Smoking is everywhere. Nearly one in five people smoke in Ireland, but most often say that they’d like to be able to give up the bad habit.
Over 5,000 people die annually in Ireland from smoking-related illnesses – but beating addiction is not always as easy as it sounds.
In fact the average smoker tries to quit unsuccessfully four times before they manage to stay away from tobacco long-term.
GP and media medic Dr Sarah Jarvis has spoken about the best ways to kick the unhealthy habit – and the worst.
She said: “The evidence is clear.
“The least effective way is to go ‘cold turkey’, with no support from a healthcare professional.
“Only about 3% of people who try to quit this way are still smoke-free after a year.”
Instead Dr Sarah advises that smokers seek help from smoking cessation advisors and use nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) to improve your chances of quitting.
NRT products come in the shape of patches, gums or lozenges from brands such as NiQuitin, Nicorette and Nicotinell and they can help to reduce the urge to smoke cigarettes.
Dr Sarah said: “Cutting out nicotine can cause headaches and other physical withdrawal symptoms, but there’s also the psychological addiction.
“The evidence is that your chances of quitting successfully are much better if you tackle one addiction at a time.
“Getting support from a smoking cessation advisor or using smoking cessation aids such as nicotine replacement products are both more effective than trying to quit on your own.
“But combining the two is more effective still in terms of the likelihood of you quitting successfully in the long term. NRT products allow you to concentrate on overcoming the habit of smoking in certain situations first. This increases the chances of success in the long run.
“As well as NRT, I would also advise people to visit the NHS Smokefree website, or speak to their friends and family to get the support and reassurance they will need. The NHS offers support through a variety of methods, including an app and via email.
“They also run local groups across the country, which offer face-to-face advice and encouragement to help people stop smoking for good.”
But if you do relapse, it’s important to stay motivated by concentrating on the reasons you decided to quit in the first place.
Dr Sarah added: “Just think about what made you smoke and try and put the necessary measures in place to stop it happening again.
“Many people fail to quit for good on the first go and it can take several attempts before you kick the habit all together, so don’t beat yourself up and keep trying.”
Here Dr Sarah shares her top five tips to help boost your chances of quitting fags for good.
1. Write it down
Everyone will have a motivation for quitting smoking. Whether it’s for health reasons, family or financial, something will be the trigger that encourages you to quit for good. Write this motivation down and put it somewhere where it’s visible, or easily accessible.
Each time you feel like smoking, read it and remind yourself of the reason why you are giving up to try and reduce the urge to smoke.
2. Drink more water
Increasing your intake of water will help the body to stay hydrated and reduce the severity of withdrawal headaches some people may experience.
Carrying a water bottle around will also help keep your hands busy when thy might automatically be reaching for a cigarette. If you tend to smoke when you have a coffee or an alcoholic drink, try and avoid these in the early stages.
3. Find a new way to relax
One of the reasons people smoke is because they think it helps them to de-stress or relax. In the first few days of quitting, you will probably feel more stressed than usual.
That means you’ll need to find new ways to ease the tension so that you don’t reach for the cigarettes. Try getting a massage, having a long bath, or spend some time socialising with friends and family to unwind.
4. Up your exercise
Physical activity has been shown to reduce cigarette cravings and improve your mood and energy levels, which can both be low when giving up smoking.
Upping your exercise regime will also help to keep off the weight that can creep on when you stop smoking. With the added bonus benefit of strengthening your heart and lungs, what’s not to like.
5. Save your money
Try and put the money you would usually spend on cigarettes into a safe place – ideally a jar where you can see it.
After you are a couple of months without a cigarette, empty the jar and reward yourself by spending it on something fun and enjoyable, like a weekend away or a nice dinner to keep yourself motivated.
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