Nicotine replacement products
These products replace some of the addictive nicotine that smokers get from smoking. Nicotine replacement therapy has been well researched, and tests have shown that, if used correctly, it will double your chance of successfully quitting. They are particularly good at easing the withdrawal symptoms many suffer when trying to quit, and are recommended for heavy smokers – if you smoke your first cigarette within 30 minutes of waking up, then you are particularly likely to benefit from nicotine replacement therapy.
Nicotine replacement products are generally safer than smoking, but if you have, or have had, a heart problem you must check with your doctor or pharmacist before starting to use them. It is also important to use the product properly, so always follow the manufacturer’s instructions, and remember that you must stop smoking completely while using these products. Nicotine replacement products may also affect the action of some drugs such as warfarin and beta-blockers. The forms of nicotine replacement commonly available include patches, gum, nasal sprays and inhalators. Your family doctor may be able to give you a prescription for nicotine replacement patches and gum, but they are also available over the counter without a prescription.
The patch provides you with a continual supply of nicotine at a low dose while you are wearing it, while the gum, nasal spray and inhalator deliver a higher dose quickly, so you can respond to an immediate craving with a ‘quick fix’. Side effects of nicotine replacement products include nausea, indigestion, headaches, dizziness and palpitations.
Vaping: E-cigarettes are battery-powered devices that heat a liquid, usually containing nicotine mixed with the chemicals propylene glycol and glycerin, and flavourings into a vapour that users can inhale. Public Health England and the Royal College of Physicians have concluded that the potential of serious vaping danger is probably very low, with the RCP stating vaping is “unlikely to exceed 5% of the harm from smoking tobacco”. On the other hand, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced that e-cigarettes, along with cigars, hookah and pipe tobacco, will now be regulated in a similar way to conventional cigarettes. The new rules also banned the sale of these products to people under age 18 both in stores and online. One trial has already linked their exclusive use to an increased risk of lung cancer, and future trials are likely to find further risks given the carcinogens they contain. Nevertheless, these products are a useful short-term tool in helping you quit, especially if you smoke in response to cravings or stress, and you miss the ‘hand to mouth’ action of smoking.
Non-nicotine replacement options
Products: These are many and varied. They are easily available through mail order, newsagents, health shops or pharmacists. Often they do not require a license under the Medicines Act. Generally, there is not enough firm evidence to say how effective they are. Be wary of claims of very high success rates. Non-nicotine replacement products include nicobrevin capsules, scented inhalers, dummy cigarettes, tobacco-flavoured chewing gum, herbal cigarettes and filters.
Other complementary therapies: While these undoubtedly help some people, research is limited, and their effectiveness remains unproven. The two most popular forms of complementary therapies for stopping smoking are hypnotherapy and acupuncture.
Support groups: Joining a ‘stop smoking’ support group can help you feel less alone in your attempt to quit. Being with other people who are also stopping can provide all-important mutual support, a feeling of being understood and a sense of competition! They are usually run over a period of weeks and take you through the different stages of stopping. Specialist smoker’s clinics, using nicotine replacement products, can improve your chances of stopping by between three and four times.
Summary – Tips to quit smoking:
- Make a date and stick to it: Commit yourself to a time and date. Most people who successfully quit smoking do so by stopping altogether and not by gradually cutting down
- Keep busy: Keeping busy helps to take your mind off cigarettes. All ashtrays, lighters and unopened cigarette packets should be thrown away
- Drinking plenty of fluids: Your mouth may feel strange – keep a glass of water or sugar-free juice handy and sip it steadily
- Get more active: Try walking or cycling instead of using the bus or car. Use the stairs instead of the lift. Physical activity helps relaxation and can boost morale
- Think positively: Withdrawal symptoms, irritability, mood swings and poor concentration are common, but keep reminding yourself they will disappear after a couple of weeks
- Change your routine: Try to avoid shopping in places where you have previously bought cigarettes. Avoid the pub garden or smoker’s corner at work if there are lots of smokers around
- Try doing something totally different: Until the cravings go, consider going to the gym instead of the pub
- No excuses: Don’t use a crisis, or even good news, as an excuse for ‘just one cigarette’. There is no such thing
- Treat yourself: This is important. Use the money that is saved to buy something special, big or small, that you couldn’t usually afford.
- Punishment and reward: Make a promise to yourself and a punishment if you fail (e.g. give money to an organisation you dislike).
- Be careful of what you eat: You may get hungry when you are giving up – try not to snack on fatty foods. Instead, try fruit, raw vegetables or sugar-free gum or sweets
- Take one day at a time: Each day without a cigarette is good news for your heart, your health, your family and your wallet