There's no getting away from it: smoking’s terrible for you. You probably already know that half of smokers will die as a result of their addiction, and that smoking accounts for a quarter of all cancer deaths in the UK each year.
But giving up is really difficult, which is why there are still 10 million smokers in the UK, with 3-4 million people trying to give up at any one time.
The government introduced a new Tobacco Control Plan, which aims to drastically reduce the number of Brits who smoke by 2022.
So how do you shake the habit? There are so many ways to try and beat it.
Here, we take a look at the different ways to stamp out your addiction…
1. Cold turkey
A man puts out a cigarette
Going cold turkey isn't easy (Image: Getty)
This is a tough but effective approach. Recent studies have shown that those who stop abruptly are 25% more likely to succeed than those who try to wean themselves off gradually.
If you decide to go cold turkey, pick a date and stick to it. Make sure you choose a time when your calendar isn’t packed with boozy social events or during a stressful time at work.
Live by the ‘not a single puff’ rule. Repeat the mantra, ‘Not even a single drag,’ until the craving passes. According to the NHS, a craving usually lasts around five minutes, so make a list of five-minute distraction strategies to tide you over when it strikes.
2. Patches, gum and lozenges
Nicotine patch on woman's arm
Seek out alternatives to quit (Image: Getty)
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Nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) works by delivering a hit of nicotine through other means to help curb your cigarette cravings, as you get used to life without lighting up. Nowadays NRT is available in many forms – patches, gum, lozenges, inhalers – and the good news is it’s available on the NHS.
Studies show that using NRT can double your chances of quitting, but it does come with a downside: repeated exposure can cause neuro-adaptation that increases nicotine addiction.
Nicotine alone is significantly less harmful than the tar and carbon monoxide found in cigarettes, so NRT is much safer than smoking. But in order to avoid trading one addiction for another, it’s important to avoid using NRT for an extended length of time. Speak to your GP or go to Smokefree.nhs.uk to find your local Stop Smoking Clinic.
3. The vape debate
Many people have turned to vaping to quit smoking (Image: PA)
E-cigarettes are available in all sorts of designs and flavours, so it’s easy to see why 2.9 million Brits are hooked on them – but the debate about their safety rages on. Keeping your hands busy while being devoid of tar, carbon monoxide and other nasties found in cigarettes means they’re often deemed a safer alternative (the NHS says e-cigs are ‘not risk free, but carry a fraction of the risk of cigarettes’). However, several studies have indicated that vaping may cause cellular mutations that can lead to cancer. Because it’s so new, there’s a lack of conclusive evidence, so vape with caution.
Hypnotism with pocket watch
Hypnotism could help you quit (Image: Getty)
It might sound a bit ‘out there’, but hypnotherapy has helped thousands to quit. In fact, in a study of 6,000 smokers, it was found to be the method with the highest success rate.
"It only takes a few days for the nicotine to leave your body, so what you’re left with is a psychological craving," says hypnotherapist Brian Jacobs. "Hypnosis addresses the craving while in a deep state of relaxation."
Starting at around £170, hypnosis doesn’t come cheap, and although individual doctors may prescribe it, it’s not currently available on the NHS. Choose a therapist registered at General-hypnotherapy-register.com .
5. Play Tetris
Playing the video puzzle game Tetris for three minutes can stave off a cigarette craving, according to research from Plymouth University.
The study, published in the scientific journal Appetite, says it helps provide a distraction from a craving, which normally lasts for only a few minutes before passing.
6. Ditch coffee for herbal tea
Nicotine “withdrawal” can make you feel jittery. But stimulants like caffeine in coffee can make your anxiety worse.
What’s more, one study found that coffee actually makes cigarettes taste better!
7. Set the date and time to stop
Pick your date (Image: Getty)
Smoke like normal to that date, right up to it. Don't try and cut down beforehand as that builds up the idea that the cigarettes are precious. Then quit on the given day. Have one final cigarette and then that's it.
8. Look at your diet
Put meat to the side (Image: Getty)
We all know that food plays a role in cravings. A US study showed that some foods, including meat, make cigarettes more satisfying. So change it up. Cheese, fruit and vegetables make cigarettes taste terrible. Swap the burger for a veggie one and you won't like the taste of that cigarette.
Change your routine too and after a meal get moving so you're distracted.
9. Change your drink
Drink more water (Image: Digital Vision)
The same study also looked at drinks. Fizzy drinks, alcohol, cola, tea and coffee make cigarettes taste better. The idea is to drink more water and juice.
10. Join a support group
Your friends can help (Image: E+)
If friends of family want to give up, try and do it together. It's easier to give up when supported by others. There are local support groups you can join. You're four times more likely to quit if you have expert advice and help.
These may seem obvious, but they're still important. Exercise is next. Even a five minute walk or stretch cuts cravings and helps your brain produce anti-craving chemicals.
12. Adapt how you socialise
When you're at a party mix with non-smokers, it's easier to quit when people aren't popping out or inviting you to join them for one.
13. List your reasons
Lastly list the reasons you're quitting. When you struggle look at the list.
14. Get professional help
(Image: Original: Flickr/Seattle Municipal Archives)
It may sound obvious, but your starting point should be to speak to a medical professional.
There's the Stop Smoking helpline on 0300 123 1044 for information, or a referral to the free NHS Stop Smoking Services. They can even send you a kit to keep you motivated and informed of your progress.
Pregnant women seeking help in stopping smoking can call the pregnancy Quitline on 0800 169 9169.
Your doctor, pharmacist, or health visitor should be able to support you to quit or to refer you to Stop Smoking Services in your area. Or head to your local Boots or check out the online Stop Smoking clinic for free advice and prescription medication.
For further informal and advice, take a look at the Stopping Smoking section on the ASH website.
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■ Call the NHS Smokefree National Helpline to speak to an expert adviser: 0300 123 1044
Our writer Rosie on being hypnotised to quit
"First, a hypnotherapist spent half an hour talking to me about my reasons for wanting to give up, before leading me through some relaxation techniques that, to my surprise, sent me into an almost trance-like state.
Over the next 30 minutes, I was guided through visualisations (imagining cigs had the face of someone I hate and stamping on them!) and affirmations, then linked a happy memory to the phrase, “You are a non smoker.”
It’s only been a week since the hypnosis, so I can’t say for sure whether it’s worked. But my cravings have almost entirely disappeared and it’s a relief not to be smoking any more."