The serious and damaging health implications of smoking are well-proven and understood. Despite this, a survey conducted in 2019 reported over 2.8 million Australians continued to smoke. While the number of smokers has continued to fall gradually over recent years, the challenges that come with quitting continue to keep cigarettes in mouths. Quitting smoking is difficult, but with the right support and cessation program, it is absolutely possible.
Why Quit Smoking?
The benefits of quitting smoking are wide-reaching when it comes to your health.
Smoking is linked to 19 types of cancer, 7 forms of cardiovascular disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and asthma. Smoking cessation can help to prevent further damage to the body and prevent such diseases from occurring.
The benefits of quitting can be first seen within the first day of cessation. The timeline of your return to health after ceasing smoking may look like this:
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Under 20 Minutes – Blood pressure and heart rate begin to lower
Half A Day – Carbon monoxide levels in the body return to normal
3 Days – There is no nicotine remaining in the bloodstream
1 Week – Sense of taste and smell improves
1 Month – Skin appearance likely to improve
3 Months – Circulation and lung function improves
1-9 Months – Breathing problems and asthma symptoms reduce
1 Year – Risk of heart disease is halved compared with when you were smoking
5 Years – Your stroke risk is now the same as the risk for a non-smoker
10 Years – Your lung cancer risk is halved compared to when you were smoking
15 Years – Your heart disease risk is the same as that of non-smokers
For more information about the benefits of quitting smoking, head to this article.
Quitting Smoking: The Statistics
If you’re looking to quit smoking, statistics show you aren’t alone.
Smoking Rates In Australia
In 2019, the National Drug Strategy Household Survey (NDSHS) found the smoking rate among adults to be 11.6%. The smoking rate in Australian adults has halved since 1995.
It was also reported that 77% of people who smoked every day tried to reduce their smoking within the last year, while 31% of people who smoked every day had unsuccessfully tried to quit in the previous year.
Which Age Groups Smoke In Australia?
The report showed people aged in their 40s and 50s were most likely to smoke every day at 15.8% and 15.9% of the population respectively. In 2001 people in their 20s and 30s were the most prominent daily smokers, which highlights that this is the same group of people who have continued to smoke. The good news is, fewer younger people have taken up smoking than in previous generations..
During the period between 2001 and 2019, the number of daily smokers aged 18-39 halved, while the number of adults who never smoked jumped from 48% to 61%. These results have been echoed by reports from the NHS (in the United Kingdom), which showed that the number of people who have never smoked is steadily rising. The proportion was 52.9% in 2014-15 and 56.1% in 2017-2018.
Quitting Smoking: The Success Rates
Guidelines show that choosing a quit date sooner rather than later leads to greater long-term success in smoking cessation.
A study from The European Respiratory Journal showed that the success rate for quitting smoking is related to the help, or lack of help, from a smoking cessation program. Only 3-5% of those who attempted to quit smoking without professional help were successful, while those who sought the help of smoking cessation clinics – who provided behavioral and pharmaceutical support – showed improved cessation rates of 35-55% over a 6-month period.
Challenges To Quitting Smoking
There are a number of reasons why quitting smoking is so challenging. When it comes to quitting smoking cold turkey, withdrawal symptoms are often difficult to overcome.
You may have tried to quit in the past but struggled to commit due to pressure within social situations or stressful life events. This is completely normal and understandable. Below, we look at the strategies that can help you get back on the road to quitting.
Strategies To Quit Smoking
Once you’ve made the decision to quit, there are a number of steps you can take to stay on track. All of these elements below work together to ensure you’re supported and prepared throughout the entire process.
1. Write Down Reasons For Quitting
This is a great place to start. Grab a journal and list your main reasons for quitting. For most, this list will likely include improving your health and reducing your chances of developing significant health issues in the future.
With cigarette prices rising in Australia in an attempt to deter people from smoking, many people will also include saving money as another reason to quit. With good reason! A pack per day smoker in Australia can spend more than $16,000 per year in cigarettes!
