This article has been medically approved by Pharmacist Sumaiya Patel - GPhC Reg No: 2215078
So you want to give up smoking? You know it’s bad for both your health and your finances but the intention to quit is far easier than actually doing it. Here are some top tips to support your efforts to ditch smoking once and for all.
Set a date and stick to it. Choose a day that will be relatively stress free. A good one is national No Smoking Day on the second Wednesday in March. You can take comfort in the knowledge that around three quarters of a million other smokers all around the UK will be trying to quit at the same time. You could also challenge yourself to go smoke-free for a month for Stoptober.
Write down all the reasons why you want to stop smoking. There are many reasons for quitting. Some obvious ones include: improving your health, reducing your families’ risk of ill-health from secondhand smoke and making financial savings. Keep your list in a handy place and pull it out every time you are tempted to have a cigarette. You can also calculate how much money you are saving to help keep you motivated.
Keep a diary. Record all the times and places that you smoke, with a note of how much you need each cigarette. This will help you to plan for tricky moments while you're trying to quit.
Get help. Your pharmacist, nurse, or GP can tell you about your local stop smoking services. You are four times more likely to quit smoking successfully if you go to your local NHS Stop Smoking Service and use stop smoking medicines, than if you try to quit using willpower alone.  You should also let friends and family know that you’re quitting so that they can encourage you in your efforts. You could even make a promise to the people you love to prove your commitment to quitting. You should stick this pledge somewhere noticeable (such as on the fridge) to act as a constant reminder.
Quit together. Find others, like friends or colleagues, who also want to give up smoking and agree to support each other. You should keep in daily contact and make a pact not to let each other down.
Take the edge off withdrawal. Nicotine Replacement Therapy can help to curb cravings and ease withdrawal symptoms such as irritability, lack of concentration and sleep problems. These treatments are said to double your chances of remaining smoke-free. Your pharmacist, doctor or NHS Stop Smoking Advisor can help you decide which treatment will work best for you.
Prepare to quit. Get rid of all your smoking paraphernalia, including lighters, ashtrays and matches as well as cigarettes. Spring-clean your home and clothes to remove the smell of stale smoke.
Take it one day at a time. Concentrate on getting through each day without a cigarette. Know what you are going to say if someone offers you a cigarette: ‘No thanks - I don’t smoke’.
Break the habit. You probably associate certain places, times and people with having a cigarette. For example you may always smoke when you are out with friends or you may have a smoke after finishing a meal. Try to avoid situations that you associate with smoking when first trying to give up. If you think you will be tempted to smoke then do something different, such as taking a short walk after a meal instead.
Try this simple breathing exercise: Sit down with feet flat on the floor, hands resting on knees. Breathe slowly in and out through the nose a couple of times, concentrating on the sensation of air moving in and out of the body.Start to breathe more deeply, still through the nose, consciously letting the air fill the abdomen, then the lower and upper chest in sequence. Breathe out the same way, expelling the air from the abdomen, lower and upper chest in turn. Repeat this breath three or four times, and then return to normal breathing.
Reward yourself. By not smoking you will save money. Use the money you would have spent on cigarettes to treat yourself - for example by going out for a meal, taking a holiday or buying new clothes. Pick milestones along your quitting journey and the reward you will give yourself for reaching those milestones.
Stay stopped. Remember that ‘just one cigarette’ will often lead to another. Keep reminding yourself of the health and other benefits of stopping smoking. If using nicotine replacement therapy make sure you take the full course. Cravings increase in intensity for up to 3 minutes and then subside, so try to distract yourself (for example by deep breathing) during this time to allow the urge to pass.
Download the NHS Stoptober App. The free NHS Stoptober App helps you to quit smoking and start breathing easier. The app allows you to track your progress, see how much you're saving, and get daily support on your journey to become a non-smoker.
Alternative Remedies & Self-help
Many people use alternative methods in their bid to quit smoking - popular ones include acupuncture, hypnotherapy, relaxation techniques and self-help books. There is insufficient evidence to say how well these work. The other option is going cold-turkey - which means using will-power alone to resist temptation and ignore withdrawal symptoms and cravings. There are many books written on the subject.