Do you have a question about smoking or quitting?
Here are the answers to the most commonly asked questions. Just select a topic.
- Preparing to quit (9)
- Health issues related to smoking and second-hand smoke (7)
- Smoking and stress (1)
- Nicotine Replacement Products and other stop smoking medicines (8)
- Smoking and pregnancy (6)
- Other types of tobacco (2)
Preparing to quit
It's never too late to quit. Stopping at any age will increase your life expectancy, provided that you stop before you develop cancer or another serious disease. Within the first 24 hours of stopping, your blood pressure and lungs will be showing improvement.
- After three months your circulation and breathing should have improved noticeably.
- After five years, your risk of having a heart attack falls to about half that of a smoker.
- After 10 years, your risk of lung cancer falls to about half that of a smoker.
When you quit smoking, your appetite and sense of taste can improve and you may be tempted to snack more often.
Remember that any weight gain need only be temporary and once you've stopped smoking you'll have more energy and you'll find it easier to be active. Make sure you have plenty of healthy snacks such as fruit or nuts in the house and hide the crisps!
You can also check out Change4Life for lots of free information and advice on healthy eating and activities for you and your family.
Smokefree has lots of free support to help you stop for good. Just sign up to get started.
The key to stopping for good is to be prepared and to make a plan that works for you. It always helps to think about how quitting will improve your health and lifestyle. Hopefully you'll agree that the benefits of quitting smoking - better health for you and your family, and the money you'll save - more than outweigh the challenges of the first few days ahead.
Write down your top three reasons for quitting and put them in a place where you will see them every day - say, on your fridge or in your wallet.
Choose a date to quit and commit to it. The day you quit you'll change your life for the better.
Think about how you'll deal with tempting situations and what you'll say if a friend, relative or work colleague invites you to have a cigarette. You could say: "No thanks, I don't smoke," or: "Haven't you heard, I've stopped smoking!"
You can also speak to your doctor, pharmacy team or local NHS Stop Smoking Service about stop smoking medicines to help you deal with nicotine cravings.
Thousands of people just like you have quit with our help. Read their stories. Remember, you CAN do it and we're here for you whenever you need a bit of extra support.
Smokefree has lots of free support to help you stop for good. Choose from our smartphone app, email programme or text messages that will keep you focused wherever you are. Sign up today to get started. You can also speak to your doctor, pharmacy team or local Stop Smoking Service for expert advice on stop smoking medicines.
Don't forget that Smokefree is on Facebook with lots of hints, tips and messages of support from other people who are trying to quit just like you.
From the moment you stop smoking, your body starts its recovery process. During this time you may find that you experience some nicotine withdrawal and recovery symptoms. You may notice that you still have the urge to smoke or feel a little restless, irritable, frustrated or tired. Some people also find that they have difficulty sleeping or concentrating. These symptoms will pass and there are plenty of things you can do to manage them in the meantime.
Read our guide to managing your cravings and how to improve your chances of quitting with stop smoking medicines.
Try and stay focused on the benefits of stopping smoking, such as the amount of money you will save, the absence of cigarette smells on your clothing and the improvements to your health. You can see how your body is repairing itself by using our health timeline. Focusing on the positives will help you to stay stopped while the withdrawal and recovery symptoms pass. Why not join the Smokefree Facebook page for hints, tips and messages of support from other people who are quitting? Make sure you share your own tips too.
Our guide to stop smoking medicines has more information, but medicines such as Champix (varenicline), Zyban (bupropion) or nicotine replacement therapies (NRT) such as patches, lozenges or gum, can really help you manage your cravings. All of these are available from the NHS with a prescription, and NRT can be bought from pharmacies and other shops (such as supermarkets) without a prescription.
All are effective treatments to help you stop smoking but, as everyone has their own way of coping with cravings, you may wish to seek advice from your doctor, pharmacy team or local NHS Stop Smoking Service to help you decide which is right for you. Read our guide to stop smoking medicines.
Here are our top five distractions:
- Talk to someone - call a friend or relative to get some support.
- Go for a brisk walk - this will help clear your head and lungs.
- Stay busy - download the Smokefree app or play a game on your mobile phone.
- Drink a glass of water or juice - keep yourself occupied for those crucial few minutes.
- Change the scene - just moving to another room can help, or step outside and get some fresh air.
Visit our Facebook page for more hints and tips from people who are trying to quit.
