Smoking

Alcohol
Alcohol
This feature is part of CNN Parallels, an interactive series exploring ways you can improve your health by making small changes to your daily habits.
A lot of us drink. Too many of us drink a lot. Worldwide, each person 15 years and older consumes 13.5 grams of pure alcohol per day, according to the World Health Organization. Considering that nearly half of the world doesn’t drink at all, that leaves the other half drinking up their share.
While the majority of the world drinks liquor, Americans prefer beer. The Beverage Marketing Corp. tracks these things: In 2017, Americans guzzled about 27 gallons of beer (or 216 pints), 2.6 gallons of wine and 2.2 gallons of spirits per drinking-age adult. But Americans are lightweights in any worldwide drinking game, based on numbers from the World Health Organization. The Eastern European countries of Lithuania, Belarus, Czechia (the Czech Republic), Croatia and Bulgaria drink us under the table.
In fact, measuring liters drunk by anyone over 15, the US ranks 36th in the category of most sloshed nation; Austria comes in sixth; France is ninth (more wine) and Ireland 15th (yes, they drink more beer), while the UK ranks 18th.
Who drinks the least in the world? The Arab nations of the Middle East.
With all this boozing going on, just what damage does alcohol do to your health? Let’s explore what science says are the downsides of having a tipple or two.
Counting calories
Even if you aren’t watching your waistline, you might be shocked at the number of empty calories you can easily consume during happy hour.
Calories are typically defined by a “standard” drink. In the US, that’s about 0.6 fluid ounces or 14 grams of pure alcohol, which differs depending on the type of adult beverage you consume.
For example, a standard drink of beer is one 12-ounce can (355 milliliters). For malt liquor, it’s 8 to 9 fluid ounces (251 milliliters). A standard drink of red or white wine is about 5 fluid ounces (148 milliliters).
What’s considered a standard drink continues to go down as the alcohol content goes up. But what if that changes? Let’s use beer as an example.
It used to be that light beer came in around 100 calories while regular beer averaged 153 calories per 12-fluid ounce can or bottle — that’s the same as two or three Oreo cookies.
But beer calories depend on both alcohol content and carbohydrate level. So if you’re a fan of today’s popular craft beers, which often have extra carbs and higher alcohol content, you could easily face a calorie land mine in every can. Let’s say you chose a highly ranked IPA, such as Sierra Nevada Bigfoot (9.6% alcohol) or Narwhal (10.2% alcohol), and you’ve downed a whopping 318 to 344 calories, about as much as a McDonald’s cheeseburger. Did you drink just one?
If you pour correctly, white wine is about 120 calories per 5 fluid ounces, and red is 125. If you fill your glass to the brim, that might easily double.
Liquor? Gin, rum, vodka, tequila and whiskey cost you 97 calories per 1.5 fluid ounces, but that’s without mixers. An average margarita will cost you 168 calories while a pina colada weighs in at a whopping 490 calories, about the same as a McDonald’s Quarter Pounder.
A 2013 study in the US found that calorie intake went up on drinking days compared with non-drinking days, mostly due to alcohol: Men took in 433 extra calories, while women added 299 calories.
But alcohol can also affect our self-control, which can lead to overeating. A 1999 study found that people ate more when they had an aperitif before dinner than if they abstained.
Take heart. If you’re a light to moderate drinker, meaning you stick to US guidelines of one “standard” drink a day for women and two for men, studies have shown that you aren’t guaranteed to gain weight over time — especially if you live an overall healthy lifestyle.
For example, a 2002 study of almost 25,000 Finnish men and women over five-year intervals found that moderate alcohol consumption, combined with a physically active lifestyle, no smoking and healthy food choices, “maximizes the chances of having a normal weight.”
However, it appears that heavy drinking and binge drinking could be linked to obesity. And that’s a problem. The numbers of binge drinkers — defined as five or more drinks for men and four or more drinks for women within a couple of hours at least once a month — has been rising in the United States.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says one in six adults binge about four times a month, downing about eight drinks in each binge.
In the UK, where binge drinking is defined as “drinking lots of alcohol in a short space of time or drinking to get drunk,” a 2016 national survey found 2.5 million people admitted to binge drinking in the last week.
Alcohol, of course, has no nutritional value and contains 7 calories per gram — more than protein and even carbs, which both have 4 calories. Fat has 9 calories per gram.
All those empty alcohol calories have to end up somewhere.
Heart disease and cancer
The prevailing wisdom for years has been that drinking in moderation — again, that’s one “standard” drink a day for women and two for men — is linked to a lower risk of cardiovascular disease. But recent studies are casting doubt on that long-held lore. Science now says it depends on your age and drinking habits.
