There is evidence to show that using a stop smoking service, which provides either one-to-one or group support, can greatly increase your chance of succeeding. Using NRT or the medicines varenicline (Champix) or bupropion hydrochloride (Zyban) has also been shown to be successful in helping people to quit smoking.
Whatever method you use to quit smoking, there are plenty of things you can do to try to make it easier.
- Find a temporary substitute for smoking, such as chewing gum or drinking a glass of water each time you want a cigarette.
- Change your routine to stay away from situations where you would usually have a cigarette. If you usually associate smoking with socialising, you might find it easier to stop if you don’t go to the pub for the first couple of weeks. If you smoke at work, it might be helpful if you tell your work colleagues that you’re stopping so they don’t invite you out for cigarette breaks during the day.
- Know your triggers and stay away from them if possible. So if you usually have a cigarette with a glass of wine in the evening, try having a different drink or going out for a short walk instead.
- Make a list of the reasons why you want to stop and carry it with you. Read through it when you have a craving and remind yourself why you’re stopping.
- Set targets and reward yourself when you reach them. Why not save up the money you would have spent on cigarettes and use it to go out for dinner or even to pay for a holiday?
- Remember that the only reason you feel better when you have a cigarette is because you're feeding your withdrawal symptoms.
Your body gets rid of nicotine in as little as 24 hours after your last cigarette. This means that your withdrawal symptoms can be intense for the first few days, but you will feel better after the third or fourth day. Trying to cut down gradually will increase how long this withdrawal process lasts.
Your GP may be able to prescribe you a medicine to help you stop smoking. Always ask him or her for advice and read the patient information leaflet that comes with your medicine. These medicines are most likely to be helpful if you’re also taking part in a support programme to help you stop smoking. Although you may get some temporary side-effects, it’s worth reminding yourself that the possible long-term health risks of continuing to smoke are far worse and the long-term benefits of quitting are huge.
Champix helps to reduce your withdrawal symptoms and interrupts the way nicotine affects your body. This means that if you do succumb to temptation and have a cigarette, the nicotine won’t affect you as much as it used to.
You will need to start taking Champix one to two weeks before stopping smoking and continue for at least 12 weeks. Although it’s rare, Champix can cause some mild side-effects, in particular you may feel sick or vomit. In addition, you may get headaches, insomnia, vivid dreams, increased appetite, diarrhoea and dizziness.
Zyban (bupropion hydrochloride)
Zyban is sometimes prescribed to help reduce cigarette cravings. The way it works isn’t fully understood at the moment, but it’s thought to affect the parts of your brain connected to addiction and withdrawal.
As with Champix, you need to start taking Zyban one to two weeks before you stop smoking and you will usually carry on taking it for seven to nine weeks. Zyban can have side-effects including insomnia, headaches, dizziness, a dry mouth, feeling sick and vomiting. You may also notice that you find it harder to concentrate and that it makes you feel drowsy.
Giving up smoking by going ‘cold turkey’ means that you stop using your willpower alone and without using medicines or other aids to help you. To do this, you will need to ignore any withdrawal symptoms and refuse to give into temptation. Stopping smoking using willpower alone may be the most difficult way to stop but it’s not impossible. However, it’s important not to be disheartened if you don’t succeed with this method – there are other ways of quitting and you may be more likely to be successful if you try using professional support and treatment.
Google ‘how to quit smoking’ and you will find numerous sites offering any number of different therapies that promise to help you stop smoking for good. These range from acupuncture and hypnotherapy to self-help books and relaxation techniques. Although some people may find these methods work for them, there isn’t enough evidence to say for sure how effective they are.
Your GP or practice nurse can refer you to your local NHS Stop Smoking Service, or you can refer yourself. These services provide a course of either one-to-one or group counselling and support for smokers who want to stop. Courses last for several weeks and involve planning how best to go about stopping smoking and setting a definite date to quit. Research has found that you’re four times more likely to be successful in your attempt to stop smoking if you use one of these services.
There are a number of charities that offer advice and support on how to stop smoking via helplines, booklets and leaflets, email support and online top tips. Some also have helplines that are available in other languages (for example Arabic or Urdu).
Because smoking may have been part of your usual routine for a long time, it’s likely that there will be occasions when you find it really difficult to resist cigarettes. Reminding yourself why you have quit and how well you’re doing will help you to stay positive. Ask your friends not to offer you a cigarette and if someone does, say: “No thanks, I don’t smoke” rather than “I’ve quit”.
