Phil Day By Superintendent Pharmacist Published:

With coronavirus infections in the UK on the rise, it’s looking increasingly likely that we have a challenging winter ahead of us. Even though the pandemic has certainly been stressful for us all, it’s brought the importance of being healthy into sharp focus. So in this article we’re looking at Stoptober – a campaign designed to help you finally quit smoking cigarettes, and tackle winter feeling better than ever.

What are the risks of smoking?

Smoking is one of the leading causes of illness and death in the UK. Every year, approximately 78,000 people will die in the UK from a smoking-related disease, and there are many more who are diagnosed with a debilitating illness which is smoking-related.

When you smoke, there’s an increased risk that you’ll develop cancer. Smoking causes around 70% of all cases of lung cancer but it can also lead to cancers in the mouth, throat, larynx, oesophagus, bladder, and cervix. 

You are also at a higher risk of developing many other serious health conditions if you smoke. Some of these can prove fatal (e.g. heart attacks, strokes, coronary heart disease) and others may cause damage to your lungs which can lead to other conditions (e.g. chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, pneumonia). It can also worsen the symptoms of respiratory conditions such as common colds, asthma, and respiratory tract infections. The coronavirus also compromises our respiratory function, making it more important than ever to stop smoking. 

Smoking can also reduce fertility in both men and women; and in men it can lead to erectile dysfunction as it reduces blood flow to the smaller arteries in the extremities.

Luckily, Stoptober is the perfect opportunity to break your dependence on cigarettes.

What is Stoptober?

Stoptober runs for the month of October; it was started in 2012 to help support people who are looking to stop smoking. It’s a challenge which is founded on the evidence that if you’re able to quit smoking for 28 days in a row, then you’re 5 times more likely to quit for good.

For Stoptober 2020, the campaign will form part of the Government’s “Better Health” initiative. Launched in July 2020, Better Health is a broader campaign designed to help people stop smoking, get active, and lose weight, with a range of supporting resources.

As tough as the COVID-19 pandemic has undoubtedly been for us all, it has meant that many of us are more mindful of our health. The rate of people who are quitting smoking in England has already been on the rise and many of us are socialising less, and therefore smoking less.

Top tips for stopping smoking

There’s no way around it; stopping smoking can be incredibly challenging and sometimes willpower alone is not enough. Here are some considerations to think about when you’ve decided to stop smoking:

  1. Prepare. Before you quit, it’s important that you understand what withdrawal may feel like and plan strategies for coping with cravings. Downloading the Better Health Stoptober App is a great place to start.  
  2. Find the right treatment. You may be able to make a clean break just through willpower. However, this is not the case for everyone and a gradual reduction or some form of quitting aid (e.g. nicotine nasal sprays or patches) could help. Your pharmacist can help you choose.
  3. Keep going. Everybody stumbles, and despite your best intentions you may have a relapse. When that happens, it can be very easy to get disheartened and revert to your old ways. But you should pick yourself up and start again – your future self will thank you for it. 
  4. Track your progress. Keep a note of how often you’re smoking and pretty soon you’ll be able to look back and see how much progress you’ve made. 
  5. Seek help. Getting your support network of friends and family in place can help when you’re struggling. Let them know your plans so they can be there for you. 

Get the essential tools you need to quit smoking

If you’re looking for help to quit smoking, then you may want to use some form of nicotine replacement therapy. Chemist Direct is our sister service and they have a range of aids to help you stop smoking, including gum, sprays and patches from top brands such as Nicorette and Nicotinell. These contain just the nicotine, the addictive part of the cigarette, and none of the other harmful chemicals you inhale when smoking; and they allow you to taper down your nicotine intake gradually which significantly increases your chance of success. Pharmacists can help you to make a choice about the right nicotine replacement product for you, and your GP can also prescribe medicines to help cut out the cravings.

Get more information at: www.nhs.uk/better-health/quit-smoking/