A 2017 study of nearly 2 million Brits with no cardiovascular risk found that there was still a modest benefit in moderate drinking, especially for women over 55 who drank five drinks a week. Why that age? Alcohol can alter cholesterol and clotting in the blood in positive ways, experts say, and that’s about the age when heart problems begin to occur.
For everyone else, the small protective effect on the heart was evident only if the drinks were spaced out during the week. Consuming heavily in one session, or binge drinking, has been linked to heart attacks — or what the English call “holiday heart.”
Also, a 2018 study found that drinking more than 100 grams of alcohol per week — equal to roughly seven standard drinks in the United States or five to six glasses of wine in the UK — increases your risk of death from all causes and in turn lowers your life expectancy. Links were found with different forms of cardiovascular disease, with people who drank more than 100 grams per week having a higher risk of stroke, heart failure, fatal hypertensive disease and fatal aortic aneurysm, where an artery or vein swells up and could burst.
In contrast, the 2018 study found that higher levels of alcohol were also linked to a lower risk of heart attack, or myocardial infarction.
Overall, however, the latest thinking is that any heart benefit may be outweighed by other health risks, such as high blood pressure, pancreatitis, certain cancers and liver damage.
Women who drink are at a higher risk for breast cancer; alcohol contributes about 6% of the overall risk, possibly because it raises certain dangerous hormones in the blood. Drinking can also increase the chance you might develop bowel, liver, mouth and oral cancers.
One potential reason: Alcohol weakens our immune systems, making us more susceptible to inflammation, a driving force behind cancer, as well as infections and the integrity of the microbiome in our digestive tract. That’s true not only for chronic drinkers but for those who binge, as well.
Diabetes
The connection between alcohol and diabetes is complicated. Studies show that drinking moderately over three or four days a week may actually lower the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. However, drinking heavily increases the risk. Too much alcohol inflames the pancreas, which is responsible for secreting insulin to regulate your body’s blood sugars.
If you have diabetes, alcohol may interact with various medications. If you take insulin or any pills that stimulate the release of insulin, alcohol can lead to hypoglycemia, a dangerously low blood sugar level, because alcohol stimulates the release of insulin as well. That’s why experts recommend never drinking on an empty stomach. Instead, drink with a meal or at least some carbs.
And, of course, because alcohol is made by fermenting sugar and starch, it’s full of empty calories, which contributes to obesity and type 2 diabetes.
Mood and memory
Because alcohol is a depressant, drinking can drown your mood. It may not seem that way while you “party” your inhibitions away, but that’s just the drink depressing the part of the brain we use to control our actions. The more you drink, say experts, the more your negative emotions, such as anxiety, anger and depression, can take over.
That’s why binge drinking or drinking a lot in one sitting is associated with higher levels of depression, self-harm, suicide and violent offending.
Binge drinking is also associated with severe “blackouts”: the inability to remember what happened while drunk. Blackouts can range from small memory blips, such as forgetting a name, to more serious incidents, such as forgetting an entire evening.
Alcohol does this by decreasing the electrical activity of the neurons in your hippocampus, the part of the brain responsible for the formation of short-term memories. Keep up that binge drinking, and you can permanently damage the hippocampus and develop sustained memory or cognitive problems.
Adolescents are most susceptible to alcohol’s memory disruption but less sensitive to the intoxicating effects. That means they can easily drink more to feel as “drunk” as an adult would, causing even more damage to their brains.
How you look
Last but certainly not least, alcohol can have a significant effect on your good looks. First, it dehydrates you. That can leave your skin looking parched and wrinkled. It’s also linked to rosacea, a skin condition causing redness, pimples and swelling on your face.
Do you know you can stink while you’re drinking? During the time your liver is processing a single drink, which is on average an hour but varies for everyone, some of it leaves your body via your breath, urine and sweat.
Another reason drinking can affect your looks has to do with sleep. Although even a little bit of alcohol can help you fall asleep quickly, as the alcohol is metabolized and leaves the body you may suffer the “rebound effect.” Instead of staying asleep, the body enters lighter sleep and wakefulness, which appears to get worse the more one drinks.
A lack of sleep leads to dark circles, puffy eyes and stress. Keep it up, studies say, and you’re likely to see more signs of aging and a much lower satisfaction with your appearance.
So the next time you head to the pub for tipple or two, remember: You could be paying a price for all that fun.
By Sandee LaMotte | CNN
CNN’s Mark Lieber contributed to this report.

