How to Quit Smoking for Good: The Ultimate Guide
More than 60% of all current smokers in the UK say they want to quit smoking, yet only half of the people who have ever smoked have managed to quit for good.
It’s no secret that quitting smoking is an uphill battle, whenever you started smoking. Without a solid plan in place to quit, it’s difficult to stay on track. You must be ready to stop smoking, if you are to be successful.
But with the right tools and strategies, quitting smoking for good has never been a more achievable goal.
In this guide to quitting smoking, we’ll show you the step-by-step plan you need to stop for good, along with all the tools you require to be successful. It’s time to join the ranks of people living longer and healthier lives. Your quit day could be just around the corner!
Benefits of Quitting Smoking
You probably already know that quitting smoking will improve your health. But you might not appreciate the extent of the health improvements you’ll experience. Understanding the benefits of what you are doing will help you to shrug off the common symptoms and side effects of quitting. There are so many benefits to quitting and here are the highlights:
- Lowered cholesterol: You’ll have lower levels of fats circulating in your blood which will help prevent clogs in your arteries.
- Thinner blood: Thinner blood means less risk of dangerous blood clots and much less strain on your heart.
- Reduced heart attack risk: Your blood pressure and resting heart rate will lower almost immediately, helping reduce your risk of a heart attack in as little as 24 hours.
- Regrowth of cilia: Your lungs are lined with cilia which help fight off colds and infections. When you quit, these will begin to grow back and boost your immune system.
- Reduced cancer risk: Your risk of developing any form of cancer (even breast cancer) will be reduced almost immediately and will continue to improve as long as you don’t smoke.
- Weight loss: Many people think you gain weight when you quit smoking, but it can actually reduce belly fat and lower your risk of Type 2 diabetes.
- Restored estrogen levels: If you’re female, your hormone levels will return to normal and your chances of a healthy pregnancy will be improved.
- Enhanced sex life: If you’re male, your chances of experiencing erectile dysfunction will be reduced.
- Enhanced muscular strength: As oxygen circulates better, your muscles will become stronger and healthier.
- Stronger bones: Risk of fractures will be significantly reduced both in the short term and when you’re older and more at risk.
The health benefits of quitting smoking are almost endless. Better still, you will notice many of them almost immediately.
Coronavirus and Smoking
Recent research published by Imperial College London has shown that smokers are twice as likely to need hospital treatment if they contract coronavirus than non-smokers. They are also more likely to report very severe symptoms.
A review from the World Health Organization had previously highlighted that smokers are at greater risk of suffering severe symptoms if they contract Covid-19. If you smoke, your lungs and cardiovascular system are already under immense strain. When you add Covid-19 to the mix, it’s not surprising that you are at greater risk of becoming seriously ill and that you may suffer with Long Covid (the implications of which are still unknown).
Know Why You’re Quitting
When it comes to quitting smoking and using tobacco products, it is vital to understand why you’re quitting and what you want to achieve. When you have established a tangible goal or goals, you will have the drive to succeed that makes the process so much easier.
If you’re not sure why you should quit, ask yourself these questions:
- What do you hate most about smoking?
- What do you miss out on when you smoke?
- What health effects are you experiencing?
- What are the health risks of smoking?
- What will happen to your family if you become severely ill from smoking?
- How will your life improve when you quit?
Write down the answers to these questions and see what resonates with you. Once you have established the benefits of quitting that will best motivate you, remind yourself of your reasons every day, when the going gets tough. If you are unsure how quitting could really benefit you, try seeking medical advice too.
Here are just a few reasons why many smokers have made the decision to quit for good:
- To reduce the risk of cancer, heart attacks, strokes and lung disease
- Pregnant women quit to reduce the risk of harming their babies
- The desire to breathe more easily and cough less
- To have the energy to play with the kids
- To address high blood pressure
- To improve oral health
- To eliminate yellow fingers
- To live longer
- Knowing that continuing to smoke increases the risk to family and friends
- To reduce the impact of secondhand smoke on others
How Quitting Smoking Affects Your Body: A Timeline
The benefits of quitting smoking are noticeable almost immediately and then accumulate the longer you manage to avoid cigarettes. It is impossible to say how long it takes to quit smoking but it is possible to assess the benefits and when you will experience them. Here’s a quit smoking timeline to explore:
After 20 minutes
Your heart rate drops and returns to normal. Your blood pressure begins to drop, and your circulation begins to improve.
Keep that in mind when you put out your last cigarette – your health will begin improving in under half an hour.
After 12 hours
Your body will cleanse itself of the carbon monoxide found in cigarettes, boosting oxygen uptake in the lungs. Take a deep breath, you will start feeling the benefits of healthier lungs almost immediately.
After 1 day
Your risk of having a heart attack begins to drop as your blood pressure and cholesterol levels decrease. Your oxygen levels will also be higher, and you’ll begin to find physical exercise easier to do without becoming short of breath.
After 2 days
Your sense of smell and taste will begin to return to normal levels and so will initially feel heightened. As the damaged nerves heal, food and drink will start tasting better.
