How do I stop smoking?
- The best way for smokers to reduce their risk of cancer and improve their overall health, is to stop smoking completely
- You’re most likely to kick the habit by using prescription medication and support at your free, local Stop Smoking Service, but how you chose to quit is up to you
- The number of people successfully stopping has increased – you can do it too
Stopping smoking can be hard, but free services and treatments are available to help. To show you what it might be like, we filmed Brian‘s experience with his local Stop Smoking Service.
What support can I get to give up smoking?
Free Stop Smoking Services have been shown to roughly triple the likelihood of success compared to going “cold turkey” alone. They help thousands of people stop smoking every year.
Talk to your doctor or pharmacist, visit the NHS Smokefree website or call the Helpline to find what will work for you.
There is a range of free services to help you keep on track, including:
- Stop smoking groups or one to one counselling, where a trained advisor can talk to you about your smoking habits to give you tailored advice and support
- Prescription medication to help control cravings – this could be nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) or non-nicotine stop smoking medications, varenicline (Champix) or bupropion (Zyban), find out more here
- Email and text support programmes, and an app for smartphones
If you do decide to try by yourself, NRT, such as gum and nasal sprays, can be bought without a prescription. NRT can increase your chances of success – as long as you use it properly.
- Talk to your GP or local pharmacist for advice on how to use enough to wean yourself off nicotine, without falling back into smoking
- Combining a slow release product (the patch) with a fast release one (such as the inhalator, gum, microtab or nasal spray) can be most effective
- Get support from friends and family by talking about the challenges you face whilst stopping
You can read more about quit aids on the NHS website here.
Can e-cigarettes help me to stop smoking?
Growing evidence shows e-cigarettes may help people move away from smoking tobacco.
E-cigarettes produce vapour from nicotine dissolved in liquid, propylene glycol or glycerine, but do not contain tobacco.
Further research is needed on how best to use them and how they compare to other methods of quitting.
Initial indications suggest success rates are higher when used alongside support from Stop Smoking Services.
We know that stopping smoking can be very hard. Smoking can be part of a well-established routine, which can be hard to break.
But the main reason is because tobacco contains addictive nicotine. Nicotine is just as addictive as other ‘harder’ drugs and causes addiction in a similar way to heroin or cocaine.
Nicotine itself, for example in nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) or e-cigarettes doesn’t cause cancer and you don’t have to worry about having too much to deal with your cravings.
Cigarettes give you a fast nicotine hit. It takes less than 20 seconds for the drug to reach your brain from inhaled cigarette smoke. NRT can deliver nicotine, but not as much, as quickly.
Using other sources of nicotine to wean yourself off tobacco is far safer than continuing to smoke. It can be challenging to control cravings, so it’s important to use them enough. The most important thing is to stop smoking.
International Agency for Reseach on Cancer. Personal Habit and Indoor Combustion: Tobacco Smoking. Vol 100 E, 377–504 (2012). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK304395/
International Agency for Research on Cancer. Tobacco smoke and involuntary smoking. Vol 83, 1–1413 (2004).
Kotz, D., Brown, J. & West, R. ‘Real-world’ effectiveness of smoking cessation treatments: a population study. Addiction 109, 491–499 (2014).
National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE). Stop smoking interventions and services [NG92]. (2018).
Tobacco Advisory Group of The Royal College of Physicians. Nicotine without Smoke. (2016). www.nhs.uk/smokefree
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Want to stop smoking for good?
Talk to your doctor or pharmacist
Or get in touch:
- England: 0300 123 1044
Stopping smoking can also protect those around you. Find out more about passive smoking.