases the risk of developing schizophrenia by between 53% and 127% and of developing depression by 54% to 132%, a report by academics from the University of Bristol published has shown. More research is needed to identify why this is the case, and more evidence is needed for other mental health conditions such as anxiety or bipolar disorder.
The evidence presented today at the Royal College of Psychiatrists International Congress, has been shared with the Government which is currently developing a new Tobacco Control Plan for publication later this year.
The Congress will also be given new data on the numbers of smokers with mental health conditions. Rates of smoking are much higher among people with mental health conditions than those without, and among England’s 6 million smokers there are an estimated:
230k smokers with severe mental illness (e.g., schizophrenia and bipolar disorder)
1.6 million With depression and anxiety
These analyses are timely as the Government is currently considering recommendations by the Khan Review for the forthcoming Tobacco Control Plan to deliver its Smoke-free 2030 ambition. The independent review by Javed Khan was commissioned by the Secretary of State to help the Government to identify the most impactful interventions to reduce the uptake of smoking, and support people to stop smoking, for good.2 One of Khan’s 15 recommendations was that action is needed to tackle the issue of smoking and mental health.
On average, smoking reduces your life expectancy by 10 years. After you reach 40, each additional year you smoke reduces your life expectancy by another three months. Although smoking increases your risk of many serious illnesses, most of the deaths caused by smoking are due to three main conditions.
These are lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and cardiovascular (heart and circulation) disease.
These are the main benefits to quitting smoking but there’s far more.
Quitting smoking lowers your risk of other cancers over time as well, including cancers of the stomach, pancreas, liver, cervix, and colon and rectum, as well as acute myeloid leukaemia (AML).
Quitting also lowers your risk of diabetes, helps your blood vessels work better, and helps your heart and lungs.
Quitting smoking can also add as much as 10 years to your life; compared to if you continued to smoke. Quitting while you’re younger can reduce your health risks more (for example, quitting before the age of 40 reduces the risk of dying from smoking-related disease by about 90%), but quitting at any age can give back years of life that would be lost by continuing to smoke.
Kicking the tobacco habit offers some other rewards that you’ll notice right away and some that will show up over time.
Right away you’ll save the money you spent on tobacco. And here are just a few other benefits you may notice:
- Food tastes better.
- Your sense of smell returns to normal.
- Your breath, hair, and clothes smell better.
- Your teeth and fingernails stop yellowing.
- Ordinary activities (for example, climbing stairs or light housework) leave you less out of breath.
- You can be in smoke-free buildings without having to go outside to smoke.
- Quitting also helps stop the damaging effects of tobacco on how you look, including premature wrinkling of your skin, gum disease, and tooth loss.
Quitting smoking encourages healthier lifestyle:
Stopping smoking not only improves your physical health but also is proven to boost your mental health and wellbeing. Quitting can improve mood, and help relieve stress, anxiety and depression.
According to a recent study, those who quit and go on to adopt a healthy lifestyle can reduce their risk of death.
“It shows that it’s not just about quitting smoking. It’s really about making these amazing lifestyle changes that will carry you through and really will lower your cardiovascular risk, cardiovascular mortality and death from other things such as cancers and respiratory diseases as well,” said Neha Vyas, MD, family medicine physician for Cleveland Clinic.
Researchers in the study found that former smokers who were stricter with their body weight, diet, physical activity and alcohol intake had a lower risk for death, cancer and other diseases. And that was regardless of previous smoking patterns.
Dr. Vyas said people may need to try multiple times before successfully quitting smoking. However, she encourages smokers to not give up.
Smokers who switch to e-cigarettes may adopt other healthy routines
Adult smokers who shift to using to e-cigarettes may have more chances to improve health and well-being, according to new research from the University of Washington.
The study monitored changes in health and social functioning among smokers at two stages in adulthood, age 30 and again at 39. Approximately one-third of smokers shifted to vaping some or all the time by age 39. This group reported better physical health, exercised more and had more active social engagement, the study found.
What are my options to quit smoking?
It can be hard, because the cold turkey approach can cause severe nicotine withdrawal symptoms. These can include irritability, fatigue, headache, insomnia, constipation, sweating, coughing, poor concentration, depression, increased appetite, and cravings for tobacco.
