Are you ready for Stoptober?

Stoptober logoThe 1st of October sees the start of Public Health England‘s annual Stoptober quit smoking campaign. Smokers around the country are making a joint effort to give up smoking for October, so if you try to quit you’ll be in good company!

The idea behind Stoptober is that research shows if you make it 28 days smoke-free you are 5 times more likely to quit for good[1].

Comedians Al Murray, Rhod Gilbert, Shappi Khorsandi and Bill Bailey with a Stoptober rugby ball
Al Murray, Rhod Gilbert, Shappi Khorsandi,
and Bill Bailey. Source: Public Health England

Signing up on the Stoptober website gives you lots of tools to support you while you quit. You can also follow Stoptober on Twitter and “like” the Stoptober Facebook page.

Comedians Al Murray, Rhod Gilbert, Shappi Khorsandi, and Bill Bailey will be providing some lighthearted motivation and information in videos clips through what can be a tough time for smokers. You can watch a video clip from each of them at the bottom of the main Stoptober page.

It will be illegal to smoke in a vehicle with anyone under 18 present from the 1st October[2], so there’s an extra incentive to quit. Find out more about the new rules here.

Although stopping smoking is possibly the hardest thing you’ll ever do, it’s also the single best lifestyle change you can make for your general health, both now and in the long term.

Why is it worth stopping smoking[3]?

  • You will reduce your risk of developing illness, disability or death caused by cancer, heart or lung disease.
  • Breathing becomes easier within 72 hours.
  • Improved taste and smell after 48 hours.
  • Fresh smelling clothes, house, and car.
  • A fresh tasting mouth – and reduced risk of oral cancer.
  • An extra two hours of time every day – a twenty a day smoker can spend two hours a day smoking.
  • Healthier looking skin and hair.
  • Stopping smoking is a single best thing a smoker could do to save around £2300 a year.
  • Freedom from addiction!

You can see more reasons to quit on the NHS Smokefree website.

It helps to think about how you use smoking and to know what to expect. Quitting smoking can cause withdrawal symptoms, such as cravings, headaches, irritability and sleep problems[4].

Using nicotine replacement therapy (NRT), such as patches, gum, inhalators and nasal sprays, makes you twice as likely to quit successfully by helping to manage these symptoms[5]. These can be bought at supermarkets and pharmacies. Pharmacies also offer one-to-one support for smoking cessation, and even if you’re just at the thinking about it (contemplative) stage of giving up smoking, they can provide you with information about NRT.

There is also prescription-only medication for stopping smoking, such as bupropion (Zyban) and varenicline (Champix). These have interactions with other medication, such as tricyclics (e.g. amitriptyline)[6], and are unsuitable in people with certain health conditions, so you will need to discuss this with your pharmacist or GP. You can read more about all of these smoking cessation aids on the NHS Smokefree website.

E-cigs have become very popular. Public Health England published a report in August evaluating the use and safety of e-cigs, which concluded that using them is 95% less harmful to health than normal cigarettes[7]. The Royal Pharmaceutical Society (the professional body for pharmacists) remains concerned about their unknown long-term effects and that they’re currently unlicensed products with no safety, quality or efficacy checks in their manufacture[8]. It would like to see them licensed to bring them in line with other NRT before they can be supplied by pharmacies and the NHS. You can find out more about e-cigarettes on the NHS Smokefree website.

Nicotine is a central nervous system stimulant and as such, is a cognitive enhancer[9], so it wouldn’t be surprising if smokers with M.E. or CFS have been inadvertently using nicotine to battle through fatigue and to help with memory and learning. I have recently given up smoking and I’m still using NRT. I’ve noticed a stronger urge to use it when I’m cognitively flagging in energy, which is a bad habit of mine. Just to be absolutely clear, I’m in no way advocating smoking or nicotine use as symptom management but it might be something to bear in mind if you’re giving up.

Nicotine also stimulates the autonomic nervous system[9], which has shown to be affected in people with M.E.[10] so you may notice some changes in the symptoms relating to the autonomic nervous system when you quit nicotine. Again, this isn’t a reason not to stop smoking but is to help you be prepared so that you can manage any changes in your symptoms.

There are a number of websites with articles claiming that smoking worsens M.E. and CFS by assuming that smoke and the chemicals in tobacco smoke exacerbate the conditions. Research has shown that there is no relationship between lifestyle factors, such as smoking, and severity of functional impairment and fatigue in CFS patients[11], however, stopping smoking can only ever be a good thing.

Smoking can affect the way your body processes some types of medication, so your dose may need adjusting when you quit. Amongst the medications affected are some of the migraine medications (names ending with triptan), some antipsychotics, theophylline and warfarin[6]. If you’re in any doubt, ask your pharmacist or GP about this.

Even if you’re not ready to give up smoking just yet, Stoptober can provide you with lots of helpful information and motivation to help you think about stopping. Even if you just use it this way, you’re already well on the road to quitting and perhaps you could set yourself a quit date.

It would be great to hear if you’ve given up smoking and what you found helped you in the comments below. Bear in mind we’re all different, with both smoking and M.E. Even if you’ve never smoked, why not leave a message of support?

If you’re joining in with Stoptober, very best wishes from this former smoker – I know how hard it is! It’s taken me 5 attempts to quit successfully and I’m still using NRT now. Keep coming back during October to read some motivational comments if you’re lapsing and need some encouragement. Good luck!

Stoptober is a public health campaign run by Public Health England. Find out more about stop smoking activity and support in WalesScotland and Northern Ireland. There are also additional resources on NHS Choices.

1 West R, Stapleton J. Clinical and public health significance of treatments to aid smoking cessation. European Respiratory Review 2008;17:199-204. doi:10.1183/09059180.00011005. (accessed 24 Sep 2015).
2 Department of Health. New rules about tobacco, e-cigarettes and smoking: 1 October 2015. 2015. (accessed 24 Sep 2015).
3 Royal Pharmaceutical Society. No Smoking Day 2015. (accessed 24 Sep 2015).
4 NHS Smokefree. NHS stop smoking medicines. 2015. (accessed 24 Sep 2015).
5 Walker R, Whittlesea C. Clinical pharmacy and therapeutics. 4th ed. Edinburgh: : Churchill Livingstone 2007.395-7.
6 Pharmaceutical Journal. Drug interactions that may be important during smoking cessation attempts. 2008. (accessed 24 Sep 2015).
7 E-cigarettes: an evidence update. 1st ed. Public Health England 2015. (accessed 24 Sep 2015).
8 Royal Pharmaceutical Society. RPS responds to Public Health England’s published review of e-cigarettes | Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS). 2015. (accessed 24 Sep 2015).
9 Rang H, Dale M, Ritter J et al. Rang and Dale’s pharmacology. 6th ed. Edinburgh ; Philadelphia: : Churchill Livingstone 2007.502,624-5.
10 Newton J, Okonkwo O, Sutcliffe K et al. Symptoms of autonomic dysfunction in chronic fatigue syndrome. QJM 2007;100:519-526. doi:10.1093/qjmed/hcm057. (accessed 24 Sep 2015).
11 Goedendorp M, Knoop H, Schippers G et al. The lifestyle of patients with chronic fatigue syndrome and the effect on fatigue and functional impairments. Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics 2009;22:226-231. doi:10.1111/j.1365-277x.2008.00933.x. (accessed 24 Sep 2015).

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