Written by Home Doctor Brisbane team

The health concerns you need to know when considering quitting

It is addictive, it is dangerous, and it is difficult to quit. Smoking kills more than 19,000 Australians every year, or approximately 52 people each day and yet some continue to ignore the effects it has on their health.

It might seem difficult or as if there is no point in trying, but it is never too late to quit smoking – and here is what you need to know to do so effectively.

Steps to quitting smoking

One of the hardest parts of smoking for many can be having the right plan in place to start the quitting process. There are many different approaches some may not consider, including:

  • Prepare a quit day

Once you have decided to quit smoking, plan a specific date to quit. It is important to pick a day not too far away (so you do not change your mind), yet not immediately as you will need time to prepare.
As well as this, you will need to decide whether you want to quit cold turkey once your quit date arrives, or gradually by limiting yourself to less cigarettes per day. It is also important to remember there is no preferred or proven way to quit that is better than another – simply choose a way which suits you.

  • Consider nicotine replacement therapy (NRT)

A very popular method while quitting smoking is to use NRTs. There are several available NRTS to help quit cigarettes, such as:

  • Patches
  • Chewing gum
  • Lozenges
  • Inhalers
  • Nasal sprays

These can often be helpful to people trying to quit as they can reduce cravings or withdrawals for nicotine, while slowly weaning you off cigarettes. They typically work by supplying a controlled dose of nicotine while eliminating the harmful chemicals in tobacco.

  • Write down reasons for wanting to quit
    Writing down specific reasons for why you want to quit can act as one of the biggest motivations. If you’re looking to quit quickly, having reminders on objects you see frequently (such as fridges, mirrors etc.) can work for some people as a visual reminder.Whether it be simply looking to improve your health or to set a good example for your children, having these reminders will be an added motivation.
  • Consider alternative therapies
    Although there is no medical evidence to support alternative therapies, they are becoming increasingly popular.

They include:

  • Electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes)
  • Tobacco strips or sticks
  • Hypnosis
  • Acupuncture
  • Yoga
  • Meditation

What are the health benefits of quitting?

There are many health benefits to quitting smoking that many people are unaware of – other than the obvious improved lung health and lower risk of certain cancer types.

It has recently been discovered there also might be even more benefits than experts originally believed. A study presented by researchers at the University of Alabama found it may take only eight years for an ex-smoker’s risk of heart disease to drop to the same level as a non-smoker. While additional research discovered that within as little as two days, the ability to taste and smell improves and within three days, it is easier to breathe.

According to our after-hours doctor team at the Sunshine Coast, other health benefits of quitting smoking include:

  • Better vision
  • Clearer skin
  • Improved hearing
  • Lower cholesterol.

How many Australians choose to smoke?

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) there is good news – smoking rates in Australia have dropped by close to 10 per cent since the mid-nineties.

In 2014-15, more than one in seven adults were smokers (14.5 per cent) compared to almost one in four (23.8 per cent) in 1995.

The obvious decrease refers to daily smokers, particularly younger adults between 18 and 44 years of age.

In 2001, 28.2 per cent smoked daily compared to 16.3 per cent in 2014-15. The ABS has said this is because 60 per cent of younger adults have never smoked, while 23 per cent were ex-smokers.

These statistics demonstrate while there has been improvement in the number of smokers across the nation, there is still a long way to go.

With services available including Quitline, local access programs and online, telephone or face-to-face support, there is more help than ever for smokers looking to quit.

Available support

There’s no argument that quitting is hard, which is why it is important to remember to seek support if needed. Depending on your location, there are many helplines and support services available – simply search or ask your doctor for additional information.

As well as this, there is available behavioural support such as individual counselling, phone and online support, written information or group therapy. Do not feel like you need to quit on your own, there are many support systems there to help.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Will I gain weight if I quit smoking?
    It is possible to gain more weight when you quit smoking, usually because of two factors traced to weight gain for ex-smokers.
    These include:
    You will be eating more. Now that you are not smoking, you will be looking to put something else in your mouth, and now that you can taste foods better, they will be more appealing.
    2. As nicotine increases your metabolic rate, this will decrease when you stop smoking and therefore affect weight gain.
  • Will my blood pressure lower if I quit smoking?
    In simplest terms, yes. The nicotine in cigarettes tends to raise both blood pressure and heart rate, as well as narrowing your arteries. This then makes your blood more likely to clot, which can stress your heart and lead to heart problems such as strokes.
  • Will my skin improve if I quit smoking?
    This question has often been perceived as a myth by some and fact by others, though your skin can improve when you quit smoking. This is because the blood flow improves, and your skin then receives more oxygen and nutrients. As well as this, stains on your fingers and nails will decrease and even disappear if you quit tobacco.
  • Will quitting smoking make me more tired?
    Being increasingly tired after quitting smoking is very common for people. As nicotine is delivered quickly to the brain through cigarettes, it becomes addictive and then creates withdrawal symptoms once you quit. These symptoms include tiredness and even difficulty sleeping.
  • Is quitting smoking cold turkey dangerous?
    Quitting cold turkey can have different effects on different people. Some may not notice any difference, while others can experience jittering and even anxiety. A few tips to remember if quitting cold turkey is to prepare yourself mentally for not picking up a cigarette every day, but to try and substitute this for a healthier alternative (for example, eating a snack or going for a walk). Another piece of advice is to let your family and friends know you are planning on quitting, so they can provide support if you are struggling on some days. If not fully prepared, you may go through a relapse, which can occur several days, weeks or even months after you have quit.

Useful links

As well as knowing what support is available, it is also worth being aware of the below links to help you decide the best way for you to quit smoking.

  • Quit Now – This website provides a variety of information and tools to help support you in the path to quitting smoking.
  • My Quit Buddy – An addition to the Quit Now website is My Quit Buddy, a personalised interactive app with tips, advice, motivational messages and reminders to help you on your quitting journey. As well as this, you can also add your personal goals and successes to keep track of your progress.
  • Quit Now Calculator – This website can result in a financial motivation to quitting smoking, as it determines how much money you would save if you gave up cigarettes – the results can be eye-watering.

Have you or someone you know successfully quit smoking?