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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), smoking cessation medication, and going ‘cold turkey’ (quitting smoking without replacing it with anything).

Navkaran Singh Sandhu
Medically reviewed by
Navkaran Singh Sandhu, 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

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Medically reviewed by
Dr Navkaran Singh Sandhu
Clinical Lead
on April 27, 2023.
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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.
  • Tablets, oral strips and 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.

You can get NRTs from your local pharmacies. They’ll mostly be over-the-counter treatments, so you won’t need to worry about getting a prescription. However, you need to read the instructions closely to ensure that you are using it correctly.

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.

Medications for quitting smoking

You can also get tablets to help you quit smoking. The most common is Nocrav. These are only available on prescription, so if you’re looking to try quit smoking tablets, you’ll need to speak to a doctor.

Nocrav 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.

As they are only available on prescription, you can’t get medications like Nocrav over-the-counter from your pharmacy. You need to get a prescription after speaking to a doctor.

You can also get these medicines online. Our clinician can prescribe Nocrav 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.

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.

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’ or suddenly, 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 counselling 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 maximise 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.

How we source info.

When we present you with stats, data, opinion or a consensus, we’ll tell you where this came from. And we’ll only present data as clinically reliable if it’s come from a reputable source, such as a state or government-funded health body, a peer-reviewed medical journal, or a recognised analytics or data body. Read more in our editorial policy.

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