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How to quit smoking
Posted 2 May 2019
According to Cancer Council Australia, smoking can lead to 15 different types of cancers. It’s also known that tobacco smoke contains more than 7,000 chemicals, 70 of which are known to be cancer causing. There is some good news, as soon as you quit, there are immediate and long-term health benefits.
What happens when you stop smoking?
- Almost all of the nicotine has left your system after 12 hours of quitting smoking.
- Your body can take and use oxygen more efficiently after 24 hours.
- Sense of smell and taste starts to return after 2 days.
- Blood flow to your hands and feet will begin to improve after 2 months.
- Your risk of heart disease drops dramatically after 1 year.
- You risk of developing lung cancer is halved after 10 years.
How to get started
To get to the nitty gritty of how to best quit smoking, we chat to Cancer Council SA’s Quitline Counsellor, David Schmidt. He says kicking off your smoke-free journey should begin with a clear plan of attack in place. “A lot of people wake up one morning and decide they want to quit, but going in with a plan is a way that will help you have success.”
Pick a ‘quit day’ and try to stick to it. It’s a good idea to tell friends and family about your plan so you can stay accountable.
Having clear motivations outlined in the beginning as to why you want to quit is also a very helpful tactic that will encourage you stay on track. Mr Schmidt says putting these motivations in place from the get go will help support your future self when challenges arise.
Motivations to kick the habit:
- Improving your health
- Planning a family
- Protecting loved ones from passive smoking
- To save money
Methods of quitting
- Going cold turkey – For some people, completely cutting out cigarettes from the get go is the most successful way to go about it.
- Slowly reducing the amount – Each day try to cut down on the amount of cigarettes you smoke until you’re no longer smoking. Delaying your first cigarette by an hour each day is also recommended.
- Nicotine replacement therapy – Nicotine patches, lozenges and gum can help to reduce the withdrawal symptoms without any of the harmful chemicals that come with smoking.
- Alternative therapies – Herbal remedies and spiritual healing are available but there’s not enough evidence to suggest these help.
Coping with cravings and withdrawals
When nicotine enters the blood system, a ‘feel good’ effect occurs thanks to the brain’s ‘reward system’. The body then craves this drug when it’s removed from our system, as it believes something good is missing.
It’s common within the first few days of putting down the smokes to feel irritable, tired and tense. However, this reaction is only temporary and usually within one or two weeks these symptoms disappear.
Knowing your triggers as you begin to quit is important to take note of. There may be certain situations that will make you more likely to reach for a cigarette, like during your coffee break or when you feel stressed. So it’s best to be aware of this and prepare for it.
If the urge arises, try ‘the four D’s:
- Delay acting on this urge to smoke, usually after five minutes this desire decreases.
- Deep breathe slowly, repeating three times.
- Drink some water.
- Do something else to take your mind off this urge. Go for a walk, talk to a friend or eat a snack, it’s all about distraction.
Mr Schmidt says nicotine replacement therapy is a good tool to use if quitting is becoming too stressful. Using an appropriate level of nicotine replacement therapy will reduce your cravings and make quitting more bearable.
The patches, lozenges and gum are available at a reduced cost through the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS), you’ll just need a prescription from your doctor. Otherwise, all of these products are available over the counter at pharmacies and supermarkets.
Each time you resist the urge to smoke, why not treat yourself and spend some of the money you would have otherwise used for smoking? It’s estimated if you smoked a pack of cigarettes a day, each year you’d be forking out around $10,000!
Who can help?
Having a strong support system around you is very important. Chatting to friends and family who have been through the challenges of quitting smoking can be helpful when times are tough.
Try not to worry if you don’t have this support network around, there are other options out there. Mr Schmidt says, “We have a web chat service where you can log on to or a lot of people get the support of a GP or another health practitioner.”
How can you help someone trying to quit?
If you’re around someone who’s trying to quit, here are some helpful tips to consider:
- Ask how you can help, rather than provide unwanted advice
- Don’t nag, but rather encourage them
- Listen, if the person quitting wants to chat
- If you can’t help, suggest they seek professional advice
Finally, it’s ok to fail! Some people take a couple of attempts to completely kick the habit, so don’t be disheartened or throw in the towel if you slip up. Learning from your experience and sticking to your goals is what’s important.
From more information or to chat to a Quitline Counsellor, call 13 78 48.
Get 20% off quit smoking products
Health Partners members with Extras cover save 20% on quit smoking products at over 50 pharmacies.
20% Discount on most non-prescription products on presentation of Health Partners membership card for members with Extras products, but excludes items already discounted by 40% or more, agency lines, schedule 3 recordable items. Benefits and discounts only available at Health Partners Participating Pharmacies. Refer to Health Partners Member Guide for more information.