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How to quit smoking – and stay cigarette free for good

As January arrives, a significant proportion of the population will make belated resolutions to finally quit smoking

The party season is over, and there’s no longer an excuse to drink a week’s allowance of alcohol in one day, while merrily puffing your way through a 20-pack.

A cheeky drag outside a party doesn’t exactly fit in with the yoga and Nutribullet smoothies lifestyle you’ve sworn to follow this January either.

Quitting smoking is one of the most easily broken New Year’s resolutions.

But quitting smoking is one of the most easily broken resolutions – it only takes a stressful day at work (or the thought of going back to work at all) to feel the need for a nicotine fix.

So if you really want to pack in the smokes, what’s the best way to go about it? Here is everything you need to know about the numbers, no-nos and reality of breathing clean this year.

Number crunching

Around 10 million adults in the UK smoke – but only 30-40% of them try to quit every year.In Great Britain 22% of adult men and 17% of adult women are smokers The highest number of smokers is in the 25-34 age group (25%); the lowest is among those aged 60 and over (11%).

The scary stats are that half of all smokers are eventually killed by their addiction from smoking-related causes. Not to mention that smoking is the cause of over one third of respiratory deaths, over one quarter of cancer deaths, and about one-seventh of cardiovascular disease deaths.

A drink with a cigarette significantly increases your chance of mouth cancer.

Plus, having a drink with a cigarette increases your chance of getting mouth cancer by 38 times. Stick that in your pipe and smoke it.

The science

People enjoy smoking because of two things: the physical addiction and the psychological habit. While smokers get hooked on the temporary high caused by nicotine in the bloodstream, the habit also becomes part of a daily ritual – a crutch to return to when stressed or in social situations – and an automatic response when taking a break from work.

The best ways to quit

Don’t go cold turkey

Going cold turkey may suit some, but the shock of withdrawal for others makes them more likely to reach for a cigarette sooner. The best thing to do is make a plan that addresses the short-term challenges of quitting smoking as well as preventing relapse later on.

Short-term solutions might include using nicotine gum or inhalers, or e-cigarettes, which have recently been approved by British drug regulators to be sold as a medicine for quitting smoking. The e-Voke cigarette can now be prescribed on the NHS.

Choose a quit date

Choose a definitive day to bin the smokes and make sure no cigarettes, lighters or papers are within eyesight. Pick a day that won’t involve going to places like the pub so that all temptation can be avoided.

Tell your friends, tell your families

Tell everyone from Harry in accounts to your grandma that you’ve quit smoking; that way, the shame of relapsing will be magnified as you imagine your child’s face when you tell them you’ve fallen off the wagon. Having a quit buddy will also help – a friend who packs the cigs in at the same time as you, with whom you can commiserate and whom you can encourage.

Notice when you crave cigarettes

A cigarette craving usually lasts around five minutes, according to the NHS. Before you decide to quit, make a list of five minute strategies that will distract you from the craving. It could be having a healthy snack, using a nicotine replacement or offering to get people drinks at the bar.

Calculate how much money you’ll save

One of the best perks of giving up smoking, beside the health benefits, is the enormous amount of money you’ll save.

If you smoke 10 a day, after one month of giving up you’ll have saved a minimum of £46, and after six months you’ll have banked £275. That money can go towards a nice meal or a new wardrobe rather than the gradual corrosion of your lung tissue.

Avoid other smokers

Tell your friends who smoke not to smoke around you or offer you a cigarette. It might be tough feeling like the loser at a party but you’ll feel good at the end of the night having notched up another smoke-free day.

What to expect after you quit

After 20 minutes… 20 minutes after your last cigarette, your heart rate will drop down to normal levels.

After 24 hours… Smokers are 70% more likely to get a heart attack than non-smokers, but after a full day of not smoking your risk of heart attack will begin to drop.

After two days… Smoking deadens the taste buds on your tongue, but 48 hours after you quit smoking, your nerve endings will begin to regrow and your sense of taste will be enhanced.

After three days… Three days is the magical point where all the nicotine will leave your body. This means your cravings will peak at this point and you may experience physical symptoms like headaches and nausea. But this just means it’s working!

After one week… Nicotine cravings will still be intense during the first week. But cravings don’t last long, so distract yourself and then they will pass quickly. Finding an oral substitute helps, so chew on mints or celery to alleviate the itch to smoke.

After two weeks… Your lung function will improve significantly and you will breathe more easily as your lungs start to clear. You’ll be able to do exercise without feeling winded and sick.

One to nine months after you quit… After about a month, your lungs will begin to repair. The cilia inside them (tiny hair-like cells that push mucus out) will start to function properly again and do their job more efficiently, preventing you from infection and dramatically decreasing any coughing.

One year after you quit… A landmark. Your risk of heart disease will go down by fifty per cent, meaning you have the same risk factor as a non smoker

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