Don't worry if you lapse. You haven't failed. Just stick with it and get yourself back on track.
If you do have a cigarette, stop again immediately. Throw away the rest of the packet and go for a walk, drink some water and take a deep breath. Ask yourself if you really want to be a smoker again. You CAN do it.
If you've tried before and it didn't work out don't worry. You haven't failed!
Next time you quit, spend a little longer planning and think about what really worked for you last time and what made you lapse. Think about how you are going to keep on track this time. The preparation you do at the beginning really can make all the difference.
Despite what you may think, nicotine doesn't calm you down. A common misconception is that smoking helps to reduce stress, but smoking actually increases the physical stress on the body and is far more dangerous than any stress that comes from quitting.
It is the cravings from cigarettes that make you feel stressed and anxious, so when you smoke the cigarette you feel calmer. Stopping smoking can actually reduce your stress levels and you'll feel much better and healthier once you quit. You might be feeling stressed from time to time and you might feel that smoking helps you cope, but non-smokers usually have lower stress levels than smokers.
If you want a cigarette, wait for 10 minutes and the craving will usually pass. Take some deep breaths or go for a walk to relieve the stress and distract you from those cravings. You can find more stress-busting tips here.
You can also read our guide to stop smoking medicines for more information on how to improve your chances of quitting successfully.
It's hard to persuade someone to stop smoking. They really have to decide for themselves that they want to stop. But giving them encouragement and support can really help.
Explain to the person that you are worried about their health and tell them why. You can talk to them about this website and how we can help them to find a way to quit that works for them. We offer lots of free support and it really works.
There are lots of brilliant reasons for going smokefree. Perhaps some of these might be helpful...
- The risk of having a heart attack falls to about half that of a smoker five years after quitting.
- The risk of getting cancer drops with every year of not smoking.
- You are setting a good example to your children - research shows that if you smoke, your children are three times more likely to smoke when they grow up.
- You'll have more money to spend on other things. Our cost calculator will work out how much money you could be saving by not smoking.
- You'll live longer - half of long-term smokers die early and lose about 16 years of life.
- You'll have better skin, fewer wrinkles and fresher breath.
If the person is not yet ready to quit, explain that they can use stop smoking medicines such as nicotine replacement therapy to help them cut down on their smoking. Encourage them to talk to a healthcare professional such as their doctor, pharmacy team or local Stop Smoking Service for expert advice.
Health issues related to smoking and second-hand smoke
Smoking causes many serious and fatal diseases and conditions including lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), heart disease, bronchitis and emphysema. It also causes many other cancers, respiratory diseases and strokes, and can affect fertility.
Cigarettes contain over 4,000 toxic chemicals and around 50 of these cause cancer.
Carbon monoxide is a poisonous gas in cigarette smoke. It is also found in car exhaust fumes and produced by faulty gas appliances. It takes the place of oxygen in the blood, causing your lungs to work less efficiently. This stops cells all around your body from getting the oxygen they need.
Tar is the sticky brown substance that stains your fingers and teeth. Tar causes cancer and damages your lungs. It stays inside your lungs, making tubes narrower and reducing your protection against infection.
Cigarettes contain over 4,000 toxic chemicals and around 50 of these cause cancer. The three main toxins are nicotine, carbon monoxide and tar.
Some other chemicals found in cigarettes are:
- Acetone - nail polish remover
- Ammonia - toilet cleaner
- Arsenic - rat poison
- Benzo(a)pyrene - diesel exhaust fumes
- Carbon monoxide - petrol exhaust fumes
- DDT and dieldrin - insecticides
- Formaldehyde - preservative for dead bodies
- Hydrogen cyanide - poison used in gas chambers
- Methanol - rocket fuel
- Titanium - metal used to make aeroplanes
No. If you smoke "light", "mild" or "low tar" cigarettes you are likely to inhale as much tar, nicotine and other poisons as those people who smoke regular cigarettes. The use of these misleading descriptions was banned from cigarette packaging in the EU in September 2003.
For more information about "light" and "mild" cigarettes visit www.cancerresearchuk.org.
The fact is, hand rolling tobacco is as bad for you as ordinary cigarettes and smoking it can still result in the same health risks including cancer, stroke, heart and lung disease, impotence, infertility and even amputation.
There are many reasons why people think that smoking roll-ups is better for you, but our myth-buster has the facts.