Most people don’t give blood circulation much thought. Even when they have common symptoms of poor blood circulation like numbness in the legs and hands, cold hands and feet, fatigue and swollen feet or fingers.

Ignoring these symptoms can lead to more serious problems like cardiovascular disease and stroke. Luckily, there are things you can start doing today to improve circulation. But making these changes may not help much if you don’t avoid habits that cause poor blood circulation. These habits include Heavy alcohol drinking, tobacco smoking, poor diet, inactivity, high caffeine intake.

Get a good massage

Massage creates pressure which forces blood in congested areas to flow. This pressure also allows easy flow of new blood to different body parts. Get a good massage several times a week if you experience the symptoms of poor blood circulation I mentioned above.

Add herbs into your diet

Some herbs are good for blood circulation. They strengthen the blood vessels and help unclog the arteries.

Research shows that gingko biloba and cayenne pepper improve circulation. Cayenne pepper strengthens the blood vessels and stimulates the heart while gingko Biloba improves blood flow which consequently improves memory.

Other helpful herbs include garlic, ginger, bilberry and parsley.

Keep your legs elevated

It’s hard for blood to flow from the feet to the heart since it has to flow uphill. In fact, this is the main reason poor blood circulation largely affects the legs. Elevating your legs will make it easier for blood to flow. Lift the legs above heart level and keep them elevated for 20 minutes.

Exercise every day

There’s a lot of research showing that exercise improves blood circulation. Even simple exercises like walking, climbing stairs can help. You may want to start with low intensity exercises if you’re out of shape and then increase intensity as you get fitter.

Reduce salt intake

Research shows that high salt intake can cause poor blood circulation. This is alarming because most people consume an average of 3.4 grammes of salt a day. That’s higher than the recommended 2.3 grammes per day.

Avoiding canned food and reading food labels can help reduce sodium in your diet.

Don’t wear tight clothes for long

Those skinny jeans can cut off blood circulation to the legs, research shows. In fact, one woman had to be hospitalised for four days because of squatting while wearing skinny jeans. On the other hand, clothes like the compression socks are said to improve blood circulation in the legs.

Drink more water

I don’t think you need any convincing that water is good for your health. Aim for two litres of water a day.

Here are tips that can help you drink more water.

Add nuts into your diet

Nuts contain vitamins and minerals that can improve blood circulation. According to this study, raw almonds and walnuts boost blood circulation. Nuts are also a great source of healthy fats. But eat them in moderation if you want to lose weight.

Healthy food means to eat clean and organic while keeping you away from the chemical and sugar rich foods. However, without even realizing their presence, our diet includes a major portion of artificial food content and high calories that claims to be significantly low. Such foods forms acids in the body and they are required to be eliminated as soon as possible. The foods creating inflammation disturb the hormonal balance in the body, congest the liver, and higher the blood sugar levels, as result, it nullify the efforts of restoring the good health.

Foods You Should Avoid While Losing Weight:-

Low Fat Ice Creams

Even when your ice creams are low on calories and loaded with the fruits, there are still lots of sugar content and harmful trans fat hidden inside the cup that makes you gain weight. Moreover, the artificial colours and flavours are nothing to do with your than worsening the situations. Instead, make your own ice cream at home with the natural fruit flavours less of harsh chemicals.

Thin Crust Veggies Loaded Pizza

People used to think that not all pizzas are bad for your health, however, even the thin crust slices are loaded with cheese that contains saturated fats and processed so heavily to make you gain those extra pounds easily. Go for homemade whole wheat crust, healthy sauce, superfoods pizza along with the right cheeses.

Zero Calories Drinks

All that fizz drinks claiming zero calories in the cans are the way to distract you from eating healthy. It is extremely acidic, hence; it takes more than 30 cups of water to neutralize the acidity of a single can. Such residues are hard on the body and make an evil impact on your kidneys.

