Quitting smoking: treatment options

December 15, 2021
5 minute read

Stoptober is an annual mass participation stop smoking campaign that encourages and supports smokers to quit smoking by the month of October and beyond. With support from Public Health England and the NHS, tools and guides are available to help people stop smoking.

If you're wondering just how to quit smoking, we've got you covered! In this blog, we cover the most common treatments available to help you stop smoking, covering medicines and some other useful tools and advice to help you on your way to quitting smoking. From nicotine replacement therapy to pharmaceutical options, you'll be glad to know there are lots of things that can help you on your journey.

One of the best things you can do for your health is to give up smoking. The benefits of quitting smoking are immense: it adds years to your life and greatly reduces the risk of developing lung cancer and other diseases such as cardiovascular disease, regardless of age or how long you have been smoking for. Quitting smoking is beneficial to everyone and improves your quality of life.

What are the risks of smoking?

As a smoker, you have an increased risk of developing over 50 serious health conditions including COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), mouth cancer, bronchitis, pneumonia and coronary heart disease. Some of these conditions can be fatal and cause irreversible damage.

Smoking causes around 7 out of every 10 cases of lung cancer and causes cancer in other parts of the body including the bowel, liver and stomach.  

What are the benefits of quitting smoking? 

However, quitting smoking can greatly reduce the risk of developing some of these conditions. In fact, after 1 year of having stopped smoking, your risk of heart attack would have halved compared with a regular smokers, and after 10 years, the risk of death from lung cancer will have halved again. By stopping smoking you will feel more energetic, have younger-looking skin and in fact research has shown that people experience lower levels of stress after they stop smoking.

Giving up smoking hugely benefits all aspects of your health, which starts almost immediately with your pulse rate and oxygen levels returning to normal after just 20 minutes. It also benefits people already diagnosed with coronary heart disease or COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) and protects your family members and friends from the risks associated with breathing second-hand smoke.

Other benefits include:

  • Improves mental health and wellbeing
  • Improves mood
  • Improves physical health
  • Relieves stress, anxiety and depression
  • Improved skin health
  • Improved fertility
  • Save more money!

What happens after you quit smoking?

Your body responds dramatically fast once you quit smoking. After just 72 hours, you'll start noticing that your energy increases as your breathing feels easier. From here on out, your body will start repairing itself from the damage it has taken from smoking. Just one year after you've stopped smoking, your risk of a heart attack is halved compared to before. A decade later,  your risk of death from lung cancer is halved compared to a smoker’s, and the benefits continue to grow over time until your body fully heals.

Quitting smoking can improve your physical health.

Quitting smoking: treatment options

Treatments to help you beat addiction and reduce withdrawal symptoms will depend on personal preference, age, whether you’re pregnant or breastfeeding and any other medical conditions you may have.

Here are the main treatments available from pharmacies and on prescription:

1. Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT)

NRT can help with cravings and bad moods which may happen when you quit smoking. It works by providing a low level of nicotine without the tar, carbon monoxide or other poisonous chemicals in tobacco smoke. NRT treatment is used for around 8-12 weeks before you gradually reduce the dose and stop. However, this can be used for longer under medical supervision.

NRT is available as skin patches, chewing gum, tablets, lozenges, inhalators or in a spray. Each formulation acts in different ways and provides different levels of nicotine release. For example, skin patches provide low levels of background nicotine and the inhalators or spray’s provide fast acting nicotine, useful for when trying to satisfy cravings.

You can get this on prescription from a doctor or NHS stop smoking service as well as available to buy from some pharmacies.

2. Varenicline (Champix)

Varenicline is a medicine that helps reduce cravings for nicotine as well as helping to block the rewarding effect of smoking. It is available on prescription and/or specialist stop smoking centres. Treatment lasts for about 12 weeks.

3. Bupropion (Zyban)

Bupropion is a medicine that has been found to aid smoking cessation by influencing the addictive behaviour parts of the brain. Bupropion is available on prescription only and treatment lasts for around 7-9 weeks under medical supervision.

4. E-cigarettes

E-cigarettes contain nicotine in a vapour form that comes from a hand-held electronic device. Although, they are not totally risk-free, e-cigarettes have been proven effective as an aid to help people quit smoking and are only available to buy yourself, although generally they are cheaper than cigarettes.

If you would like to enquire about any specific treatment options available, please get in touch with one of our pharmacists or speak to your GP.

All these methods can be effective. For further information on smoking cessation treatments, visit the NHS website. If you would like to quit smoking, speak to your GP or NHS stop smoking service for further help and information.

Participation in local stop smoking support groups can help give you the motivation you need to quit

Other support tools to help you quit smoking

It can also be a good idea to use local services or online tools to help you quit smoking which has been shown to increase your chances of quitting for good whilst doing it alongside medical treatment.

Such services include one-to-one, and group stop smoking sessions which provide accurate information and advice as well as professional support during the first few months you stop smoking.

You could also download the NHS quit smoking app or find more help through the NHS Better Health website.

Remember this, you are five times more likely to quit smoking once you make it to 28-days smoke-free. Try the Stoptober challenge this year and good luck from Phlo!

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