Let’s face it, there’s no denying how harmful smoking is. We’ve all seen the stats showing us how smoking can lead to some pretty serious health problems, and ultimately, take years off your life. But, like with any addiction, the thought of giving up is easier than actually doing it.
We know we ought to quit, but there are always questions and concerns that stand in our way… Can I undo the damage I’ve already done? Is vaping really a healthy alternative? Will I end up putting on weight?
I’ve smoked for years… is there any point? Can I undo the damage I’ve done to my health?
While we can’t say for certain that you can reverse all of the damage from years of smoking, quitting now could certainly prevent any further damage, and even help you to get your body back to health. In fact, quitting smoking before you are 40 could mean you are 10 times less likely to have health problems than if you continue! Stopping smoking can lead to rapid improvements in breathing, heart function, fertility, mood and reduce your risk of stroke, diabetes, cancer, circulation problems and numerous other problems. So, forget about the years that you have smoked, and think about the healthy years ahead of you if you quit today.
I’ve heard that quitting smoking can lead to weight gain… is this true?
This is a common myth and one that puts a lot of people off quitting. But despite what most people think, a recent study from New Zealand has created a bit of reassurance when it comes to the correlation between quitting smoking and weight gain. The study found that people who are smokers and then stop, gain no more weight over the years than people who have never smoked. While it is true that some people may find their weight increase slightly after they stop smoking, this amount is usually small and much less harmful to health than carrying on with the nicotine.
And, even if you think that smoking is keeping your weight under control, you may be surprised to hear that your fat distribution may be affecting your health. In a previous article, we discussed the importance of waist to hip ratio as opposed to BMI in determining risk of health problems, even in someone of normal weight. Well, yet more bad news for smokers – they have been shown to have a higher waist to hip ratio than non-smokers even when they aren’t overweight. This translates to more fat stored around the middle and internal organs which we know is associated with a higher risk of diabetes, heart disease, fatty liver and more.
I know people who have successfully quit smoking by vaping…. But is vaping actually a healthy alternative to smoking?
Unfortunately not. I hate to say it, but vaping just isn’t the ‘healthy alternative’ it’s been made out to be. While it may not contain the blend of nicotine, tar, carbon monoxide and up to 4,000 other chemicals found in tobacco smoke, vaping is hardly ‘healthy’… many e-cigarettes still contain varying levels of nicotine, along with a whole host of potentially harmful chemicals. In fact, a recent study found higher levels of various toxins including the heavy metals, lead and cadmium, in the urine of vapers than non-smokers. And if that’s not enough, many e-cigarettes now come in flavours like bubblegum, candyfloss and butter pecan, making them more attractive to kids and non-smoking adults. Yes, of course you are better off smoking an e-cigarette than a standard cigarette but you’re much better off quitting smoking altogether – your body will thank you for it in the long run.
I’ve tried to quit before and failed… Won’t I just fail again?
We all know that quitting smoking isn’t easy for many people. But it’s important not to let past experiences affect your choices now. There is so much support and help available to help you maximise your chances of success.
As our Vavista regulars know, the key to creating long-term healthy lifestyle changes is to make them as simple and manageable as possible. It’s about creating habit changes that become a part of everyday life – like these simple, practical tips we found on the NHS Quit Smoking site, designed to help make your journey to a smoke-free life as successful as possible:
9 tips to help you quit for good
1. Think positive
You might have given up before, but tell yourself that you’re really going to do it this time.
2. Make a plan to quit smoking
Make a promise, set a date and stick to it. Don’t be put off by a wedding, party or other time when you’d normally smoke.
3. Change your diet
Is your after-dinner cigarette your favourite? A US study revealed that some foods, including meat, make cigarettes more satisfying. Others, including cheese, fruit and vegetables, make cigarettes taste terrible. So, consider changing your food choices to help reduce your smoking cravings.
4. Change your drink
The same study looked at drinks. Fizzy drinks, alcohol, cola, tea and coffee all make cigarettes taste better. So when you’re out, drink more water and juice. Some people find that simply changing their drink (for example, switching from wine to a vodka and tomato juice), affects their need to reach for a cigarette.
5. Identify when you crave cigarettes
A craving can last five minutes. Before you give up, make a list of five-minute strategies. For example, you could leave the party for a short walk around the block, dance or go to the bar. And think about this for five minutes: the combination of smoking and drinking raises your risk of mouth cancer by 38 times.
6. Get some quitting support
If friends or family members want to give up too, suggest to them that you give up together. Also, there are your local NHS stop smoking services and the NHS Smoking Helpline, available on 0300 123 1044 (open Monday to Friday 9am-8pm, Saturday to Sunday 11am-4pm).
7. Get moving
A review of scientific studies has proved that exercise (even a five-minute walk or stretch) cuts cravings and may help your brain to produce anti-craving chemicals.
8. Make non-smoking friends
When you’re at a party, stick with the non-smokers. “When you look at the smokers, don’t envy them,” says Louise, 52, an ex-smoker. “Think of what they’re doing as a bit strange – lighting a small white tube and breathing in smoke.”
9. Make a list of reasons to quit
Keep reminding yourself why you gave up. Make a list of the reasons and read it when you need support. Ex-smoker Chris, 28, says: “I used to take a picture of my baby daughter with me when I went out. If I was tempted, I’d look at that.
Want to put your health first and quit smoking for good? Then follow these tips and give yourself the best possible chance of success. You can also head over to quitnow.smokefree.nhs.uk, for a FREE Quit Smoking Pack, or visit nhs.uk/smokefree for more advice and tips on quitting.