French Fries

The trans fat and acrylamide present in the food cause inflammation in your body. It is also a greater cause of many other serious problems in the body including heart diseases, weight gain, cancer, etc. Try out finding how to cook them to maximize the nutrients and eliminate the formation of acrylamide.

Potato Chips

When the white potatoes are deeply fried it produces the highest level of toxic acrylamide which is the main reason of accumulation of the fat. As they are loaded with the healthy herbs, it doesn’t mean it will save some calories for you. Instead, try indulging in the crispy sweet potato chips and you will not miss the original chips for sure.

A Professor of Clinical Pharmacy, Department of Clinical Pharmacy and Pharmacy Management, University of Nigeria, Okonta Matthew, talks about hepatitis B and ways to avoid it.

What is hepatitis B?

The liver is a vital organ in the body; it is responsible for the biotransformation of nutrients and chemical substances like drugs and alcohol into acceptable forms the body can utilise or excrete as wastes. The liver can be affected or inflamed by any of these chemical substances, viruses or both at anytime to cause this vital organ to be unable to properly carry out its biotransformation role.

When the liver becomes inflamed, the person is said to suffer hepatitis. Hepatitis B refers to an inflammatory disease of the liver caused by hepatitis-B virus.

Anybody could be at risk of hepatitis B; adult or children. In highly endemic area like Nigeria, risk of hepatitis B infection is increased by somebody having unprotected sex with multiple sex partners such as commercial sex workers, having sex with known hepatitis B infected person(s); scarification with unsterilised sharp blades, needles and knives, such as tattooing, circumcision and piercings of the skin; sharing of blades used for hair cutting, injection needles used by drug addicts, in some health facilities especially the ones operated by quacks; having sexual relationship with men, and people that indulge in oral sex; and somebody receiving blood transfusion especially from an infected source.

The age at which a person is infected with hepatitis B influences the extent to which the disease can become chronic.  Infants who are infected with hepatitis B have higher tendencies of developing the chronic form of the disease than children. Less than five percent of normal adolescents and adults infected with hepatitis B develop the chronic infection.

Are there different types of hepatitis B?

Yes, hepatitis B infection is of two different types -the acute hepatitis B and chronic or long-lived type. Acute hepatitis B symptoms can last for a few days to six months and most of these symptoms are mild. In most people with acute hepatitis, symptoms resolve over weeks to months and they are cured of the infection. Chronic hepatitis B is more severe than the acute hepatitis form. Chronic inflammation of the liver can lead to scarring of liver tissue, liver failure, and liver cancer. Chronic hepatitis B is not curable, but it is treatable. The goal of therapy is to reduce the risk of complications, including premature death.

What are the symptoms of hepatitis B?

Most people that suffer from hepatitis B infection do not know that they have such infection until the symptoms begin to manifest or through general screening during recruitment exercise, before blood donation, or any other circumstances. Before some of the symptoms of the infection are manifested, the liver may have been damaged. This is why it is called silent killer. If somebody is with/without symptoms, such a person can be screened for hepatitis B surface antigen (a protein on the surface of the hepatitis B virus). A positive test means the person has an acute or chronic hepatitis B virus infection and can pass the virus to others; hence such a person needs to be treated. Some common symptoms of hepatitis B are abdominal pain, dark urine, clay-coloured bowel movements, joint pain and jaundice (yellow colour of the skin or the eyes) among others.

Any positively tested person requires the attention of gastroenterologist or an appropriately trained physician to further evaluate and treat them properly.

How is hepatitis B diagnosed? 

Based on patient’s presentation, the difference between hepatitis B and other viral hepatitis may not be too obvious. It is essential that laboratory confirmation is done to differentiate between acute and chronic infections.

It can be diagnosed by detection of hepatitis B surface antigen in the blood sample of the person. The laboratory diagnosis can also be used to differentiate the hepatitis B infection types into acute and chronic infection.

How is it treated?

The treatment of hepatitis B is complex, life-long and expensive once diagnosed. Treatment is based on the type of hepatitis B.

Patient needs to be properly counselled before and during the treatment especially when it is the chronic type. Patients must be fully informed of the possibility of passing on the infection to their loved ones if there is any failure in treatment compliance.

