Direct Line magazine

Life gets better when you stop smoking

Updated on: 15 July 2022

a woman in a yellow top smokes a cigarette.

We all know the damage cigarettes can have on our body. But that doesn't make it any easier to stop smoking. With nicotine being such an addictive drug, it seems some smokers would rather risk their health than face giving it up.

But here's the thing. When you stop smoking, there's more to gain than give up. So, if you're trying to improve your life, here's some advice on how to stub out cigarettes for good.

Smoking statistics

How much damage is it doing?

According to the NHS, nearly 15% of UK adults were smoking in 2018, with more than 489,000 of them admitted to hospital as a result of their habit.

The year before, nearly 78,000 people died because of smoking-related causes.

16% of all deaths in the UK can be linked to smoking cigarettes. Lung cancer is the most common disease caused, but smokers are also likely to develop diseases in the:

  • Mouth
  • Pharynx (upper throat)
  • Nose
  • Larynx (voice box)
  • Oesophagus 
  • Liver
  • Pancreas
  • Stomach
  • Bladder
  • Cervix
  • Kidney

And how's this for a scary statistic. Cancer Research suggests that for every 15 cigarettes you smoke, a DNA change happens, which could cause a cell in your body to become cancerous.

Smoking around children

It's no secret that inhaling secondhand smoke is dangerous for children. Yet in 2018, 60% of youngsters aged between 11 and 15 said they'd been exposed to others smoking at home or in the car.

The NHS also found that young people are more likely to smoke if they're living with other smokers, as you can see from the statistics below:

  • Living with no smokers - 3% smoke
  • Living with one smoker - 7% smoke
  • Living with two smokers - 12% smoke
  • Living with three or more smokers - 18% smoke

It's not just older children who are being affected. Nearly 11% of mothers who gave birth in 2018/19 were smokers at the time of delivery… a long way off the current government target of just 6% by the end of 2022.

Smoking during pregnancy is known to cause premature births, miscarriages and stillbirths.

Is cutting down the answer?

Cutting back on cigarettes is definitely a good thing to do, but you may be surprised at how damaging just a single cigarette can be to your health.

In January 2018, The British Medical Journal published an analysis of 141 studies into the health risks of smoking. The conclusion was that heavy smoking (20 a day) puts you at most risk of coronary heart disease and stroke. However, just a single cigarette a day put men at a 48% higher risk of developing coronary heart disease and made them 25% more likely to have a stroke than those who'd never smoked. For women, the figures were even higher, at 57% for heart disease and 31% for stroke.

The study concluded: "No safe level of smoking exists for cardiovascular disease. Smokers should aim to quit instead of cutting down to significantly reduce their risk of these two common major disorders."

Cutting down can, however, help people in their efforts to quit eventually.

Common questions about quitting smoking

Unfortunately, stopping smoking isn't as easy as crushing the cigarettes and moving on with life. But like everything you work hard for, the rewards are worth reaping.

To help you on your way, here are some common questions people have.

Q1. Where do I start?

First of all, you've got to really want to stop smoking if you're going to be successful. Others will be there to offer help and support, but the only person who can make it happen is you.

A good starting point is a motivation. Whether it's saving money or thinking about the health of your loved ones at home, make a list of all the ways your life will be better once you stop smoking. Start with three benefits… although we're sure you'll be able to think of loads more.

It's also worth telling your GP that you want to stop smoking. They'll be able to give you some handy tips and help you with the initial withdrawal symptoms.

Q2. What are the withdrawal symptoms of stopping smoking?

It varies with each person, but there a few common symptoms smokers experience when they stop.

While your body is recovering from nicotine withdrawal, you might feel tired, irritable or frustrated. You may also find it harder to fall asleep or concentrate.

But it's important to remember this is only temporary. Once your body gets used to the lack of nicotine in your system, the cravings and negative feelings will pass.

Q3. Do I need a prescription for nicotine replacement products?

It depends. Some people believe it's better to cut out nicotine altogether, while others combat the initial withdrawals using supplemental products to provide a fix.

As for whether you'll need medical consultation for these products or not, it'll vary. Some require a prescription from a doctor, while others can be bought over the counter.

Q4. Will I gain weight when I stop smoking?

Your appetite will certainly be increased once you stop smoking, so you might find yourself snacking more often. While this could result in weight gain, you'll also find you have more energy to exercise. It's surprising how much more active you become when you quit smoking.

Q5. What if I slip and have a cigarette?

It can happen. And naturally, you might feel annoyed with yourself. But don't let it derail you completely. Instead of punishing yourself for slipping off the wagon, just dust yourself off and keep making strides to cut smoking out of your life.

Q6. My partner smokes. Will this hurt my baby if I'm pregnant?

It could do, yes. If someone around you is smoking, you'll be breathing in harmful toxins that could have a negative impact on the health of your unborn baby.

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