Why and How to quit smoking

“You can enlist friends, relatives or a partner for encouragement or to help in making your home 'smoke-free'.  You could also suggest giving up together if they smoke which can improve your chances of succeeding.  Also, make a long list of reasons to quit to look at every morning or when you feel tempted to have a cigarette.”

Dr. Deena El-Shirbiny

Smoking is addictive because of the nicotine chemical in tobacco. Nicotine quickly changes the balance of dopamine and noradrenaline in your brain, affecting your mood and concentration levels. These changes feel good, lowering your feelings of stress and anxiety, which is one reason why you will find quitting difficult.  But giving up is the best thing you’ll ever do for your short and long-term health.


Here are some of the things you’ll need to beat your habit:

  1. Belief

Determination and a belief in yourself are great motivators to keep you on the straight and narrow. The sense of progress and achievement gained through quitting smoking can be a huge self-esteem boost, because when you’re addicted to a substance you’re not in control of your own actions. Re-taking control will empower you to succeed in other ways.  


2.              A plan

Set yourself realistic targets and an action plan. Make sure you stick to it by making your habit-breaking part of your routine. You may go ‘cold turkey’, or quit gradually, you may also replace cigarettes with other nicotine sources to stem your cravings. If you’re going cold turkey, chew gum, the taste of mint does not mix well with the taste of a cigarette. If you’re cutting back gradually, avoid situations that will prompt you to smoke, at least until you’re in control of your cravings.


3.              To know your triggers

Identify and avoid your craving triggers to make it easier for you to stick to your resolution. Understanding the motivations behind your smoking habit can be a fantastic way of figuring out how to remove it from your life. It’s possible, for instance, that you enjoy the combination of coffee and a cigarette. If that’s the case, try waiting and having your coffee inside where you’re unable to smoke. After a couple of weeks you’ll stop thinking of the two together and you’ll have defeated this trigger.


4.              A replacement

Many smokers who are quitting find it difficult not having anything in their hands, especially in social situations. Holding a cigarette has become habitual, and therefore replacing cigarettes with straws cut to size keeps your hands busy. Inhaling clean air and appreciating a healthier respiratory system is a huge motivator. You may have done your lungs damage, but as soon as you stop, they will begin to heal and recover. Think of this whenever you feel tempted to quit quitting.


5.              A savings account

Smoking is an expensive habit, but now that you’ve quit you’ll find yourself with more disposable income. Calculate how much you used to spend on cigarettes and set up a standing order into a savings account. You’ll be amazed how quickly it adds up, and you can use this extra cash to treat yourself. Take a holiday or start a new hobby. Reward yourself for sticking to your resolution and appreciate the money you’ve saved from quitting.

For example, if you smoke 10 cigarettes per day you could save £1642 per year. Now that’s an investment in your health.


6.              Patience

Breaking any habit is difficult, and quitting smoking can be especially tricky if it’s been part of your routine for a long time. Often smokers find they have to adjust their routine and lifestyle to avoid falling back into their old ways, and the unfamiliar can feel scary and unwanted. It’s important to stick to your goals but also not to be too hard on yourself.


Why you should do it

Everything improves when you give up smoking, including your respiratory system, blood health, and energy levels. Quitting also lowers your risk of developing lung disease, heart disease and chronic bronchitis. You can improve your appearance, through younger-looking skin and white teeth and nails. You can also decrease your stress levels, increase fertility and improve your sex life through increased blood flow (leading to greater sensitivity). If that’s not convincing enough, quitting smoking can protect your loved ones from the risks of passive smoking.


By Katalina Watt and Dr. Deena El-Shirbiny