After 3 days
This is where withdrawal begins to take a toll as the nicotine circulating in your bloodstream will be depleted. You might experience irritability and mood swings. It is important to understand that this experience is part of the process and that your body is healing.
After 1 month
Your lung function will improve significantly. You will be coughing much less and will, find physical activity much easier. You’ll also experience renewed energy and may want to take up regular cardiovascular exercise like walking or jogging.
After 6 months
After six months, you will be well on your way to leaving cigarettes behind. Your cravings will have significantly reduced, and you will be beginning to feel that the benefits of quitting are now overshadowing your feelings of loss.
After 9 months
Your lungs are well on their way to being completely healed. The cilia will have grown back, so your immune response is much better and you’ll find yourself getting fewer colds or lung infections.
After 1 year
Your risk of coronary heart disease will have been halved and will continue to fall.
After 5 years
Your arteries and vessels will have begun to widen, meaning your chances of a dangerous blood clot forming will have fallen dramatically. This means you’re less likely to suffer from a stroke.
After 10 years
Your risk of lung cancer and death will have been halved, while your risk of getting mouth, throat, or pancreatic cancer will be significantly lower.
After 15 years
Your risk of developing coronary heart disease or cancer will be the same as a non-smoker.
After 20 years
When you reach this final landmark, your risk of smoking-related illnesses and death are the same as someone who has never smoked a cigarette. Your lungs and blood vessels will have healed and it would be hard to tell you were ever a smoker. In short, quitting smoking improves your chances of living longer.
How to Give Up Smoking
Without a solid plan in place, giving up smoking is an extremely difficult task. Although some people can throw out their cigarettes and go cold turkey, that’s a tough route to take.
Here are some steps that will make the process easier and ensure that you are more likely to succeed.
Set a quit date
Set a quit day and stick to it, whether that be right now or sometime in the future.
Take a look at your calendar and be honest with yourself. Do you have to deliver a massive presentation at work next week that would be a more stressful undertaking if you are in the process of quitting? Set a more convenient date. It is far easier to avoid cigarettes if you don’t have to deal with stressful situations.
Choose a day when you can avoid stressors and when you will be free to focus on your goals.
Identify your triggers
Your smoking triggers are the things that inspire the urge to smoke and they’re usually both consistent and habitual.
For example, do you always have a cigarette with your morning coffee? If you do, the coffee is your trigger. Maybe you always have a cigarette on your morning break. The break is the trigger. Just think about when and where you have usually smoked.
If you’re not sure what your triggers may be, there are free apps that enable you to log every occasion on which you have a cigarette along with what you are doing at the time. Log your smoking habits for a week and look for patterns emerging.
You could undergo behavioural therapy as this will help you to identify your triggers and create avoidance tactics that work.
Choose the right aid
Going cold turkey can make withdrawal symptoms feel much worse. Nicotine addiction is the biggest obstacle to stopping smoking. For this reason, most smokers choose a quitting aid to make the process less taxing. There are no stop smoking treatments that will work for everybody. The effectiveness of any smoking cessation aid or smoking cessation programme will vary from individual to individual.
Some smokers choose nicotine gum, others nicotine patches or a nasal spray. Many are now choosing vaping which has been shown to be one of the most effective quitting aids (more on that later).
Find the smoking cessation interventions that you can rely on and remember that you can always change these, if you find that your choices aren’t working. The method that helped your friend may not be as effective for you. Seek the help of health professionals, if you can’t settle on the right quitting aid for you.
Build a support team
Finally, tell your closest friends or family members that you’re quitting smoking and let them know how they can help. perhaps you’d like someone to shout at when your cravings are getting to you. After all, there’s nothing more irritable than a smoker quitting! Maybe a regular dinner date to look forward to would be helpful.
You are far more likely to succeed if you have support. It makes sense to ensure that those around understand what you are doing, what you are going through and how to help you.
Best Books, Websites, Apps to Help You Quit Smoking
There are tons of resources to help you quit smoking including apps, health books and informative websites. You will discover the best way to quit smoking for you. Here are some of our top choices:
- How to Quit Your Smoking Habit: Without the Stress or Weight Gain by S.J. Scott
- Quit Smoking: The Little Self Help Book That Will Help You Quit The Habit by N.B. Lewis
- The Smoking Cure: How To Quit Smoking Without Feeling Like Sh*t by Caroline Cranshaw
- Kick Your Addiction: How to Quit Anything by Frederick Woolverton, Susan Shapiro
- QuitNow! – more than 2 million quitters to date
- Kwit – incorporates game thinking, game mechanics, and game design. Gamification helps to keep quitting smoking fun
- SmokeFree – a tracker to keep track of progress and cravings
- Quit Smoking Slowly – ideal for those who feel that the “cold turkey” approach will not work for them.
- Quitter’s Circle – create a personalised Quit Plan by setting goals for when and how you aim to stop smoking.
Not all of these resources will work for everyone. Take some time to find the right tools that will help you. Remember, there is no right or wrong way to quit. If something doesn’t resonate with you, move on.