Don’t worry if you have a lapse – you won’t be the first. But make sure you don’t use it as an excuse to start smoking regularly again. Many ex-smokers admit to the odd mistake, but have moved on and stayed smoke-free. One cigarette doesn’t make you a smoker again. Stopping smoking involves changing your lifestyle, habits and getting rid of an addiction you may have had for years. It’s a challenge, but it’s worth it.
- Get support and treatment from your GP or local NHS Stop Smoking Service.
- Make a plan of action for stopping smoking, and stick to it.
- Tell your friends and family that you’re trying to stop smoking, and get their help and support.
- Stay positive and remind yourself of what you have already achieved when the going gets tough.
- Don't give up on giving up!
- Help to quit. WeQuit. www.wequit.co.uk, accessed 28 August 2012
- Stopping smoking: the benefits and aids to quitting. ASH. www.ash.org.uk, published July 2009
- Smoking cessation services in primary care, pharmacies, local authorities and workplaces, particularly for manual working groups, pregnant women and hard to reach communities. National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE), February 2008. www.nice.org.uk
- Varenicline for smoking cessation. National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE), July 2007. www.nice.org.uk
- Joint Formulary Committee. British National Formulary. 63rd ed. London: British Medical Association and Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain; 2012
- Smoking cessation. Prodigy. www.prodigy.clarity.co.uk, published April 2008
We’d love to know what you think about what you’ve just been reading and looking at – we’ll use it to improve our information. If you’d like to give us some feedback, our short form below will take just a few minutes to complete. And if there's a question you want to ask that hasn't been answered here, please submit it to us. Although we can't respond to specific questions directly, we’ll aim to include the answer to it when we next review this topic.
Let us know what you think using our short feedback form Ask us a question
Produced by Polly Kerr, Bupa Health Information Team, October 2012.
Let us know what you think using our short feedback form Ask us a question
About our health information
At Bupa we produce a wealth of free health information for you and your family. We believe that trustworthy information is essential in helping you make better decisions about your health and care. Here are just a few of the ways in which our core editorial principles have been recognised.
Information StandardWe are certified by the Information Standard. This quality mark identifies reliable, trustworthy producers and sources of health information.
Plain English CampaignWe hold the Crystal Mark, which is the seal of approval from the Plain English Campaign for clear and concise information.
What our readers say about us
But don't just take our word for it; here's some feedback from our readers.
“Simple and easy to use website - not alarming, just helpful.”
“It’s informative but not too detailed. I like that it’s factual and realistic about the conditions and the procedures involved. It’s also easy to navigate to areas that you specifically want without having to read all the information.”
“Good information, easy to find, trustworthy.”
Our core principles
All our health content is produced in line with our core editorial principles – readable, reliable, relevant – which are represented by our diagram.
In a nutshell, our information is jargon-free, concise and accessible. We know our audience and we meet their health information needs, helping them to take the next step in their health and wellbeing journey.
We use the best quality and most up-to-date evidence to produce our information. Our process is transparent and validated by experts – both our users and medical specialists.
We know that our users want the right information at the right time, in the way that suits them. So we review our content at least every three years to keep it fresh. And we’re embracing new technology and social media so they can get it whenever and wherever they choose.
Here are just a few of the ways in which the quality of our information has been recognised.
The Information Standard certification scheme
You will see the Information Standard quality mark on our content. This is a certification programme, supported by NHS England, that was developed to ensure that public-facing health and care information is created to a set of best practice principles.
It uses only recognised evidence sources and presents the information in a clear and balanced way. The Information Standard quality mark is a quick and easy way for you to identify reliable and trustworthy producers and sources of information.
Certified by the Information Standard as a quality provider of health and social care information. Bupa shall hold responsibility for the accuracy of the information they publish and neither the Scheme Operator nor the Scheme Owner shall have any responsibility whatsoever for costs, losses or direct or indirect damages or costs arising from inaccuracy of information or omissions in information published on the website on behalf of Bupa.
We comply with the HONcode (Health on the Net) for trustworthy health information. Certified by the HONcode for trustworthy health information.
Plain English Campaign
Our website is approved by the Plain English Campaign and carries their Crystal Mark for clear information. In 2010, we won the award for best website.
Website approved by Plain English Campaign.
British Medical Association (BMA) patient information awards
We have received a number of BMA awards for different assets over the years. Most recently, in 2013, we received a 'commended' award for our online shared decision making hub.
If you have any feedback on our health information, we would love to hear from you. Please contact us via email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Or you can write to us:
Health Content Team
15-19 Bloomsbury Way