Wherever people smoke, there is second-hand smoke in the air. 80% of it is invisible, which means it is not just unpleasant - it can be a killer.
Second-hand smoke contains:
- Sidestream smoke - smoke from the tip of the cigarette
- Mainstream smoke - smoke that is breathed back out by the smoker
Read the facts on second-hand smoke here.
Breathing in second-hand smoke can damage almost every organ in the human body. It increases the risk of lung cancer by 24% and heart disease by 25%.
Second-hand smoke is very dangerous for children because their bodies are still developing. Cot death is twice as likely for babies whose mothers smoke. Children who grow up in a smoking household are much more likely to suffer from asthma, middle ear infections, coughs, colds and wheezes.
People exposed to second-hand smoke face the same dangers as smokers themselves. They breathe in the same poisonous gases and toxic chemicals, so they suffer from the same health risks.
Tobacco smoke contains thousands of toxic chemicals. These poisons get into the bodies of children who live with smokers.
Babies and children who grow up in a smoky atmosphere are:
- Twice as likely to have asthma attacks and chest infections
- More likely to need hospital care before their first birthday
- Off sick from school more often
- More likely to get coughs, colds and wheezes
Medical research also shows they have:
- Much higher risk of cot death than the children of non-smokers
- Increased risk of meningitis
- More chance of getting ear infections and glue ear, which can lead to partial deafness
Smoking and stress
A common misconception is that smoking helps to reduce stress, but smoking actually increases the physical stress on the body and is far more dangerous than any stress that comes from quitting. It is the cravings from cigarettes that make you feel stressed and anxious, so when you smoke the cigarette you feel calmer. Stopping smoking can actually reduce your stress levels and you'll feel much better and healthier once you quit. You might be feeling stressed from time to time and you might feel that smoking helps you cope, but non-smokers usually have lower stress levels than smokers.
There are a number of reasons to account for why people say they feel more relaxed after having a cigarette - the most important one is nicotine. Nicotine stimulates the release of a feel-good chemical in the brain called dopamine. Because nicotine is such a powerful drug, it can "hijack" the brain's ability to control dopamine release and lower control over how much gets released. If you smoke, you start to "need" a cigarette to control your dopamine levels. In this way, having a cigarette seems like it is helping you to relax, but the physical stress on your body is actually increasing. The good news is that after three months of being smokefree, the ability to control dopamine returns to a normal state. Read our guide to stop smoking medicines for more information on how to improve your chances of quitting successfully.
Nicotine Replacement Products and other stop smoking medicines
Nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) gives your body nicotine without the harmful effects of smoking or chewing tobacco. The idea is to gradually reduce your addiction by using a low nicotine dose to take the edge off the cravings.
Read our guide to stop smoking medicines for more information.
There are many options available in addition to nicotine patches and gum, including microtabs (small tablets), lozenges, nasal sprays and inhalators.
NRT is suitable for most people, but you should check with your doctor if you are pregnant, have a heart or circulatory condition, or if you take regular medication. It is not suitable for under-12s.
Nicotine replacement therapy is suitable for most people, but you should check with your doctor if you are pregnant, have a heart or circulatory condition, or if you take regular medication. It is not suitable for under-12s.
Most pregnant women can use NRT. It's important to talk it through with your doctor or midwife first. They can help you to weigh up the risks of continuing to smoke against the benefits of stopping using NRT. Using NRT is safer than smoking because it doesn't contain poisons like tar or carbon monoxide.
No. Damage to a smoker's health is caused by the tar, carbon monoxide and over 4,000 toxic chemicals found in cigarette smoke. NRT helps to reduce the nicotine cravings and withdrawal symptoms without these harmful poisons.
NRT is available from the NHS with a prescription. You can also buy it from pharmacies and other shops (such as supermarkets) without a prescription.
Champix (varenicline) is a tablet that helps you stop smoking by 'copying' some of the effects of nicotine from cigarettes. It reduces withdrawal symptoms, including the urge to smoke. If you suffer any side effects such as agitation, speak to your healthcare professional as soon as possible.
Zyban (bupropion) is a tablet that reduces the withdrawal symptoms that you can experience when stopping. If you are taking any other medicines, tell your healthcare professional.
Speak to your doctor, pharmacy team or stop smoking adviser to help you decide which treatment or medicine is best for you.
Your doctor, pharmacy team or local Stop Smoking Service can give you expert advice on stop smoking medicines and which products are right for you. Read our guide to stop smoking medicines here.
