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Best science-backed ways to quit smoking this Stoptober

Currently, there are over 6.9 million adult cigarette smokers in the UK. The proportion of the population who have never smoked has increased from 37.4% in 1974 to 60.4% in 2019. It is a habit that has become increasingly socially acceptable, and in fact, quite encouraged up until the early 1960s. The first report on the negative health effects of smoking was released in 1964 by the U.S Surgeon General, concluding that smoking can in fact cause lung cancer and bronchitis.

It wasn’t until the early 1970s that a ban on cigarette advertisements on TV and radio was released, and anti-tobacco advertisements started getting introduced slowly changing the public perception of smoking from something that was ‘cool and relaxing’ to being directly unnecessary and harmful.

Today, we know that smoking is the number one catalyst for many health problems, some of them chronic or even deadly, with lung cancer being on the forefront of the list. Some other common conditions caused by smoking include cancer, heart disease, stroke, lung diseases, diabetes, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which includes emphysema and chronic bronchitis. Smoking also increases the risk of tuberculosis, certain eye diseases, and problems with the immune system, including rheumatoid arthritis.

Data from ​​2018 shows that about 55 percent of adult smokers had made a quit attempt in the past year, but only about 8 percent were successful in quitting for 6-12 months. Many people find quitting smoking extremely difficult, not just because of the physical nicotine dependence, but because of the mental association of having a cigarette as something that is enjoyable and relaxing.

Quitting smoking is however possible, with many methods and products being available on the market to help people kick the habit. Check out some of the most effective ways of quitting that have been backed by science below to help you quit smoking this Stoptober.

1. Vaping

Vaping is a somewhat controversial topic when it comes to quitting tobacco, with the public perception often being that it is another habit that replaces smoking. This could not be any more inaccurate, as vaping has been proved to be the most effective smoking cessation method in a study conducted by Public Health England.

Evidence over the years also suggests that as the use of vaping products in quit attempts increases, the number of successful quits in England also increases. It is estimated that in 2017, more than 50,000 smokers who stopped smoking with the aid of a vaping product that would otherwise have carried on smoking. Data from systematic reviews since PHE’s 2018 report show that vaping products were significantly more effective for helping people stop smoking than Nicotine replacement therapy. 

One of the reasons why vaping is so effective is because it lets you gradually decrease your nicotine intake. E-liquids are available in a range of nicotine strengths – making it possible for vapers to slowly wean themselves off their nicotine addiction by slowly reducing the amount of nicotine they inhale, without many nasty psychological symptoms, as they still get to fulfil their need for inhalation.

E-liquids also contain a lot fewer chemicals than cigarettes, which have over 7,000 harmful substances in comparison to the three consumable ingredients e-liquids normally consist of. This means that as much as vaping should not be encouraged to people who don’t currently smoke, it is a lot healthier than smoking making it a better alternative.

The range of flavours available also make vaping a lot more enjoyable than other smoking cessation products, making people more likely to commit to their quitting journey as it does not bring the same psychological and physical drawbacks as the likes of nicotine replacement therapy or quitting cold turkey.

2. Going Cold Turkey

One of the most common ways to give up smoking, like most things that are bad for you, is to go cold turkey. While this is a great option for many, going cold turkey can be incredibly painful and difficult for people with an addiction to nicotine. 

One of the major positives to going cold turkey is that it starts the nicotine detox process instantly. This means that withdrawal symptoms usually peak within the first seven days of cessation. Due to this rapid process, you are able to get over the cravings quicker than you would if you had decided to quit nicotine gradually.

Going cold turkey also offers an expected positive in that it is free. Other products can be costly, so going cold turkey is a great option for those who are on a budget but want to stop smoking forever. This will only see benefits to your health as being nicotine-free sooner rather than later is your ultimate goal.

While cold turkey might seem good in theory, there are some negatives to weigh up. Going cold turkey can be extremely painful for those who are addicted to nicotine. It requires a lot of willpower particularly if you are a seasoned smoker. This makes giving up smoking a real challenge.

Withdrawal symptoms can be unbearable and they can make you incredibly irritable as well as cause weight gain. These symptoms are usually more intense than what you would find with gradual cessation but it should be noted this is temporary. Cold turkey isn’t for everyone but using an abrupt end date with Nicotine Replacement Therapy could increase your chances of remaining smoke free.

3. Nicotine Patches 

Considered one of the most well known ways to give up smoking, nicotine patches have been a popular method of getting a nicotine fix without having to light a cigarette. An incredibly easy way to give up smoking, these are discreet and serve their purpose for a reasonable price. 

Using nicotine patches is an effective way to reduce nicotine dependency over time, in a controlled and safe way. Patches work by giving you daily dosing of nicotine and can be selected with different nicotine concentrations, depending on the number of cigarettes you smoke a day.

A major factor that encourages people to use them as a nicotine replacement is how readily available they are. They can be bought over the counter at nearly every pharmacy meaning that you never have to worry about leaving the house without a patch!

While there are clearly many positives to nicotine patches, there are also some issues to consider when thinking of using them as a way to give up smoking. One of the things that can occur using them is skin irritation. While these localised skin reactions are mild, they are very common and are something to consider before investing in them.

Another thing to think about is the danger of a heart attack with ongoing smoking. This only happens in extreme cases however continuing to smoke whilst using nicotine patches can cause nicotine overload causing you to become incredibly ill with the worst case scenario ending in a heart attack. Sleep disturbance is another thing to consider as patches can induce vivid dreams.

Cost is another consideration for those wanting to quit smoking. If you take the standard dose of 21 milligrams, this is only suitable for those who are light to moderate smokers. This means that you will need a higher dose meaning a larger cost of treatment which can also incorporate the length of time you are using these patches – so start saving. A course of 24 weeks is usually recommended for this type of treatment.

4. Nicotine Gum

Made famous in the movies, chewing gum can be more than just a past time. Nicotine gum has become a popular replacement for those who want a method that can be easily incorporated into your lifestyle. Nicotine gum helps reduce nicotine dependency by being relatively inexpensive. 

Gum can be picked up over the counter in pharmacies and some garages or gas stations. Nicotine is also available in two different doses which can suit lighter and heavier smokers. These doses include two and four milligrams. Using nicotine gum would be a perfect option for those who want something to chew on when cigarette cravings take their toll on you.

Not everything is perfect and there are, of course, cons to every product. 

One of the major ones is that, despite coming in two different concentrations, this isn’t for everyone. Some people are heavy smokers and require a higher dosage meaning they have to supplement it with another nicotine replacement therapy.

Something that a lot of people won’t consider when using nicotine gum is that certain beverages create lower intraoral pH which isn’t good for the user. Chewing this gum can also generate nausea and indigestion which are common side effects.

5. Support Group

When making a commitment to something like giving up smoking, it is much easier when you have a supportive circle around you. Particularly people who can empathise with what you’re going through. 

One method to help you give up smoking is using support groups. Support groups are considered a great way for ex-smokers to highlight their accomplishments. They also help you stay on track by giving you direction through your smoking cessation journey. Having support can encourage you to keep going and makes you feel less alone. 

The only clear issue with support groups is that there might not be any close to you which can be frustrating. Having empathetic people to talk about your experiences with can make giving up a highly addictive habit like smoking much easier.

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