With a cheeky glass of wine on a Friday night, or on your lunch break with colleagues, if you’re one of the 10 million Brits who smoke, you’ll know there are plenty of opportunities to light up.
But, according to research, it turns out 70% of smokers want to quit.
"On average, most smokers will try and fail quitting three times, and will give up within the first eight days of trying," says Sarah Jarvis, clinical consultant for Patient.co.uk .
But recently, there’s been a push to clamp down on the little white stick. By October 2015, it’s likely that in the UK smoking will be banned in cars where there are passengers under the age of 18, and doctors in Scotland have been giving pregnant smokers shopping vouchers as an incentive to end their habit.
With No Smoking Day right around the corner (March 11), we’ve found the seven best ways to help you give up for good.
1. Pick a date- and stick to it
"Statistics have shown you’re more likely to succeed when you have a date in mind," says Sarah. So choose a date you’re going to stop smoking, and tell family and friends so it’ll be difficult to back out. Studies have also found that quitting can be contagious, and people often do it in groups, so you might be helping others too.
There’s one last thing: "Once you’ve set a date, get rid of everything you use as a smoker, such as lighters and ashtrays," says Dr Mike Knapton, associate medical director at the British Heart Foundation. "Make smoking a hassle, so there’s less chance of you lighting up."
2. List your triggers
"Giving up smoking comes down to psychology and pinpointing what your triggers are – and how to avoid them," Sarah explains. It’s recommended you make a note of the times and places you’re either craving or having a cigarette. That way, you can address it.
"If you tend to smoke after a meal, make sure you do something else after eating. If you smoke when your hands are idle, read a magazine," Sarah says.
Ex-smoker Elaine Nugent, 49, says, "I used to smoke at least two cigarettes on my short walk to work. A friend suggested I download audiobooks to my iPod and listen to them instead. They kept my mind occupied, so I wasn’t thinking about smoking."
3. Avoid booze and coffee
Lots of smokers routinely light up when they’re having a drink, or their morning coffee.
"If you’ve developed an association between coffee or alcohol and smoking, you’ll experience an increased temptation to light up in these situations once you stop smoking," says Professor Peter Hajek from the Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine.
But this is temporary, and once you get used to drinking without smoking, the association and temptation‘extinguishes’.
Laura Proctor, 32, now sees how alcohol affected her cravings when she was a smoker. "You want to smoke when others are smoking, and that’s often when you’re out having a drink. But after a month of cutting down my alcohol intake, the temptation went."
And remember, research suggests the combination of smoking and alcohol can raise your risk of developing mouth cancer by 38 times. A sobering thought.
4. Focus on why you want to quit
Health is the most common reason smokers want to stop. And Sarah suggests, "You need to know why you want to be a non-smoker, so you can really do it for yourself."
Rachel Spencer, 39, says, "I had smoked since I was 15, but being an asthma sufferer, I was fed up of coughing all the time."
Janet, 40, says, "I decided to give up because me and my husband wanted to have a baby. It gave me the incentive to succeed when I’d failed so many times before."
Children also inspired 41-year-old Pamela Wallace: "I hid my habit from my children until one day my daughter caught me in the act. It shamed me into action."
5. Look into other options available
"Support groups and other clinics will provide stop-smoking medications, including nicotine replacements like gum or a patch, tablets or e-cigarettes," Professor Peter Hajek explains.
Champix, a tablet that reduces the urge to smoke, is a popular choice and can be taken over eight weeks. Hypnotherapy is another option. Ex-smoker Rachel says, "When I had hypnotherapy, I had no desire to smoke, no withdrawal symptoms, and was relieved I could live without wanting to smoke."
6. Get moving
Most of us are guilty of not being active enough, whether it’s passing up the gym for a night in, or taking the car to the shops instead of walking. But exercise isn’t just good for our bodies, it’s good for turning down those cravings too.
"There’s strong evidence that doing any sort of physical activity that gets your heart rate up reduces your desire for a cigarette," says Mike Knapton from the British Heart Foundation. "People often associate smoking with sedentary behaviour, so exercise is a great distraction, especially for those who want to get fit too," he adds.
7. Get support
"You’re up to four times more likely to quit smoking for good if you have help, than if you go it alone," says Sarah. Luckily, there are plenty of support groups in the UK, like the NHS Stop Smoking Service.
Or you could try a fixed, intensive programme. "These work just as effectively as support groups. It’s just about having support from someone who knows how to help," explains Sarah.
Ben Fletcher, a professor at the University of Hertfordshire, agrees. "There’s a six-week online programme I recommend called Love Not Smoking. It changes smoking habits first, then the smoker’s triggers, while dealing with the lifestyle habits that have locked these smoking habits in place," he explains.
For more information visit Nosmokingday.org.uk and Quitnow.smokefree.nhs.uk. For advice and support, call NHS Smokefree on 0300 123 1044.
Originally published on Mirror Online.