Smoking has a negative impact on everyone’s health. The relationships between certain cancers, emphysema, coronary heart disease, stroke and smoking have been well established for a very long time. In addition smokers are more likely to experience respiratory infections such as bronchitis, pneumonia and pleurisy. Smoking is also known to deplete the body of essential vitamins.
Some research suggests that smoking may encourage the progression of hepatitis C. This is not confirmed, but given the general negative impact of smoking on health, it would not be surprising.
Even if they have been a heavy smoker for a very long time, anyone who decides to stop smoking will improve their health and decrease the chance of developing a smoking associated condition.
However, wanting to stop and actually being able to may be two very different things. Research has shown that even the best thought out plans and preparations to quit smoking are unsuccessful if the individual has not made a firm commitment to stop. This firm commitment, with no reservations, is the major key to success.
Quitting smoking can be very stressful, so choosing the right moment to undertake a quit programme is important. If you are stressed about a number of things and nicotine has been a way to de-stress, then it may be better to postpone quitting until you feel less stressed and more in control. Adding to existing stress by quitting may not be a good move.
Nicotine is an addictive chemical and one that causes withdrawal symptoms when it is no longer present in the body. In addition, smoking is a learnt behaviour that may be very difficult to unlearn, especially if you find yourself in situations with people who smoke and may not be supportive in your decision to quit. Any plans you have to quit smoking should address both the chemical addiction and the learned behaviour.
Nicotine replacement therapy
A number of nicotine replacement treatments are available these days and include nicotine patches, tablets, inhalers and chewing gums. Each of these is designed to wean you off nicotine gradually, and therefore reduce the severity of withdrawal symptoms. Success rates do vary, but on the whole smokers who use nicotine replacement therapy are more successful at quitting than those that do not. You should discuss nicotine replacement therapy with your doctor before you start taking it though, to ensure that it does not interfere or react with any other medications you might be taking.
Zyban (Bupropion) or Champix can be prescribed by your GP to assist with stopping smoking. Unfortunately they may give you a number of unpleasant side effects or interactions with other drugs. You should consult with your specialist before considering this type of treatment.
Individual counselling, group therapy and hypnotherapy are also established approaches to support quitting smoking. The Health Promotion Departments of some Primary Care Trusts run their own quit smoking programmes which incorporate group therapy. If you are interested you will find their contact number in your local telephone directory, or your local library will be able to give you contact details.
Acupuncture has been promoted for many years as a successful aid to quitting smoking. Treatment generally involves inserting acupuncture needles in the lobes of the ear. Some therapists use acupressure alongside acupuncture.
The major benefit of acupuncture as an aid to quitting smoking for those with hepatitis C is that no drugs are involved, thereby reducing the risk of increased toxicity to the liver. Naturally it is advisable to seek out an experienced practitioner by calling the British Acupuncture Council on 020 8735 0400.
Getting advice and support
QUIT is a UK charity that provides assistance to those who wish to quit smoking. They can be reached on 0207 553 2100 or www.quit.org.uk.
The NHS provides support, expert advice and tools including the Quit Kit to help people stop smoking via: www.nhs.uk/smokefree