Leicester’s Stop Smoking Service Manager, Louise Ross (pictured speaking to Leicester City Football Club’s Alan Birchenall), sat down to answer YOUR questions about smoking, the help available and what you can expect when you contact the team for assistance stopping smoking.
Questions were submitted via the Stop Smoking Leicester website and social media, with Louise providing an incredible insight into a host of subjects.
1. In brief, how does the Service work and how is it different from going to my GP for help quitting?
The Stop Smoking Service possesses expertise when it comes to stopping smoking. GPs are great at all sorts of things, but we know specifically how to help people stop smoking – and we have helped thousands of people do so.
2. Whilst your advisers have knowledge of NRT and cessation methods; have any actually been through the trauma of quitting themselves?
We certainly have. A lot of us have been smokers in the past and know how difficult it was to quit at the time – and also how difficult it still sometimes is. Once you’ve been a smoker, there’s always that temptation to light one up if somebody offers you a cigarette. Some of our advisors haven’t ever smoked, but that doesn’t mean that they can’t understand what it’s like. Most of us have struggled with something in our lives – even if that’s not necessarily smoking.
3. How soon will I notice health benefits of quitting?
The very same day you have your last cigarette is the day that your body starts to recover. You might not notice it straight away, but your pulse will start to slow down again and your blood pressure will fall to a more normal level. Your blood will also become less thick and sticky as a result of the carbon monoxide leaving your body.
In terms of things you may notice – and I’m talking from personal experience here – I noticed a real difference after three days. I stopped feeling anxious and I suddenly felt really relaxed. I was really struck by that and was told later that it was because I wasn’t always ‘stoking’ myself up with nicotine.
4. How many people have you actually helped to stop smoking in Leicester?
The Service has been going for 13 years and we’ve helped more people year upon year. In total, we’ve helped over 15,000 people quit.
5. I only smoke five-a-day; surely there’s little or no harm in that is there?
It’s perhaps better than smoking 55 a day, but it’s still causing a great deal of harm. People who smoke fewer cigarettes participate tend to do what we call compensatory smoking. When you smoke fewer cigarettes, you smoke them harder and hold the smoke in your lungs for longer, which causes damage to your body. When you smoke few cigarettes, psychologically, it makes you look forward to your next cigarette even more.
6. I’ve tried to quit in the past and failed. Am I too weak to quit?
Not at all; a lot of people have tried and will try over and over again. Most people who try to quit on their own are usually the ones who relapse to smoking again. You have to be very, very determined to stop on your own. However, unsuccessful attempts are a good rehearsal. We regard them as practice for when you do actually quit for good. During unsuccessful attempts, you learn about the times that you’ve been most tempted and will be able to acknowledge that the next time you attempt to quit.
7. I’ve tried to quit multiple times in the past and failed – what makes you think it would be any different if I used the Stop Smoking Service?
We can give people coping strategies and help them formulate a plan for themselves that will see them through. I liken it to a fire crew; when they are called out to a fire, they don’t just stand there and wonder what to do. They have a plan in mind. Most people quitting smoking don’t have a plan in mind – and we can help put that plan together and provide tips and strategies to help people get through the difficult times, alongside products that may help as well.
8. Are there any negative side-effects from quitting smoking?
In the first few days, people are likely to feel a bit tetchy, almost as if they’ve lost their best friend. They might find it difficult to concentrate and their sleep might be disturbed – but all these things are transitory; they will pass. Even if you’re pacing up and down wondering what to do with yourself in the first week, you’ll find that there are moments in the day where you don’t even think about smoking in the second week. As time progresses, those moments will become longer.
9. How dangerous is passive smoking?
People who breathe in other people’s second-hand smoke suffer from the same illnesses as people that actually smoke. Passive smoking causes respiratory problems and heart problems. The more of it (passive smoking) there is, the worse the symptoms will be.
10. I usually smoke out of a window or in a room away from my kids – am I protecting them?
You may think you’re protecting them; however, it doesn’t help as much as actually taking the smoke completely outside. Imagine if you’re in a car, for example. You may have the cigarette hanging outside of the car, but you’re still putting the cigarette to your lips and breathing out the smoke. Even after you’ve put the cigarette out, you’re still exhaling smoke as you breathe out.
11. Will my cravings ever completely go away?
For the most part, yes. However, the habit may still be there. In other words, you won’t be craving the nicotine in the same way, but something that was a lifelong habit might still creep up and mug you;, especially if it’s in an environment where a lot of other people around you are smoking or a situation where you’d have previously had a cigarette.