There’s also the psychological addiction to smoking to consider. While cold turkey is the fastest way to get the nicotine out of your system, it doesn’t do anything to mitigate your psychological dependence on smoking. Smoking can be a very social activity, and can be used as a coping tool for nervous or stressed people. By going cold turkey you don’t tackle this side of your habit.
Quitting cold turkey has such a low success rate due to the nature of addiction. Addiction undermines willpower, or the ability to control impulses through decision-making.
While willpower by itself is not an effective quit method, it can still be useful for those trying to quit. “Willpower has a place in recovery as a tool to help us focus on and prepare our plans for quitting,” writes Hays. “It is, however, not very effective as a means to control cravings to smoke because addiction simply functions on a different level.”
Nicotine Replacement Therapy NRT)
Nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) can help with the difficult withdrawal symptoms and cravings that most people say is their only reason for not giving up tobacco. Using NRT reduces those symptoms.
Many people can quit tobacco without using NRT, but most of those who attempt quitting do not succeed on the first try. In fact, people trying to quit usually need many tries before they’re able to quit for good. Most people who try to quit on their own go back to smoking within the first month of quitting – often because of the withdrawal symptoms.
There is high-quality evidence that all of the licensed forms of NRT (gum, transdermal patch, nasal spray, inhalator and sublingual tablets/lozenges) can help people who make a quit attempt to increase their chances of successfully stopping smoking. NRTs increase the rate of quitting by 50% to 60%
Nicotine patches have a 94% failure rate
Yes, you read that correctly; the success rate of the nicotine patch, nicotine gum, sprays and lozenges is less than 10%.
It’s near impossible to get a recent accurate figure from Google, but an independent scientific study* conducted shows a success rate of 3.4% for cold turkey and 6.2% for the nicotine patch.
*Source: Journal Addictive Behaviours, Nov 2006.
When Big Pharma tell you their products will ‘double your chance of success’, they’re being honest. Double your chances of not much are still not much!
E-Cigarettes / Vaping
A 2021 review found people who used e-cigarettes to quit smoking, as well as having expert face-to-face support, can be up to twice as likely to succeed as people who used other nicotine replacement products, such as patches or gum.
Using an e-cigarette can help you manage your nicotine cravings. To get the best out of it, make sure you’re using it as much as you need to and with the right strength of nicotine in your e-liquid.
You will not get the full benefit from vaping unless you stop smoking cigarettes completely.
How safe are e-cigarettes?
In the UK, e-cigarettes are tightly regulated for safety and quality.
E-cigarettes do not produce tar or carbon monoxide, two of the most harmful elements in tobacco smoke.
The liquid and vapour contain some potentially harmful chemicals also found in cigarette smoke, but at a much lower level.
What about risks from nicotine?
While nicotine is the addictive substance in cigarettes, most of the harm from smoking comes from the thousands of other chemicals in tobacco smoke, many of which are toxic.
Nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) has been widely used for many years to help people stop smoking and is a safe treatment.
New evidence published today in the Cochrane Library finds high certainty evidence that people are more likely to stop smoking for at least six months using nicotine e-cigarettes, or ‘vapes’, than using nicotine replacement therapies, such as patches and gums. Evidence also suggested that nicotine e-cigarettes led to higher quit rates than e-cigarettes without nicotine, or no stop smoking intervention, but less data contributed to these analyses. The updated Cochrane review includes 78 studies in over 22,000 participants – an addition of 22 studies since the last update in 2021
All I can do is present you with the facts, I can’t take the cigarette out of your mouth although I’d like to. I would encourage you to opt for a safer nicotine delivery device, the benefits are clear to see.
Tobacco Harm Reduction
The concept of tobacco harm reduction (THR) refers to reducing the levels of disease (morbidity) and death (mortality) from tobacco use among smokers. While eliminating exposure to nicotine altogether would result in the greatest reduction of harm, THR recognises that this is not always achievable, and users may not always be able or willing to quit. So THR advocates, as its primary goal, those users switch to using nicotine in its less harmful forms. E-cigarettes / disposable vapes are the most successful tool for tobacco harm reduction. E-cigarettes are proven to be 95% safer than smoking and is promoted by NHS smoke-free and acknowledged by the government as a smoking cessation tool.