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Opinion Preparing for a smoke-free new year? Follow these tips for ditching tobacco

Stopping smoking is likely to give you a better quality of life, peace of mind and add years to your life.

THE FESTIVE SEASON is upon us and as Christmas approaches it can be a stressful time for everyone, particularly for smokers who are frustrated by their smoking habit and are struggling to quit. However it can be a great time to prepare for a big quit attempt when all the festivities come to an end on January 1st. Many smokers have used this time to prepare and begin the New Year smoke-free. Encouraging and supporting a family member or friend to quit smoking is the greatest gift you can give someone.

You can give them the best possible chance by being encouraging and providing practical support: help them put together a “quit kit” to include, stress ball, toothpaste, mints, sugar-free gum or anything they might use in lieu of tobacco.

Help them to get through the cravings, remind them of the 4 Ds: Delay, Distract, Drink water and Deep breathe. Starting planning all the new exciting activities and hobbies that you can do together to help distract from reminders of smoking. Be tolerant as irritability may be part of withdrawal and is a positive sign that the body is recovering from the effects of smoking. Listen to them when they talk about quitting. If a relapse occurs, praise them for trying to quit and stay positive. Most smokers will relapse a couple of times before they finally quit. Encourage them to quit again. Reinforce the “I won’t smoke, not even a puff” rule to avoid relapse and reactivation of the nicotinic receptor. Keep all reminders of smoking out of sight.

A better quality of life 

If you are a smoker and your friend is trying to quit, smoke outdoors, be aware of situations where you would usually smoke together, with a drink, after a meal, at a party. Consider using the opportunity to change your lifestyle and quitting with someone else might be helpful. Make the house a smoke-free zone. Consider ways of spending your money, plan a holiday. If you are smoking 20 a day your habit is costing you over €3,500 per year. Keep a “cash not ash” jar. Every time you purchase tobacco you may as well be putting a match to your €10 note!

Stopping smoking is likely to give you a better quality of life, peace of mind and add years to your life. Tobacco contains over 7,000 chemicals and 69 of those are carcinogenic!

One of the most traditional New Year’s resolutions is to stop smoking. Currently 19% of the Irish population smokes. Quitting smoking is a tough decision and should not be impulsive but rather a process that requires adequate preparation in order to lay down the foundation for success. Not everyone succeeds the first time so don’t lose hope! Write down the reasons for wanting to quit. Consider how you can change your routine to break the habit of smoking. Think about setting a realistic quit date.

A third of all cancers are caused by smoking and one in two will die of a tobacco related disease. Quitting is the best thing you can do for your current and future health and for your family. You will regain control of your life! Believe you can quit. Stopping smoking affords the opportunity of reviewing your lifestyle in general and even small changes over a period of time will make a huge contribution to your health.

Remember there is help available by calling the National Smoker’s Quitline on 1800 201 203, talk to your GP or other health professionals. The purpose of the HSE support programme is to enable the smoker to plan and set a quit date, to offer encouragement, motivation and information to quit and to assist the individual in dealing with cravings and withdrawal symptoms. It is a free confidential service and they can provide information on local HSE support in your area.

Medication is also available to cope with cravings. Talk to your doctor, pharmacist or smoking cessation specialist – group support may be available. The quit rate depends on what type of approach is taken but we now have evidence that the best outcomes for smokers are achieved through a combination of behavioural support and medication. Look up and for further information. Remember it is never too late to quit smoking and the benefits begin immediately! Happy Christmas and a healthier New Year.

Mary Briscoe is a Smoking Cessation Advisor for the Irish Cancer Society.

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