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What are the different ways of quitting smoking?

What are the different ways of quitting smoking?

When you choose to quit smoking there are a range of tools available to help you, as different ways of quitting can work better for different people. The most common ways are: nicotine replacement therapy (like gum or patches), vapes or e-cigarettes, smoking cessation medication, and going ‘cold turkey’ (quitting smoking without replacing it with anything).

Daniel Atkinson
Medically reviewed by
Daniel Atkinson, GP Clinical lead

Here we’ll talk you through the different ways of quitting smoking so that you can see if there’s a stand out approach that might help you.

Table of contents
Medically reviewed by
Dr Daniel Atkinson
GP Clinical lead
on August 02, 2022.
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Nicotine replacement therapy

Nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) can offer a simple solution to smoking addiction. It works by supplying you with nicotine (the addictive substance in cigarettes and tobacco) without the dangers of all the harmful stuff.

The forms of NRT that you can get are:

  • Skin patches. Applied to the skin, they release a supply of nicotine slowly throughout the day.
  • Chewing gum. Can be chewed to release nicotine when you notice a craving.
  • Inhalators. Small plastic devices which mimic cigarettes. Can be useful if your hands are missing holding a cigarette.
  • Lozenges. Give you a dose of nicotine when you notice a craving.
  • Nasal or mouth spray. Provide a quick dose of nicotine when you crave a cigarette.

There is no evidence to suggest that one type of NRT is better than the others. Some people find it effective to combine therapies. For instance using a skin patch and chewing gum at the same time, might help you to quit. The patch offers a longer release of nicotine, whereas the gum can give a quick hit if you feel a craving coming on. You might have to try a few of these before you work out which one works best for you.

Where to get nicotine replacement therapy

You can get NRTs from pharmacies, as well as many shops that sell healthcare products - such as supermarkets or large convenience stores. They’ll mostly be over-the-counter treatments, so you won’t need to worry about getting a prescription, but you will need to pay for them.

Advantages and disadvantages of NRT

Like all stop smoking treatments, NRTs have some good and bad points.

The pros:

  • You’re up to twice as likely to quit with NRTs than with no help.
  • NRTs can come in a number of different forms, meaning that you have more options to choose from.
  • You can combine treatments to make it more effective.
  • Can be bought without a prescription.

The cons:

  • The skin patches can cause irritation.
  • Not always suited for people who suffer from certain conditions, such as kidney or liver problems.
  • You might be replacing one addiction with another.

Vapes and e-cigarettes

Vapes, or e-cigarettes, have become an increasingly popular alternative to smoking over the past decade. And research has shown them to be effective at helping people to stop smoking. They work by supplying the body with nicotine in a vapor. This mimics the act of smoking, whilst not giving you the harmful substances found in cigarettes and tobacco.

E-cigs work by heating liquid propylene glycol or vegetable glycerine. They can come in different flavors and types, so there can be options to suit your own tastes. But, because they’re still quite new, there isn’t a lot known about the long term effects that they could have on your health.

Where to get vapes and e-cigarettes

You can get vapes and e-cigarettes at specialist shops, websites, or certain pharmacies. Fortunately, because of their rise in popularity, they’re readily available to buy in a wide range of places, so you shouldn’t struggle too much to find one you like. You can often get the refillable liquid in a range of shops and supermarkets, too, in different flavors and nicotine levels.

Advantages and disadvantages of vapes

Pros:

  • There is growing evidence to suggest that they’re effective at helping people to quit smoking.
  • Vapes only have a fraction of the risk that smoking cigarettes have.
  • They’re available in lots of specialist shops, in a whole range of types and flavours.
  • No prescription required.

Cons:

  • As they’re still quite new, there’s not much available information on the long-term effects of vaping.
  • Some smokers find that they still end up ‘mixing’ smoking and vaping - so using them may not be fully effective.
  • Not available on prescription.
  • Can be expensive in the long term - although it’s typically cheaper than smoking cigarettes.

Medications for quitting smoking

You can also get tablets to help you quit smoking. The two most common are Champix and Zyban. These are only available on prescription, so if you’re looking to try stop smoking tablets, you’ll need to speak with a clinician.

Champix uses the active ingredient varenicline, which works in two ways:

  1. It reduces cravings, much like NRTs.
  2. It blocks the rewarding and reinforcing effects of smoking.

Zyban is another option. It was originally made as a medication to treat depression, but it has been found to help people to quit smoking. It’s not entirely known how Zyban works, but it’s thought that it interferes with the part of the brain that’s responsible for addictive behavior.

Where to get medicines for stopping smoking

As they’re only available on prescription, you can’t get Zyban or Champix from normal stores- you’ll need to get a prescription after speaking with a clinician.

You can also get these medicines online. Our clinician can prescribe Zyban and Champix after they’ve decided that it’s safe, so if you talk to us about your health, you might be able to get these medicines delivered to you.

Advantages and disadvantages of Champix

Pros:

  • Research shows that you’re up to three times more likely to quit than without treatment.
  • It’s simple to use.
  • Smoking cessation tablets, with support, have the highest success rates.

Cons:

  • Can’t be bought over the counter.
  • It’s not safe to use whilst you’re pregnant or breastfeeding.
  • Not suitable if you’re under 18.
  • Can come with unpleasant side effects.

Advantages and disadvantages of Zyban

Pros:

  • You’re up to twice as likely to quit than with no treatment.
  • The treatment course is normally shorter than Champix and NRTs.
  • Smoking cessation tablets, with support, have the highest success rates.

Cons:

  • Not available to buy over the counter.
  • Not safe during pregnancy or breastfeeding.
  • Unsuitable for under 18’s.
  • Not suitable for people with epilepsy, bipolar or an eating disorder.
  • Can come with unpleasant side effects.

Going ‘cold turkey’

Put simply, this is where you give up smoking without replacing it with anything, such as the methods listed above.

When quitting smoking ‘cold-turkey’ some people find it useful to take up exercise in order to channel their energy into something positive, and to act as a distraction from their cravings. And research has suggested that it can help people with smoking withdrawals.

You can also take various counseling sessions to help you to cope with your smoking cravings, though this might not be convenient.

Advantages and disadvantages of going ‘cold turkey’

  • Pros
  • Cons
  • It’s cheap.
  • You’re not usually replacing one addiction with another.
  • No risks of side effects.
  • Might not be as effective as using treatments.
  • Counselling can be inconvenient.

Top tips to help you quit

It’s unlikely that the methods listed above will help you to quit smoking unless you’re willing to put in the work. With that in mind, let’s look at the ways you can make sure that when you decide to quit, you succeed:

  • Think positive. You’ll find it a lot easier to stay motivated if you believe in yourself.
  • Make a plan. Having a clear idea of what you’re going to do will make it easier for you to keep on track.
  • Identify when you crave cigarettes. Smoking is often habitual. This means that you’ll find that your cravings can be strongest at certain times when you will usually smoke. After meals is a common example.
  • Start exercising. It can be useful to channel your energy into something productive, which can also act as a distraction from your cravings. You’ll also be grateful for the increased lung capacity.
  • Make a list of reasons why you quit. Keep in mind all the things that motivated you to quit smoking in the first place. These can even form a mantra that you say to yourself whenever you fancy a cigarette.

Stop smoking: getting help

Making the decision to give up smoking is a big one, so in order to maximize your chances of success, the first step is making sure that you have the right help and treatment you need to quit smoking for good.

If you’re not sure of which ways of stopping smoking could be right for you, or you’re a little overwhelmed by the choice, we can point you in the right direction.

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