E-cigarettes are battery-operated devices that mimic cigarettes. They can be bought online and from newsagents, supermarkets and some pharmacies. They are not currently available on prescription.
In June 2013 the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) announced that from 2016 the government would regulate electronic cigarettes and other nicotine containing products (NCPs) as medicines. Tighter regulation will ensure that high quality, safe and effective products can be made available to help support smokers to cut down their smoking and to quit.
At present, e-cigarettes are only covered by general product safety legislation. This means they can legally be promoted and sold to children, and we cannot be sure of their ingredients or how much nicotine they contain. While negotiations continue on the European Tobacco Products Directive on the introduction of regulation across the EU, the MHRA is inviting e-cigarette producers to apply for a medicines licence under the existing framework.
The Chief Medical Officer, Professor Dame Sally Davies, acts as the UK government's principal medical adviser. She has said:
"I believe that electronic cigarettes have the potential to help smokers quit smoking, but at the moment they are not regulated, and some include additional flavourings. The variable quality and lack of data on their long-term safety is such that they cannot be recommended for use."
If you don't feel ready to stop smoking completely, your GP may suggest a method of quitting known as nicotine-assisted reduction to stop. This involves using NRT to cut down before you eventually stop smoking.
If your GP suggests this approach, you will be prescribed NRT gum or an inhalator to use between cigarettes. These forms of NRT are best for use between cigarettes because they release a short burst of nicotine rather than, say patches, which release a steady, constant supply of nicotine and could make you feel unwell if you use them while you still smoke cigarettes.
When cutting down, you should try and prolong the gaps between cigarettes for as long as you can, and steadily reduce the number of cigarettes you smoke.
By six weeks of NRT treatment, you should aim to have cut your usual cigarette consumption by half and have stopped smoking completely by six months.
Smoking and pregnancy
When you smoke, carbon monoxide gets into your bloodstream and reduces the amount of oxygen that reaches your baby.
The health risks of smoking when pregnant include:
- More complications during your pregnancy and labour
- Increased risk of miscarriage, bleeding and sickness
- Slower growth of your baby
- Increased risk of premature birth or stillbirth
There are also health risks for your baby, including:
- Lower birthweight and weakness
- Higher chance of cot death
- Damage to airways which could cause breathing problems or asthma
For more information speak to your doctor, midwife or health visitor, or you can contact the NHS Smokefree Pregnancy Helpline on 0300 123 1044, open daily 9am-8pm Monday to Friday and 11am-5pm on Saturday and Sunday.
Every cigarette you smoke is harmful, particularly if you are pregnant. Stopping at any stage will be better for you and your baby.
When you smoke, you inhale over 4,000 chemicals from the cigarette. One of these is a dangerous chemical called carbon monoxide which gets into your bloodstream and restricts the supply of oxygen that's essential for your baby's healthy growth and development. Because cigarettes restrict the oxygen supply, your baby's tiny heart has to beat harder every time you smoke.
The single most important thing you can do for your health and your baby's health is to stop now. It is never too late.
Speak to your midwife, health visitor or doctor for more information and advice. Start4Life also has lots of tips and advice for a healthy pregnancy.
If your family or friends smoke near you, you will breathe in thousands of toxic chemicals.
Your baby will be at increased risk of miscarriage, stillbirth, low birthweight and cot death. Your partner, family and friends can all help you by making sure they don't smoke when you are around. You could even ask them to quit, too.
Most pregnant women can use NRT, but it is important to talk with your doctor or midwife first. They can help you to weigh up the risks of continuing to smoke against the benefits of trying to quit smoking using NRT products. Using NRT is safer than smoking because it doesn't contain poisons like tar or carbon monoxide.
Our trained advisers understand the issues involved during pregnancy and can give you confidential advice. They can also send you a free information pack and tell you about your nearest Stop Smoking Service.
Other types of tobacco
Many South Asian families enjoy chewing tobacco in paan at home, but the fact is chewing tobacco in paan makes you five times more likely to get mouth cancer.
You don't need to spoil this tradition by stopping the ritual altogether - just try chewing paan without the tobacco in it. This is much safer and you won't be putting yourself or your family at risk.
The NHS Smoking Helpline can give you expert advice on stopping: 0800 022 4 332.
There are also nearly 200 local Stop Smoking Services offering one-to-one meetings and group discussions with trained advisers.