Chronic hepatitis B infection can be treated with anti-viral agents to slow down the disease progression to cirrhosis and reduction of liver cancer incidence and improve patient survival.

The drugs that are needed to manage the disease must be prescribed, administered and monitored by a gastroenterologist or any other trained and certified healthcare professional. A patient with acute hepatitis B infection, most times, requires no specific treatment. The patient must be kept in a comfortable state, reduce liver load such as proteinous meal, maintaining adequate nutritional balance and fluid replacement to cover for fluid lost from vomiting and diarrhoea.

Can hepatitis B be cured?

No, but it is treatable. Until this moment, no drug in use has been able to cure patients of hepatitis B but it can be managed. Available medications have only been able to slow down the progression of liver cirrhosis due to chronic hepatitis B infection.

Can one be vaccinated for hepatitis B? 

Yes. It is the major way of preventing hepatitis B infection for a normal or uninfected person that has been proven through negative HBsAg from blood sample screening.   If you are at increased risk for hepatitis B virus infection vaccination is very necessary especially if you belong to any of the categories below: if you are a sex partners of hepatitis B surface antigen -positive persons; if you are sexually active and have had multiple sex partners in the last six months; if you have sexual intercourse with men (gay relationship); if you inject drug and share devices with other users; if you are from susceptible household contacts of HBsAg-positive persons; and if you are a health care and public safety workers at risk of  exposure to blood or blood-contaminated body fluids.

Can hepatitis B cause liver cancer? 

Yes, people with hepatitis B have an increased risk of liver cancer. And these people with hepatitis B are at risk of liver cancer even if they do not have cirrhosis. The most common primary liver cancer in adults is hepatocellular carcinoma called hepatoma. It is caused majorly by hepatitis B worldwide. The common risk factors are chronic hepatitis B infection. Cirrhosis is linked to more than 80 percent of all HCC.

How common is hepatitis B in Nigeria?

Nigeria is an area of high endemicity for HBV with over 70 percent of the population showing evidence of past infection of the virus while average of 13.7 percent still has serological evidence of current infection. Since the current population of Nigeria is about 170 million according to the 2006 national census, the level of current infection is estimated to be 23 million in Nigeria according to current Nigerian treatment guidelines. The ratio of HBV infection in Nigeria is estimated at one in every eight persons. The prevalence of the disease is estimated at three times more than HIV/AIDS according to specialists.

If this disease spread must be arrested and reversed, the following steps may need to be adopted: awareness of the fatality of this HBV infection must be created among Nigerians with every available opportunity, in all institutions, service delivery and gathering points of all sorts; every Nigerian must be encouraged to be screened for HBV at any given opportunity free of charge; all recruitment points must include opportunities to screen for HBV and be willing to do the needful by not discriminating against people who are found to be positive. The government must be able to put up structures such as policies and health facilities to help control and prevent this disease. Thus, vaccine for the immunisation of those infected with HBV albi initio.

Can hepatitis B cause cirrhosis of the liver?

Yes, chronic hepatitis B virus is one of the major causes of liver cirrhosis. It was estimated that more than 200,000 chronic HBV carriers worldwide die of liver cirrhosis annually. Chronic hepatitis B infection contributes to the scarring of the liver tissue and distortion of the liver structure with the associated blood circulatory system leading to liver cirrhosis. These changes develop over time.

Is it true that one can develop cirrhosis even if one doesn’t take alcohol?

Yes, liver cirrhosis is majorly caused by chronic hepatitis B infection, and a greater percentage of hepatitis is caused by viral agents. The majority of the cirrhosis patients that are seen in the hospitals do not consume alcohol yet are cirrhotic. But most of them have HBsAg present in their blood samples, an indication that they have hepatitis B virus infection.

Cirrhosis can also be caused by excessive amount of fat in the liver. Two other common types of liver disease include non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and non-alcoholic steatohepatitis. These are conditions in which the liver contains excessive amounts of fat. People who have non-alcoholic steatohepatitis have excessive amounts of fat in their livers and also have inflammation and scarring of liver tissue. Risk factors of these conditions include: obesity, high blood cholesterol levels, high triglyceride (blood fat) levels and diabetes

Even if excessive alcohol consumption can cause liver cirrhosis, this liver disease can also be developed in non-consumer of alcohol.

It’s funny that “the one organ in our brain that thinks is often the one we think less about”. The brain is the most important organ in our body and it’s time we pay more attention to its health and welfare. Here are 8 habits that harm your brain.

