Ask people who smoke whether they want to quit and most of them will say that they do – but that it’s too difficult. Many might have already have stopped for a while and started again. Studies have come up with guidelines for the best ways to stop smoking and to improve your chances of kicking the habit permanently.
Nicotine is one of the most addictive substances in the world when inhaled via cigarettes. Nicotine stimulates the brain to release dopamine – the happy hormone -and via smoking, the pleasant kick is delivered almost immediately.
We all know that smoking causes chronic disease and death from conditions such as lung cancer, heart disease and stroke. In South Africa around 10% of deaths every year are related to smoking.
However, the killer is not the nicotine in cigarettes. It’s the carbon monoxide, tar and thousands of other toxic chemicals in tobacco.
Most smokers try to stop smoking through willpower alone by just putting down their cigarettes one day. This has been shown to be the least effective method of quitting with around 96% of people starting to smoke again within a year.
Getting some form of support while quitting increases a person’s chances of success. Using prescription tablets obtained from a health practitioner, or nicotine replacements such as patches or chewing gum doubles the chances of quitting permanently.
The prescription tablets reduce the urge to smoke in the brain pathways. Nicotine replacement provides a supply of nicotine while the person breaks the habit of lighting up. It reduces the common withdrawal symptoms of cravings, irritability and sleeping problems.
International research has shown that the chances of successfully quitting are increased fourfold if you combine expert support from stop smoking services with medication or nicotine replacement.
However, most small towns don’t have expert support services for stopping smoking. CANSA offers a free online eKickButt programme to help anyone who wants to stop smoking. They guide and mentor you through a series of emails, surveys and downloads to make non-smoking your new habit. You can enrol for free at https://www.cansa.org.za/how-to-quit-smoking-and-why/