2. Seek A Support Network
Once you have your list of reasons to quit, it’s time to set up a support network. Whether you inform all of your friends and family straight away or you’d prefer to tell just a few trusted loved ones to begin with, having a support network to encourage you through the process can make a real difference.
You might ask friends and family to check in with you and distract you from smoking by doing different activities together. Make sure to communicate with your support person or people that this is a challenging process for you. You can tell them that you may encounter setbacks or relapses, and would like to be supported through that as well.
3. Identify Triggers
Recognising which situations prompt you to reach for a cigarette is an important step. In the days before your quit date, try to keep track of when you smoke and what scenarios make prompt you to smoke.
Common smoking triggers can be broken down into four categories.
- Emotional – Experiencing particularly difficult or overwhelming feelings may prompt you to smoke. Many people look to cigarettes to enhance a good mood or alleviate negative feelings. You may feel the need to smoke when experiencing anxiety, stress, depression, loneliness, boredom, or excitement.
- Pattern – Often, especially for longtime daily smokers, smoking is tied to certain activities and has become patterned. You may be in the habit of taking work breaks to smoke or smoking while driving, drinking, talking on the phone, or after finishing a meal. If you’re used to these patterns and activities, they may be triggers during your quitting journey.
- Social – If you tend to smoke in social settings, this may be a trigger to identify. You may reach for cigarettes when you’re going out to a bar, concert, or party. Perhaps most people in your social circles smoke, and you are triggered to smoke when you’re around them.
- Withdrawal – The withdrawal symptoms from smoking can be uncomfortable. When you’ve gone a while without a cigarette, you may experience discomfort such as cravings, increased anxiety levels, and jitteriness, all of which may trigger you to smoke.
4. Consult A Doctor or Smoking Cessation Clinic
In addition to your personal support network, it’s important to reach out to a healthcare professional who will have additional resources designed to help you quit smoking. You may want to set up an appointment with your GP to discuss smoking cessation therapies.
At Smoke Free Clinic, our mission is for a smoke-free Australia and we’re here to support you on every step of your quitting journey. We begin by setting you up with a bulk-billed telehealth appointment with a specialist-trained Australian doctor. They will then work with you to set up a treatment plan, which may include prescribed nicotine vaping, nicotine replacement therapy, and pharmacotherapy, as well as psychological support such as cognitive and behavioral therapy. For information on prescriptions that can help you quit smoking, read our article here.
You can book your consultation with us here.
5. Outline The Plan
Once you’ve made your way through the above steps, you’re ready to outline your plan.
You can start by setting your quit date, which will ideally be within two weeks to give you enough time to prepare. Note down who is included in your main support system and notify them of your starting quit date.
You may want to keep notes from the discussions you’ve had with your GP about the treatment you’ll be undertaking. You could also write down the triggers you identified, and work out whether you’ll need to avoid certain situations for a little while (such as having lunch with co-workers who smoke). Next, be sure to rid your house, car, and office desk of any cigarettes and lighters.
Lastly, familiarise yourself with the quitting method or methods you’ll be working with. Visit our website for accurate, straightforward, and current content on all of the treatment options mentioned above.
Seek Psychological Support
If it’s not already part of your treatment plan, it can be a good idea to talk to a mental health professional while you’re quitting smoking. They will be able to offer your psychological support and suggest additional strategies to keep you motivated and committed to quitting.
You may also like to practice stress-management techniques such as keeping a journal. You can use a journal to celebrate any achievements, no matter how small. Perhaps you were tempted to make your way to the smoking area at lunch but had lunch inside with a non-smoking co-worker instead. Writing down little reminders of why you’re quitting can also help to keep you on track. It may be helpful to write down when you’re feeling particularly frustrated – it’s okay to acknowledge that what you’re doing is hard.
Your Road To Quitting
Quitting smoking can be challenging, but you can absolutely do it. No matter whether you’ve tried to quit before or you’re on your first attempt, by following the strategies and steps above you are on your way. If you have any questions or would like to discuss quitting, contact us at Smoke Free Clinic here.