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Stop Smoking Advice

Stopping smoking

It’s well known that quitting smoking can help you feel physically better. When you stop smoking, you breathe more easily, your blood pressure goes down and your blood circulation improves, your chance of having a stroke decreases, and your appetite and sense of smell improves. But did you know that giving up smoking can also improve your mental health?

Quitting smoking can also improve your mood and quality of life. Maybe you’ve decided that you don’t want to be short of breath anymore, that you want to spend your money on something else, or you’ve made a promise to yourself and loved ones. Whatever your reasons, we’re here with advice and support to help you try to quit for good.

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Understanding stop smoking

We know that it’s hard to quit smoking and it requires a lot of willpower, however, whether this is your first time or you’ve tried before, there are steps you can take to make quitting easier on yourself. 

You’re more likely to quit smoking if you have a plan. Pick a start date to stop smoking and stick to it. From that first day, referring back to your plan can help you keep on track by reminding you why you’re trying to quit, but it can also help you avoid the pitfalls and triggers that keep you from reaching your goal. If you’ve tried to quit before, write down what worked and what didn’t work, this can help you get back on track if you have a relapse. Remember - two steps forward and one step back will still get you there!

Start by listing all your personal reasons for quitting and keep this list where you can see it. Keep reminding yourself why you’re doing this! Write down the things that you know can trigger your cravings and make you reach for a cigarette. Do you always have a smoke when you have a coffee, or maybe after dinner? Make a plan for what you’re going to do when your cravings hit.

When you’re trying to quit a habit, distractions can be a powerful tool to help you overcome cravings. When the urge to have a cigarette hits, try something as simple as chewing some gum, having a piece of fruit or doing a hobby that keeps your hands busy.

Exercise is one of the best ways to fight the urge to smoke and it can be as simple as going for a walk. Make sure to get rid of any old reminders like ashtrays, lighters or old cigarettes before you start. That way you’ll be reminded about what you’re gaining, not what you’re giving up.

You’re much more likely to succeed if you get help to quit smoking and the good news is there are lots of resources out there. Start by telling people that you’re quitting. You can find local one-to-one or group support through the NHS stop smoking service1 or find support groups online through Facebook, or other social media, or even listen to stop smoking podcasts that offer support and advice. The Nicorette Quit Club can provide advice, offers and tips to help you quit smoking.

Stop smoking aids, whether over the counter or on prescription, can also help you kick the habit for good. Nicotine replacement therapies (NRT) are available to buy over the counter and can help ease the effects of withdrawal by providing a source of nicotine without all of the other harmful chemicals associated with smoking. Nicotine replacement therapies32 come in many forms including;

• Patches     

• Chewing gum     
• Nasal and oral sprays     
• Lozenges     
• Tablets and oral strips     
• Inhalators 

Discover more information about the different types of stop smoking aids to help you choose what may be suitable for you. If you’re a regular smoker and want to quit with a more structured approach, you may be able to access support via the NHS stop smoking service1.  Speak to a member of the pharmacy team in store to check whether the service is available in your area and to find out if it is right for you. Find your nearest Boots pharmacy here.

Alternatively, you may be able to access treatment via Boots Online Doctor Stop Smoking Treatment service1 to help you kick the habit, providing it’s suitable for you. Boots Online doctor offers a range of treatments that can help to reduce the intensity of cravings and symptoms of nicotine withdrawal, alongside advice and support to make sure your treatment plan is working for you.

One of the biggest concerns people have when trying to quit is what will happen when they experience withdrawal symptoms. Because nicotine is addictive, your body will crave it when you take it away. But the good news is that withdrawal symptoms will pass while the benefits of not smoking will last for the rest of your life.

When you quit smoking and your body starts to go through withdrawal from nicotine, you might feel anxious and jittery. You might find that you have trouble sleeping or trouble concentrating. The temptation might be to have a cigarette to calm your nerves but remember that the fix is only temporary. For most people, withdrawal symptoms only last around two to four weeks. But what happens then? After your last cigarette, you don’t have to wait long for your health to start getting better.

After 20 minutes
- your heart rate and blood pressure start to return to normal

After 8 hours - the level of carbon monoxide in your blood is cut by half and your oxygen levels increase

After 48 hours - your lungs start to clear out mucus and other smoking toxins. Your taste and smell start to improve.

After 72 hours - the airways in your lungs relax and breathing may become easier

After 2 to 12 weeks - your circulation improves

After 3 to 9 months - your breathing will be improving and you will be coughing and wheezing less

After 1 year - your risk of having a heart attack is half that of a smoker

After 10 years - your risk of death from lung cancer is half of that of a smoker

Remember, the short-term discomfort of withdrawal symptoms are nothing compared to the long term health benefits of not smoking!

It's tempting to think that you’re protecting your family and friends by smoking in another room or away from them. But the fact is that 80% of second-hand or passive smoke is invisible, odourless and can cling to surfaces days after you’ve had a cigarette.

Children in homes with second hand smoke are more likely to develop lung problems and are at a higher risk from developing lung cancer and heart disease. The only way to prevent exposure from second-hand smoke is to stop smoking and make your environment completely smoke free.   

If you’re pregnant, giving up smoking is one of the best things that you can do for your baby before it’s born and even into later life. When you smoke, you inhale over 4,000 chemicals, many of which are toxic and especially dangerous to babies and children. The circulation of oxygen to the developing baby is reduced when the mother smokes and results in higher rates of premature birth and low birth weight. Children of mothers who smoke also are more likely to develop breathing problems such as asthma in later life, even if they don't smoke themselves.

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Frequently asked questions

Research has shown the most effective way to stop smoking is through a combination of stop smoking aids and support services that you can get through the NHS.1 There's no evidence that any single type of NRT is more effective than another. But there is good evidence to show that using a combination of NRT is more effective than using a single product.

Often the best way to use NRT is to combine a patch with a faster acting form such as gum, inhalator or nasal spray.

The good news, is that if you want to quit smoking cold turkey, it’s safe. When you quit cold turkey you have the advantage of not being tempted to put off quitting because you’re still smoking, and to let your body start to heal itself. But whether you decide to quit gradually or all at once, the most important thing is that you quit for good.

A lot of people are worried about withdrawal symptoms when they think about trying to quit smoking. Physical withdrawal symptoms which include feeling jittery or anxious, having trouble sleeping, or struggling to concentrate, typically only last from two to four weeks. But it’s important to keep in mind that smoking isn’t just a chemical addiction.

It’s a very strong habit that’s been formed by doing the same thing over and over again every day for years. So it’s important to keep in mind that you’re breaking a very well established pattern of behaviour as well as a chemical addiction. This is why counselling, support groups and other types of talking therapies, which may be available via the NHS or privately, can be so helpful in helping you to quit smoking for good

Contains nicotine. Requires willpower. Always read the label

 Subject to availability. Eligibility criteria may apply. Charges may apply.

 Access to treatment is subject to an online consultation with a clinician to assess suitability. Subject to availability. Charges apply.

 Stop smoking aid, contains nicotine, requires willpower, always read the label

Page last reviewed by Boots Pharmacy team on 17/01/2024

We understand that quitting smoking can be challenging, but you don't have to do it alone. Our team is here to support you every step of the way. From personalised advice to helpful resources, we're committed to helping you kick the habit. Let us help you in your journey to a smoke-free life.