Not Sleeping Well

Lack of proper sleep is a bad habit that can significantly hurt your brain. It negatively affects the hippocampus causing a deficit that leads to forgetfulness.

Having Too Much Time to Yourself

Alone time can be great for thinking, reflection and mapping out your dreams and goals. However, when the solitude is too much it can damage the mind and body. It can typically cause brain decline, affect the quality and efficiency of sleep making it less restorative, erode arteries, create high blood pressure, undermine learning and memory and generally take a toll on health; although, most of these effects are gradual and experienced over the course of time.

Eating Too Much Junk Food

Regardless of the fact that you are the kind of person that can eat whatever you like and remain in shape, it is important not be excessive in your intake of junk foods. This is because parts of the brain linked to learning, memory and mental health are smaller and less developed in people who excessively consume junk foods. Natural foods like berries, whole grains, nuts, green leafy vegetables preserve the brain function and slow mental decline.

You Play Loud Music with Earphones or Headphones

Placing the volume of your earphone or headphone at full volume can permanently damage your hearing. It can also cause brain problems involving loss of memory or inability to remember things easily, and loss of brain tissue in your later years. This is most likely because the brain has to work so hard to understand what’s being said around you that it can hardly store what you’ve heard into your memory.

Immobility

The body was made to move and the longer you remain unmoving and inactive the more likely you are to suffer from diseases like diabetes, heart disease, stroke, dementia and high blood pressure which can all negatively affect the brain in the long run. You don’t have to start high-intensity workouts or start running marathons, just take a walk around your house more often or engage in an activity that gets you moving.

Smoking

At this point, it has already been established that smoking is bad for your body. Aside causing lung problems, smoking also shrinks the brain. It makes your memory worse, makes you more forgetful and leads to problems like heart disease, dementia, diabetes, stroke, high blood pressure, lung cancer etc.

Overeating

We are familiar with the saying, “too much of anything is bad”. Too much food, even of the right and healthy kind of food, can hinder the brain from building up a strong network of connections to help you think and remember. Overeating can also lead to obesity which is linked to a number of brain problems like food addiction, impulsive and disinhibited eating and in some cases cognitive problems.

Staying Indoor or In the Dark for Prolonged Periods

For the optimum health of the brain, it is important you expose yourself to natural light as often as you can. This helps to prevent depression and keep your brain working well. Staying in the dark or without natural light for prolonged periods, can slow your brain and cause a decline in the brain.

Deciding that you are now ready to quit smoking is only half the battle. Knowing where to start on your path to becoming smoke-free can help you to take the leap. We have put together some effective ways for you to stop smoking today.

Tobacco use and exposure to second-hand smoke are responsible for more than 480,000 deathseach year in the United States, according to the American Lung Association.

Most people are aware of the numerous health risks that arise from cigarette smoking and yet, “tobacco use continues to be the leading cause of preventable death and disease” in the U.S.

Quitting smoking is not a single event that happens on one day; it is a journey. By quitting, you will improve your health and the quality and duration of your life, as well as the lives of those around you.

To quit smoking, you not only need to alter your behavior and cope with the withdrawal symptoms experienced from cutting out nicotine, but you also need to find other ways to manage your moods.

With the right game plan, you can break free from nicotine addiction and kick the habit for good. Here are five ways to tackle smoking cessation.

1. Prepare for quit day

Once you have decided to stop smoking, you are ready to set a quit date. Pick a day that is not too far in the future (so that you do not change your mind), but which gives you enough time to prepare.

broken cigarette on a calendar
Choose your quit date and prepare to stop smoking altogether on that day.

There are several ways to stop smoking, but ultimately, you need to decide whether you are going to:

  • quit abruptly, or continue smoking right up until your quit date and then stop
  • quit gradually, or reduce your cigarette intake slowly until your quit date and then stop

Research that compared abrupt quitting with reducing smoking found that neither produced superior quit rates over the other, so choose the method that best suits you.