How to Stay Smoke Free
Public Health England recently released a report which stated that vaping is the most effective quitting tool.
A vape pen, starter kit or any e cigarette will allow you to control the dose of nicotine you receive and to lower it over time, reducing the impact of nicotine withdrawal. Electronic cigarettes mimic both the sensation and the action of smoking while providing a nicotine hit. They address both your cravings and your need to hold something in your hand. As such, they offer the prospect of a smooth transition from smoking to a healthier life.
Although many people opt for nicotine gum or nicotine patches as their chosen Nicotine Replacement Therapy, these options don’t satisfy the physical need to smoke like a vape can.
And since vapes produce vapour rather than smoke, they are accepted by the public and are significantly less harmful for your lungs.
Best Tips on Quitting Smoking from Former Smokers
Taking advice from people who have already walked the walk and who have managed to quit for good is a great way to ensure that you remain motivated. Here are some of the top quit smoking tips given by former smokers.
- Think positive
If you’ve tried to quit in the past but never managed it, don’t let that impact your plans to try again. If you tell yourself you can’t do it, you will inevitably fail. But if you think positively and move forward with a fresh perspective, you’re much more likely to last the course.
Try to learn from your previous mistakes and use that new understanding to support your attempt to quit.
- Stick to the “not a drag” rule
Whenever you find yourself craving a cigarette, tell yourself out loud, “I won’t even have a drag” – if people hear you say it, that’s even better.
If you’re going somewhere where you might be tempted to smoke, plan ahead and evolve your exit strategy so you can avoid temptation.
- Consider your diet
Studies have shown that some foods including meat make smoking feel more satisfying. On the other hand, foods like cheese, veggies, and fruit actually make cigarettes taste unpleasant and so dampen cravings.
If you find certain foods trigger your cravings, cut them out of your diet and replace them with healthy alternatives. Not only will a better diet boost the health benefits of quitting, it will also reduce after-dinner cravings. If you are moving towards healthy living, why not improve your diet at the same time as quitting smoking?
- Change what you drink
Drinks can also impact your how often you smoke. The aforementioned study also found that soda, alcohol, tea, and coffee all make cigarettes taste better.
Try to drink more water and juice throughout the day to remove unnecessary smoking tiggers from your life.
- Distract your mind form your cravings
Cravings (nicotine withdrawal symptoms) typically last for just five minutes. It helps if you can come up with some fun or engaging five-minute tasks you can do immediately to take your mind off the desire to smoke.
Whether it’s a game on your phone, getting up and taking a quick walk, or calling a friend, have a strategy in place for distracting your little grey cells.
- Get support
Find someone in your life who wants to give up and do it together. Holding each other accountable will make the process of smoking cessation easier and it’s a huge relief knowing someone is experiencing the same challenges that you are.
If you want to talk to someone but can’t rely on friends and family, the NHS has a helpline for advice and a chat that you can call: 0300 123 1044.
- Take up exercise
The last thing you might feel like doing when you are trying to quit is heavy exercise.
But studies have shown that just a five-minute walk or a brief stretching routine will induce your brain to produce chemicals that combat cravings.
Why not Join a dog walking club, visit your local pool, or just do some light stretches in front of the TV to give yourself that extra boost? Exercise is good for your mental health whether you are trying to quit smoking or not.
- Make non-smoking friends
Whenever you go out, make sure there are non-smokers you can hang out with. Never go outside with friends when they intend to smoke. Any cigarettes smoked around you will make you feel more intense cravings.
Non-smoking friends will also help you to see smoking in a negative light and will support you in your efforts to quit.
- Keep your hands and mouth busy
People who use nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) are twice as likely to quit smoking for good. If you miss the action of smoking, a vape is a great alternative.
It keeps your hands and mouth busy, gives you a hit of nicotine, and still feels like the action of smoking, though it’s dramatically less harmful for your lungs.
- Try relaxation techniques
Some smokers find that certain relaxation techniques such as mindfulness and meditation can help. Mindfulness enhances your awareness of your surroundings and how you are feeling. It anchors your thoughts in the present moment and prevents you from mourning what you have lost.
- Consider the risks of passive smoking
If you can’t quit smoking to help yourself, think about how you could help those around you. Passive smoking presents a serious health risk to your family and friends.
- Make a list of reasons to quit
Write down all the reasons why you want to quit for good and keep it where you will see it every day. You might find yourself thinking “I quit smoking so why do I feel worse?” Remind yourself repeatedly why you’re quitting and use those reasons to remain motivated to quit when you feel your resolve weakening.
Start the Process of Quitting Today
Quitting smoking isn’t easy. In fact, it’s one of the hardest things that you will ever do. But you can do it and it will take just a few short days for the benefits of quitting to become obvious. You could add years to your life if you decide to quit and then succeed. Regardless of how many quit attempts you have made, forgive yourself and try again. Remind yourself constantly of the positives including the health benefits, the reduction of harm to your family and even the potential effects on air pollution.
Get your plan to quit for good off on the right foot with. One small box can contain everything you need to enjoy the gains without the pain.