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Quitting can help the mind as well as the body

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HEART disease, lung disease, cancer and stroke are good reasons to stop smoking – but reducing stress is one which is much less well known.


Fresh and a respiratory doctor are encouraging smokers to think about how quitting smoking not only reduces the risks of cancer, heart disease, COPD and stroke but can also reduce anxiety, depression and stress and leave people feeling happier in the long term.


Fresh is launching again the Don't Wait campaign today (Monday March 1) in the run up to No Smoking Day on March 10.


While 2020 saw a surge in quit attempts and the highest rates of successful quitting since 2007 stress may have been resulting in some smokers smoking more and finding it hard to quit.


Ailsa Rutter OBE, Director of Fresh, said: "The last year has been difficult for everyone, leaving most of us feeling more stressed. Many smokers have quit during Covid, and the chances of successfully quitting are as high as they've ever been. On the other hand, smokers who are experiencing stress and anxiety might be smoking more"


"Thousands of smokers have quit as a result of our Don't Wait campaign which highlights the importance of running these as regular reminders to stop. Hopefully better times are around the corner and we are continuing to encourage people - make 2021 the year you quit."


Dr Ruth Sharrock, Respiratory Consultant with Gateshead Health NHS Foundation Trust,  Clinical Lead on Tobacco for the North East and North Cumbria Integrated Care System and the face of the "Don't Wait" TV campaign, said: While Covid has been a wake-up call to quit for thousands of smokers, stress and anxiety might be putting others off stopping.


"Most of my patients would prefer not to smoke, know that their families want them to stop, they can't afford to smoke, or they know it is badly affecting their health. So, when they finally find the support and help they need and liberate themselves from smoking they feel empowered, and it is a huge boost to their mental health.


"I have had patients who are amazed that once they have stopped they have realised that the feeling that smoking was relieving stress was false. Quitting allows them to break free of the vicious cycle of thinking about the next cigarette."


She added: "For smokers – the single most important thing you can do to improve your health and extend your life expectancy is to stop smoking.  We want 2021 to be more positive year where we can reflect on our health and fitness, ability to cope with infections and make some really positive changes."


Many people try to quit smoking with willpower alone, but it's much easier with the right support. Several different treatments are available from shops, pharmacies and on prescription to help you beat your addiction and reduce withdrawal symptoms:


  • Nicotine Replacement Therapy provides you with a low level of nicotine, without the tar, carbon monoxide and other poisonous chemicals present in tobacco smoke. It can help reduce withdrawal effects, such as bad moods and cravings, which may occur when you stop smoking.


  • Varenicline (brand name Champix) is a medicine that works in two ways. It reduces cravings for nicotine like NRT, but it also blocks the rewarding and reinforcing effects of smoking. Evidence suggests it's the most effective prescription medicine for helping people quit smoking.


  • Bupropion (brand name Zyban) is a medicine originally used to treat depression, but it has since been found to help people quit smoking. It's not clear exactly how it works, but it's thought to have an effect on the parts of the brain involved in addictive behaviour.


  • Vaping products allow people to inhale nicotine without most of the harmful effects of smoking, as the vapour contains no tar or carbon monoxide. Research has found that using vaping products (electronic cigarettes) can help you quit smoking, so you may want to try them rather than the medications listed above.


Using a vaping product is also now the most popular aid used by people trying to quit smoking in England. In 2020, 27.2% of people used a vaping product in a quit attempt in the previous 12 months.


Research has shown that all these methods can be effective. Importantly, evidence shows that they are most effective if used alongside support from a local specialist stop smoking service.


To get started, contact your pharmacy, GP or to find local support and free online quitting tools visit