'Crave to quit' industry takes off as the smoking ban looms

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Indy Lifestyle Online

From patches and pills to courses of hypnotherapy, increasing numbers of smokers have been shopping in hope of a nicotine-free future in the run-up to the smoking ban.

Sales of anti-smoking products have boomed in recent weeks as smokers have sought help to kick the habit before 1 July, when smoking will be banned inside pubs, restaurants and workplaces in England and Wales.

The Government expects almost twice as many people as usual, 700,000, will give up smoking this year as a result of the legislation, which is intended to cut the 106,000 annual death toll from smoking-related diseases.

An anti-smoking industry has grown up ready to take the money of those intending to give up tobacco who once had to rely on willpower alone.

Mintel estimates the smoking cessation market is worth £97m a year, with nicotine replacement patches and gum the best-selling products. Tablets and inhalers also sell in their millions and a new nicotine gel can be rubbed into hands.

Amanda Sandford, research manager for the anti-smoking group Ash, expected smokers to respond to the ban. "If we are correct, about four million smokers are intending to quit in the next 12 months. That is a significant increase on what we would normally expect - it represents almost 40 per cent of smokers in England," she said.

"We have known for a long time that smokers want to quit but it's moving from a general desire to do something about it to actually doing something about it."

Sales of nicotine replacement therapies have risen 20 per cent in the first six months of this year, according to Boots. Britain's biggest chain of chemists attributes the rise to the smoking ban and will offer free lung tests at its larger stores next week.

Hypnotherapists have been finding more smokers are trooping into their treatment rooms, hoping to have their subconscious mind amended.

Elliott Wald, press officer for the Hypnotherapy Association as well as chairman of EasyStop, which has 65 branches in the UK, reported a 15 per cent increase in people coming into his branches as a result of the smoking ban. Mr Wald, a former 40-a-day-smoker, said he had run smoking cessation programmes for blue-chip clients such as UBS Warburg and Centrica in recent months.

He believed that the ban was galvanising people to quit after months or years of delaying the decision. "A lot of people have procrastinated about it," Mr Wald said. "I have never met a smoker who thought it was good for them. I think the ban has forced them to focus: 'I have kept putting it off because it is never the right time but maybe now is the right time to do it'."

Those intending to keep smoking have generated another boom in products for enjoying tobacco outdoors.

Pub groups that face a fine of £2,500 for each cigarette smoked inside have been buying awnings and patio heaters to provide outdoor areas so that smokers can have a cigarette. Those products have also proved popular with smokers who will be staying at home.

Awnings companies are reporting brisk business from breweries for their synthetic coverings, which can sell for between £2,000 and £6,000.

In a survey of 250 Scottish pubs before the smoking ban there, British Gas found that half had bought a patio heater to warm hardcore smokers.

A company called Ashcan has patented a small tubular ashtray that can accommodate cigarette butts, which might otherwise attract an £80 litter fine.

Living with the ban

* NICOTINE REPLACEMENT

Sales of nicotine replacement therapies are up 20 per cent. Usually taken for eight to 12 weeks, they include patches, chewing gum, nasal sprays, gel and lozenges. They can be bought from chemists or obtained on prescription and are designed to reduce the chemical need to smoke.

* PILLS

More demand is expected for pills that help people quit, such as Zyban, and Champix, which has just been approved for use on the NHS. Zyban is safe for most adults but there are side effects, the most serious of which is the risk of seizures.

* PSYCHOLOGICAL SUPPORT

This aims to strengthen the smoker's motivation and to advise on ways to avoid, escape from or minimise urges to smoke. These treatments have a success rate of about 5 per cent. Some people, rather than relying on will power or nicotine replacement, are increasingly seeking treatment by hypnotherapists.

* AWNINGS

Unlike in California, where many establishments have got around the no-smoking ban by building "outdoor" extensions, the British weather would make such a plan unfeasible. Instead, many pubs and restaurants have been buying awnings that shield smokers from the weather. One company, Appeal Awnings, reports a "dramatic" rise in inquiries.

* PATIO HEATERS

As the ban comes into force on 1 July, many smokers will simply step outside and smoke on the pavement, even if it is raining. In colder weather, thousands of pubs will resort to installing more patio heaters in pub gardens to keep smokers warm. They will emit tonnes more CO2.

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