The benefits of stopping smoking are endless. But to help you get motivated, here are our five top benefits of stopping smoking.
- It reduces your risk of developing many cancers, including cancer of the lungs, oesophagus, cervix and bladder.
- If you keep it up, after just one year of being smoke-free, your risk for a heart attack drops sharply.
- Within two to five years of quitting, your risk of a stroke falls to about the same as a non-smoker’s risk.
- As well as feeling better, you will look better – smoking causes grey, wrinkled and damaged skin.
- Quitting improves your fertility and sexual function – there is a strong association between smoking and erectile dysfunction.
As well as the physical benefits to your health, your wallet will also look healthier. Smoking is not a cheap habit – find out just how much you could save using our cost of smoking calculator.
It’s not just your own health that you will be improving if you give up. When a cigarette burns, it releases more than 4,000 harmful chemicals into the air that can reach your family and friends through second-hand smoke. If you smoke around your children, you’re putting them at risk of:
Don’t attempt to quit alone – you’re less likely to succeed. There are many smoking cessation methods available that can help you stop. There is evidence to show that using a stop smoking service, either one-to-one or group support, can greatly increase your chance of giving up. And using nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) or a medicine such as varenicline (Champix) or bupropion hydrochloride (Zyban) may also help.
Electronic cigarettes, or e-cigarettes, are becoming increasingly popular as a way to either gradually give up smoking or as an alternative. However, there is still little research on both their safety and effectiveness. The UK’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) is currently leading on getting these products regulated as medicines.
Whatever method you use, there are plenty of ways to make quitting easier. Speak to your GP, or a smoking cessation nurse or group, for more advice. Below are some other tips to help you stay smoke-free.
- Find a temporary substitute, such as chewing gum or drinking a glass of water, every time you have a craving for a cigarette.
- If you associate smoking with certain social situations, such as going to the pub, it may be a good idea to keep your distance for a while. Or at least for the first couple of weeks.
- Know your triggers and do your best to stay away from them or manage them. For example, if stress sets you off, try relaxation techniques or some deep breathing to help you stay calm.
Always try to remember the reasons why you want to stop smoking and remind yourself of them when you have a craving. Your health, plus the health of everyone around you, will benefit from you going smoke-free.
If you’ve had a relapse before, don’t give up on giving up. Research has shown that the more attempts you have made in the past, the more likely you are to succeed in the future. This is because every time you try, you get more experienced in how to quit.
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- The top ten causes of death. World Health Organisation. www.who.int, accessed 18 December 2013
- Health effects of cigarette smoking. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. www.cdc.gov, published December 2013
- Stopping smoking. The benefits and aids to quitting. Action on Smoking and Health. www.ash.org.uk, published June 2013
- Smoking cessation services. National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), February 2008. www.nice.org.uk
- Gades NM, Nehra A, Jacobson DJ, et al. Association between smoking and erectile dysfunction: a population-based study. Am J Epidemiol 2005; 161(4):346–351. doi:10.1093/aje/kwi052
- Smoking and cancer: What's in a cigarette? Cancer Research UK. www.cancerresearchuk.org, reviewed May 2012
- Smoking cessation. NICE Clinical Knowledge Summaries. cks.nice.org.uk, published October 2012
- Tobacco: harm-reduction approaches to smoking. National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), June 2013. www.nice.org.uk
- Second hand smoke. American Cancer Society. www.cancer.org, published January 2013
- Ayers JW, Ribisi KM, Brownstein JS. Tracking the rise in popularity of electronic nicotine delivery systems (electronic cigarettes) using search query surveillance. Am Jnl of Prev Med 2011; 40(4):448–53. doi: 10.1016/j.amepre.2010.12.007
- McRobbie H, Bullen C, Hajek P. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2012, Issue 11. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD010216.
- UK moves towards safe and effective electronic cigarettes and other nicotine-containing products. Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency.www.mhra.gov.uk, published 12 June 2013
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Produced by Alice Rossiter, Bupa Health Information Team, January 2014.
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