To mark World No Tobacco Day 31 May 2018, Celebrity Angels catches up with Dr Lizzie Kershaw-Yates who provides her top tips for kicking the habit—for good.
Q. What is the best way to begin to quit smoking?
Dr Kershaw-Yates: The best way to begin to quit smoking is to have a plan mapped out. 90 percent of people, who initially try to quit smoking, try to do it with no outside support—although only around five to seven percent of people are able to quit on their own. Be realistic about your goals and research the support and tools that are out there—including nicotine replacement therapy, medication and behavioural therapy.
Q. How important is it to have support along the journey?
Dr KY: Very important—access to tools and support increases your chances of successfully quitting. One great way to do this is Stoptober, which is a great annual public health campaign that provides support and advice for those trying to give up smoking. You can sign up for texts and emails throughout the month, which encourage you to complete the 28 days.
Q. How can smokers start to cut down?
Dr KY: There are lots of small things that can be done to help cut down on cigarettes. You could start by downloading a ‘quit smoking’ app on your phone. Some apps can tell you, day by day, how much money you have saved and how much better your body is doing, which can help to motivate yourself to quit. You can also create an ‘action plan’ for dealing with some of your worst cravings—think about taking yourself for a walk, or avoiding food and drinks that make you crave cigarettes—such as alcohol.
Q. Why is it so important to give up smoking?
Dr KY: It’s important to give up smoking because tobacco is the single leading cause of preventable diseases and premature death, and it’s estimated that more than 100,000 people die of tobacco-related illnesses every year. It causes cancer, strokes, heart problems and breathing problems—and the risk of all of these conditions drops when you quit smoking.
Q. What about vaping? Should it be used as a way to quit?
Dr KY: For the first time last year, Stoptober recommended electronic cigarettes as a method of quitting smoking. Cravings for cigarettes are caused by drops in your nicotine levels, so having an electronic cigarette or ‘vape’ can give you the nicotine you want and can help to curb your craving.
Q. Is there any evidence to suggest vaping is just as bad for you as smoking?
Dr KY: There is evidence to the contrary. Public Health England declared that electronic cigarettes are 95 percent safer than normal cigarettes, and recommended that the UK’s smokers switch over to electronic cigarettes.
Q. Would you ever advise vaping? Or prescribe it as a cessation device/aid?
Dr KY: Vaping can work well as a way to stop smoking cigarettes. They are much safer than ordinary cigarettes and help to stop cravings. When using them, remember to slowly decrease the amount of nicotine in the vape until you are no longer addicted to it.
Q. Is there an ‘easy way’ to quit smoking?
Dr KY: There is no ‘quick fix’ to smoking cessation, but there are a lot of tools that can help you. Doctors can prescribe tablets which can help you to stop craving cigarettes. These are called Champix and Zyban. It’s not completely understood how they work, but they stop the nicotine from binding to the parts of the brain which respond to it. This helps to slowly diminish the ‘reward’ feeling you get from smoking—and can make it much easier to quit. The course of tablets usually lasts around 12 weeks.
Q. What role can psychological treatments, such as CBT, play?
Dr KY: Psychological treatments can help you to understand the reasons behind your desire to smoke. It works by sitting down with a counsellor and finding your triggers—such as emotions or situations that will make you want to smoke. You can then create a plan to get through these cravings together and find ways not to smoke.
Q. How can we help our loved ones quit smoking?
Dr KY: Quitting cigarettes can be a very stressful time. You can help to be supportive of your loved one by recognising and celebrating their small successes, such as having a day, or even a few hours without a cigarette. You can also try and avoid criticism if they do slip and smoke—and offer distractions if they are suffering from bad cravings.
Advice given by Dr Elizabeth Kershaw-Yates, GP and one of the medical team at The Online Clinic: https://www.theonlineclinic.co.uk/