How to quit smoking in the New Year

Health experts urge parents to stop smoking cigarettes to reduce influence on young people

Kate Ng
Wednesday 29 December 2021 14:23

New Year’s Day is approaching, which means many people are deciding on what resolutions to make so that 2022 can be a better, healthier year.

Quitting smoking is one of the most common resolutions people make to improve their health, but it’s also one of the hardest to keep.

A new government campaign hopes to motivate parents to make quitting smoking their New Year’s resolution, as it highlights research that shows the impact adult smokers have on the young people in their lives.

The Better Health Smoke Free campaign revealed on Tuesday that teenagers whose parents or caregiver smokes are four times as likely to pick up the habit themselves.

The analysis found that 4.9 per cent of young teenagers whose caregivers smoke also smoke regularly, compared to 1.2 per cent of those whose caregivers do not.

According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), there are an estimated 6.9 million adult cigarette smokers in the UK, with the highest proportion of current smokers recorded among 25 to 34-year-olds.

If you’re thinking seriously about quitting smoking, here are top tips on how you kick the habit for good:

Make a plan to quit smoking

According to Dr Sarah Jackson, a behavioural scientist at University College London (UCL), the reason people tend to struggle with New Year’s resolutions is because they try to overhaul their entire lifestyle.

She told anti-smoking campaign Stop Smoking London that the “best and most successful approach is to focus clearly on your one and most important goal” instead of trying to achieve multiple things at once.

Dr Jackson and Stop Smoking London recommend starting your journey to quitting smoking by making a plan that will help you reach that goal.

“This means setting a quit date and thinking about what tools and support you might use,” said the campaign.

“You don’t need to quit on New Year’s Day itself, but you might decide to use this day to start planning. Once you’ve picked a quit date, remember to mark it in your calendar.”

There are a number of resources you can turn to when you need support in your journey. Stop Smoking London offers a helpline that can give you free, personalised support when you start planning to quit cigarettes.

The NHS also offers local, free services to help you quit smoking which are staffed by expert advisers who can give you professional support during the first few months you stop smoking.

You can contact a stop smoking adviser by getting a referral from your GP or calling your local service to make an appointment with an adviser.

Find your motivation to quit smoking

Health minister Maggie Throup said she hoped the new research on the impact adult smokers have on teenagers will give parents extra motivation to quit smoking.

She added: “We know that many people make a quit attempt in January, and while there are so many good reasons to stop smoking for yourself, we hope that this new campaign – by highlighting the inter-generational smoking link with parents influencing their children – will be the added motivation many need to ditch the cigarettes for good this year.”

Whether you are quitting for your children, or for your own health, Dr Jackson emphasised how important it is to be clear about why it’s important to you.

“Whatever your reason for quitting, keep this in mind to stay on track,” she advised. “Try keeping an image of your reason for quitting as your phone wallpaper and looking at it whenever you’re tempted to smoke. Simple things like this can really help.”

It’s also helpful for you to identify and understand what your smoking triggers are. These are the situations or emotions that make you want to smoke.

Once you have identified and understood your triggers, you can think about strategies for managing the ones you can’t avoid. This could involve finding a replacement activity like chewing gum, keeping your hands busy, or changing your routine.

Use aids to help you quit smoking

There are a number of stop smoking treatments you can use to help you quit cigarette smoking for good.

If you use the NHS stop smoking services, you will be able to discuss what treatments are available during your first session with an adviser.

These include nicotine replacement products, such as patches, gum, lozenges, inhalators, and mouth and nasal sprays) and the stop smoking tablets, Champix and Zyban. The latter work by reducing your cravings to smoke.

According to Jennifer Percival, who trains stop smoking advisers, you will not be forced to use treatment, but the service encourages it because it leads to better results.

“We can help you decide which type of treatment is right for you and how to use it,” she added. “In some cases, we can directly supply you with the treatment before you leave, or we can arrange for you to receive a prescription or a voucher for it.

“In the case of nicotine replacement therapy, it often works out at least a third cheaper than buying it from a pharmacy.”

Try e-cigarettes to help you quit cigarettes

There is evidence that using an e-cigarette can help you stop smoking cigarettes by managing your nicotine cravings. In 2019, a major UK clinical trial found that, when combined with face-to-face support, people who used e-cigarettes were twice as likely to succeed in quitting smoking than people who used other nicotine replacement products.

The devices work by heating a liquid that typically contains varying levels of nicotine, as well as propylene glycol, vegetable glycerine and flavouring.

According to the ONS, nearly three million UK adults use an e-cigarette, with approximately half reporting using the device as an aid to stop smoking cigarettes.

E-cigarettes are not available as medicines and cannot be prescribed on the NHS or supplied by stop smoking services. However, the most important thing is that you use the right strength of e-liquid to satisfy your needs.

Robert West, professor of health psychology and director of the Tobacco and Alcohol Research Group at University College London, previously wrote in The Independent: “Whatever you do, make sure you follow the instructions and use enough – that is the classic mistake that most smokers make.

“With nicotine replacement therapy, if you are still experiencing cravings, you are not using enough – do not be afraid to increase the dose to whatever you need.”

Be kind to yourself

Quitting smoking can be really difficult and many people who do relapse at some point, the NHS said. However, it’s important to learn from what went wrong so you’re more likely to succeed the next time you try to quit.

“If you relapse, don’t worry,” the health service said. “It can take a few tries to quit smoking for good.”

If you slip up during your journey or become tempted to start smoking again, you can call a stop smoking adviser or Stop Smoking London’s helpline for support.

West added: “If it doesn’t work out this time – don’t worry – there’s a huge amount of luck involved. Take a break and then have another go when you next feel ready.”

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