The benefits of smoking cessation are clear – yet millions of smokers find it virtually impossible to quit, even though blood pressure and heart rate start to return to normal only 20 minutes after a smoker’s last cigarette. What are the best long-term solutions?
There are more factors involved in smoking addiction than mere nicotine addiction and these factors make smoking cessation a complex and challenging process.
Research has shown that most committed ex-smokers stick to their resolution after they’ve managed to abstain for at least one year. The very best results – yet to be scientifically verified – indicate a maximum success rate of 50% after six months, an estimated 35% after one year, and an estimated 30% after two years.
Some of the options available that may lead to a long-term solution include the following:
- Nicotine replacement therapy (gum, inhaler or patches)
- An antidepressant such as Zyban
- A combination of the two above
- A smoke cessation programme such as Smoke-enders
- Quitting all by yourself.
Read below to help you choose the one that suits you best.
Nicotine replacement therapy (NRT)
NRT is the use of various forms of nicotine delivery methods intended to replace nicotine obtained from smoking or other tobacco usage. These products are intended for use in smoking cessation efforts to help deal with withdrawal symptoms and cravings caused by the loss of nicotine from cigarettes. Several forms of NRT have been marketed, including the nicotine patch, inhaler, nasal spray, gum, tablets and lozenges. NRT is thought to be useful and beneficial for tobacco users who want to quit their addiction and is for most people perfectly safe. Cigarettes on the other hand cause the early deaths of about 5 million people each year. These people are not killed by the nicotine in the cigarette, but by other constituents of tobacco smoke such as carbon monoxide and tars. However, it is the nicotine that keeps the smoker addicted. Cigarettes can be viewed as a “dirty” and dangerous method of delivering nicotine, while NRT is considered a “clean” and safe method.
All forms of NRT increase the success rate of a smoking cessation programme. All the different types of NRT have been shown to be effective, with little or no side-effects. It can be regarded as a temporary solution that helps smokers get past the first hurdle on their journey to long-term smoking cessation.
A tip for ex-smokers: always carry a batch of gum or another type of NRT with you while you travel. The urge to smoke could come at any time.
The antidepressant Zyban (bupropion) is the latest aid in smoking cessation. The medication seems to increase levels of dopamine and norepinephrine in the brain, leading to an enhanced feeling of pleasure.
Not only has bupropion been an effective tool in helping many smokers quit, but it seems to prevent relapse. Unfortunately, the relapse-free period did not last for everyone.
Longer-term treatment of bupropion may prevent relapse, but more research on the long-term benefits of Zyban is necessary before definite conclusions can be drawn.
Note: Zyban is only available on prescription.
Combination therapy, which involves counselling, the simultaneous administration of NRT (patches and/or gum) and/or Zyban, seems to be an effective solution for many smokers. Preliminary research results indicate a 50% six-month success rate for combination therapy.
The dosage and usage of NRT and/or Zyban vary according to the individual. The usual recommendation is to take NRT and/or Zyban for three months. If you relapse, accept it and have another go in six months’ time.
Smoke-enders’ behavioural changes
Some experts do not regard NRT alone as a long-term solution, but as a temporary replacement. This replacement method doesn’t address the core psychological factors involved in smoking addiction.
To help in this regard, Smoke-enders offers its programme in which you learn how to quit and then acquire the skills and behaviours to live as a non-smoker.
Fighting the habit on your own
Quitting all by yourself is not easy, but not impossible. The biggest reason for relapse in general is that the quitter feels anxious about being without his/her cigarettes. Other reasons include missing the pleasure of smoking, feeling pressurised by family members or friends who smoke, or feeling addicted. In tests, men who drank more than five alcoholic drinks a day were more likely to relapse, and drinking more than six cups of coffee daily also increased the risk of relapse.
Stress management techniques, like exercise, can play an important role in long-term success, regardless whether you want to stop by fighting the habit on your own or join a programme.
Our Employee Wellbeing Programme (EWP) is available 24 hours if you want to discuss the methods to stop smoking or need support in your effort to stop smoking. Call us on your EWP/EAP number or email us at
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