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Thinking of quitting smoking? Here's how to do it

If you're a smoker, chances are you've thought about quitting at least once - but if you've tried before, you'll know it isn't easy. Everybody is different: some people can give up seemingly effortlessly, others can give up for a few weeks or months at a time but end up starting again, and others find it hard to go even a few hours without a cigarette. For those ready to quit, here are some best ways to do it.

Set a date for stopping. While cutting down gradually may be a tempting option, studies suggest it doesn't work very well - it's actually better to stop completely in one go. This gives you a chance to get the withdrawal symptoms out of the way, which include headaches, nausea, anxiety and cravings. It may be difficult, but most people find the worst of it passes after the first 24 hours, and after three to four weeks your cravings should have stopped.

Stop drinking alcohol for a while. Being a bit tipsy makes your cravings much more intense, and it's easier not to give in to them if you avoid drinking for a few weeks - while this might seem like a bit of a double whammy, think of the money you'll save! When you do next have a drink, you may find your cravings come back - this is when you need to be particularly strong and resist the urge to accept any cigarettes you are offered.

Take as much help as you need. There's a huge amount of support out there to help people quit smoking. From free programmes to a big range of products like nicotine gum and mouthsprays, you have plenty of ways to help yourself through the process. Your GP will be able to recommend more useful products and techniques, and may advise an NHS Stop Smoking Clinic to help you avoid slipping back into smoking again.

Tell friends and family. If you make sure everyone knows you've quit, it gives you a good incentive not to start again - and makes sure they know to support you. If you smoke with people at work, why not encourage them to try giving up with you? Doing it together can make it easier to stick with - you could even make a charity fundraiser out of it! You might also get some useful tips and support from other people who've been through the same thing.

And finally…

Enjoy the benefits. Whenever you find yourself wanting a cigarette, focus on what you're gaining from this - more money in your pocket, no more smelly clothes, better-tasting food, less shortness of breath, and a healthier body and a longer lifespan overall. Don't see it as losing something from your life - you're taking your freedom back!



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