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10 ways to quit smoking for good


New year is the perfect time to give up smoking.

New year is the perfect time to give up smoking.

New year is the perfect time to give up smoking.

It's that time of year when we all plan to change our lives for good, but the combination of cold, dark nights, hard work and the January blues mean it's often not easy. However, quitting smoking is one thing that should not be put on the back-burner. Every year, 5,200 people die from diseases caused by tobacco use.

"Research shows that 70pc of smokers want to quit smoking so remember that you are not alone," says Kevin O'Hagan, cancer prevention manager at the Irish Cancer Society. "We know however that quitting smoking can be difficult and it is a different experience for every smoker. With the right support, you can quit smoking for good."

1 Ask yourself why you want to quit

First off, identify the reasons you want to stop smoking. Is it for your health, your appearance, to save money or all of the above?

If you know exactly why you're embarking on this mission, it will make it easier to stick to. Write down your goals, whether it's to cut down gradually or stop cold turkey, and read it daily to stay on course. "Weigh up the pros and cons" is the Irish Cancer Society's advice - and when the pros are better health and more money, it's hard to argue.

2 Be prepared

Don't just go in to this willy nilly - whether you have a daily habit or not, it's tough to break it. Kevin's advice is to pick a date to quit, and stick to it.

"Most people who successfully quit smoking do so by stopping altogether and not by gradually cutting down," he explains.

3 Ask for support

There are so many resources out there to help smokers quit, so take advantage of them. You can call the HSE Quitline on 1800 201 203, talk to your GP and even speak to friends and family.

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Hearing the stories of others who've successfully quit should spur you on. If you're in need of more intensive help in a group setting, the Irish Cancer Society's 'We Can Quit' programme for women involves 12 weekly group sessions and includes 12 weeks of Nicotine Replacement Therapy free of charge. See cancer.ie/we-can-quit for details of where groups meet.

4 Improve your mood

According to the HSE Quit programme (quit.ie), it's normal to be a bit weepy and irritable when making a lifestyle change like this, so it's important to try and combat your low mood naturally. They advise getting eight hours sleep a night, getting out in the fresh air and also eating well - anything you can do to balance how you're feeling.

5 Be mindful of triggers

According to the Irish Cancer Society, smoking is often linked to certain times and situations such as the first cigarette in the morning with coffee. They recommend perhaps switching to tea or fruit juice so the automatic association isn't there first thing when you're tired and your resolve might be weakened.

One massive smoking trigger that's hard to combat is alcohol - for many people, cigarettes and a drink go hand in hand. Not only is there a social element involved in heading to the smoking area, drinking alcohol means your inhibitions may be lowered. This is where you'll really need some support from friends and family, to remind you why you're trying to quit. It will be undeniably frustrating at first, so have some nicotine gum to hand.

6 Do something positive

You'll need to take your mind off the desire to light up, and a good way to go about this is to find a new hobby to occupy your mind and more importantly, your hands.

Adult colouring has become popular in the last few months as part of the trend towards mindfulness, or living in the current moment and focusing your energies on the task at hand.

Giving it a go can be calming as well as creative, and may help with the urge to have a cigarette. Other healthy options are baking, playing an instrument or writing a blog - anything where your attention is focused elsewhere.

7 Take up some exercise

Many people need to transport themselves physically in order to forget about the desire to smoke. The Irish Cancer Society notes that exercise is beneficial to our health in every way, but for smokers the progression towards a fitter body can be a draw. If you go out for a run and you're gasping and spluttering in the beginning, the sense of satisfaction as it becomes easier will help to keep you on the straight and narrow.

8 Combat your cravings

Kevin's tips for dealing with dastardly cravings are to keep the four Ds in mind. Firstly, delay - wait for three minutes for the urge to pass. Then, drink a glass of water or juice slowly. Next, distract yourself - occupy yourself, go for a walk or phone somebody, anything to stop yourself lighting up.

And lastly, take a deep breath to calm and reset yourself. According to the Irish Cancer Society, withdrawal symptoms are a positive sign - they mean your body is in recovery from the effects of tobacco. If you look at it like that, as a process, it might mean you're less likely to want to go back to square one. Cravings will pass in time.

9 Count your savings

Sometimes we can only see the value in quitting when we see the money add up in our bank accounts. Smoking is a costly habit - if you smoke 20 a day, that's a whopping €3,650 a year! Think of the couple of foreign holidays you could go on with that amount of money in your pocket. Even social smokers who buy one packet a week will save over €500 upon stopping. The benefit to your pocket is undeniable.

10 Take it one day at a time

As with all lifestyle changes, there are tricky times. You need to realise that before you start, there will be moments when you're tested. Everybody has wobbles, but it's important to go back to step one and remember your reasons for wanting to quit in the first place. If you have a slip, the HSE Quit programme says it's important not to discount yourself as a failure right away, and to get back on the non-smoking wagon as soon as possible.

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