12. How can I reduce the temptation to smoke?
If you’re going through a quit attempt, it’s important that you go through what you’re going to say to friends who may tempt you to have a cigarette. Some people might think it’s funny to tempt somebody going through a quit attempt by offering a cigarette. You need to rehearse what you’re going to say to them. It may be that you ask them for help, you ignore them or even avoid them altogether. It’s really up to you and is dependent on your group of friends. Some groups can be supportive and others are a pain in the backside! That needs identifying and sorting out.
13. What are the first-steps I should take when I decide to quit?
Decide why you’re doing it, because that will be your strength when the going gets tough. If you’re doing it for your children, or if you don’t want to waste money on cigarettes, really focus on making that concrete. Perhaps keep a picture of your kids in your purse or wallet, so that you can say ‘this is what I’m doing it for’. If you want to stop wasting money, put that amount of money into a bank or building society every month and watch it grow.
14. What can I do to handle my cravings?
In the early days, it’s really important that you keep busy. If you just sit there thinking about how much you really want a cigarette, you will end up just taking one and smoking it, and you’ll feel disappointed for doing so. If you do have a craving, get up and do something. Go and tidy a drawer, phone a friend, do some texting or a job you’ve been putting off. A craving only lasts for a few minutes anyway, so you’ll have bought yourself some breathing space.
15. Some of my friends smoke – how can I avoid smoking when I’m around them?
Again, I think that comes down to preparation. Talk to your friends about how you really want to do this and say ‘I’m not telling you that you have to quit, but be a good friend and respect what I’m trying to do’.
16. If I do not manage to stay smoke free after I decide to quit, what should I do?
The first thing to do is consider what happened and why you lit up once again. Think about that for some time and ask yourself how you felt about smoking again. Afterwards, pick up the phone, call us again and we’ll have another go. We always welcome back people that have previously been in touch.
17. Is it best to try quit completely straight away or to reduce my intake gradually?
From all the studies, we know that a complete break from smoking is the most effective way of doing it. People who reduce to two or three a day really struggle to come off those last few. A complete break – a bit like ripping off that plaster – is the most successful way of doing it.
18. A friend of mine recommended I use an e-Cigarette to quit – do they actually work?
They really do. They don’t suit everybody, but we hear from a lot of people who have used them and they say that they worked in a way they didn’t expect. They say that it was a much easier switch than they thought it would be.
19. Aren’t e-Cigarettes just as bad as smoking? The habit and addiction is still there, surely?
We know that they are at least 95% safer than burned cigarettes – and that’s because they don’t contain the tar or the carbon monoxide that you get in smoke. They have nicotine in them, yes, but nicotine is one of the least harmful constituents of a burned cigarette.
20. I’ve seen that the Leicester Stop Smoking Service is e-Cig friendly; does that mean I can get an e-Cig through you?
We can’t provide them in normal circumstances, because they’re not a licenced medication. However, we certainly give the extra coaching to use them to quit, should you wish to buy your own. With e-Cigs, most of the time people like to choose one that suits them, because there’s such a wide range of models, flavours and strengths. It’s down to what you choose.
We have just started to run a study; if people don’t mind whether they have NRT or an e-Cig, they can enrol in this study and be allocated one or the other for six weeks. Over those six weeks, we will see people based on what they’re randomly assigned to. If anybody wishes to phone us for more information, please do.
21. I’m worried that I’ll put on weight if I stop smoking. Is it true this happens?
It is known that weight gain can occur when you stop smoking. One of the problems is that people replace their smoking with chocolates, crisps and wine – things that cause weight gain anyway, but make them feel like they’re not missing cigarettes. The less high-calorie substitutes people use, the easier it will be to not gain weight. What we also know is, through the extra energy people have through being able to breathe easier, people can do more exercise and that can prevent weight gain. What I will say is drink plenty of water. When you’re tempted to put something to your mouth, make sure it’s a water bottle instead of a cigarette or sweet.
22. I’m pregnant and I can’t stop smoking, even though I know it’s bad for my baby. Can you help?
We certainly can. We’re always pleased to help a pregnant smoker, because that’s a mum who wants to do the best for her baby. The sooner she stops smoking, the better. We’ll visit her at home and give free NRT products to help. We’ll be with her every step of the way to help her ensure her baby is as healthy as possible.
23. I recently heard about Champix, which I’ve been told is a tablet available to help you stop smoking. Is it real and does it work?
It is real and we have a lot of people who use it. People often to do really well on it. It reduces the pleasure you get from smoking a cigarette, but it also provides some of the satisfaction you get from smoking a cigarette. It’s a prescription-only medicine, but we can provide the extra support and liaise with your doctor to provide the 12-week prescription.
Call 0116 454 4000 today if you’re ready to quit smoking – and take advantage of our FREE 12-week service.