Here are some tips recommended by the American Cancer Society to help you to prepare for your quit date:

  • Tell friends, family, and co-workers about your quit date.
  • Throw away all cigarettes and ashtrays.
  • Decide whether you are going to go “cold turkey” or use nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) or other medicines.
  • If you plan to attend a stop-smoking group, sign up now.
  • Stock up on oral substitutes, such as hard candy, sugarless gum, carrot sticks, coffee stirrers, straws, and toothpicks.
  • Set up a support system, such as a family member that has successfully quit and is happy to help you.
  • Ask friends and family who smoke to not smoke around you.
  • If you have tried to quit before, think about what worked and what did not.

Daily activities – such as getting up in the morning, finishing a meal, and taking a coffee break – can often trigger your urge to smoke a cigarette. But breaking the association between the trigger and smoking is a good way to help you to fight the urge to smoke.

On your quit day:

  • Do not smoke at all.
  • Stay busy.
  • Begin use of your NRT if you have chosen to use one.
  • Attend a stop-smoking group or follow a self-help plan.
  • Drink more water and juice.
  • Drink less or no alcohol.
  • Avoid individuals who are smoking.
  • Avoid situations wherein you have a strong urge to smoke.

You will almost certainly feel the urge to smoke many times during your quit day, but it will pass. The following actions may help you to battle the urge to smoke:

  • Delay until the craving passes. The urge to smoke often comes and goes within 3 to 5 minutes.
  • Deep breathe. Breathe in slowly through your nose for a count of three and exhale through your mouth for a count of three. Visualize your lungs filling with fresh air.
  • Drink water sip by sip to beat the craving.
  • Do something else to distract yourself. Perhaps go for a walk.

Remembering the four Ds can often help you to move beyond your urge to light up.

2. Use NRTs

Going cold turkey, or quitting smoking without the help of NRT, medication, or therapy, is a popular way to give up smoking. However, only around 6 percent of these quit attempts are successful. It is easy to underestimate how powerful nicotine dependence really is.

nicotine gum in a packet
NRTs can help you to fight the withdrawal symptoms associated with quitting smoking.

NRT can reduce the cravings and withdrawal symptoms you experience that may hinder your attempt to give up smoking. NRTs are designed to wean your body off cigarettes and supply you with a controlled dose of nicotine while sparing you from exposure to other chemicals found in tobacco.

The U.S Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have approved five types of NRT:

  • skin patches
  • chewing gum
  • lozenges
  • nasal spray (prescription only)
  • inhaler (prescription only)

If you have decided to go down the NRT route, discuss your dose with a healthcare professional before you quit smoking. Remember that while you will be more likely to quit smoking using NRT, the goal is to end your addiction to nicotine altogether, and not just to quit tobacco.

Contact your healthcare professional if you experience dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting, fast or irregular heartbeat, mouth problems, or skin swelling while using these products.

3. Consider non-nicotine medications

The FDA has approved two non-nicotine-containing drugs to help smokers quit. These are bupropion (Zyban) and varenicline (Chantix).

white tablets falling from a container
Bupropion and varenicline are non-nicotine medications that may help to reduce cravings and withdrawal symptoms.

Talk to your healthcare provider if you feel that you would like to try one of these to help you to stop smoking, as you will need a prescription.

Bupropion acts on chemicals in the brain that plays a role in nicotine craving and reduces cravings and symptoms of nicotine withdrawal. Bupropion is taken in tablet form for 12 weeks, but if you have successfully quit smoking in that time, you can use it for a further 3 to 6 months to reduce the risk of smoking relapse.

Varenicline interferes with the nicotine receptors in the brain, which results in reducing the pleasure that you get from tobacco use, and decreases nicotine withdrawal symptoms. Varenicline is used for 12 weeks, but again, if you have successfully kicked the habit, then you can use the drug for another 12 weeks to reduce smoking relapse risk.

Risks involved with using these drugs include behavioural changes, depressed mood, aggression, hostility, and suicidal thoughts or actions.

4. Seek behavioural support

The emotional and physical dependence you have on smoking makes it challenging to stay away from nicotine after your quit day. To quit, you need to tackle this dependence. Trying counselling services, self-help materials, and support services can help you to get through this time. As your physical symptoms get better over time, so will your emotional ones.

group of people at support meeting
Individual counselling or support groups can improve your chances of long-term smoking cessation.

Combining medication – such as NRT, bupropion, and varenicline – with behavioural support has been demonstrated to increase the chances of long-term smoking cessation by up to 25 percent.

Behavioral support can range from written information and advice to group therapy or individual counselling in person, by phone, or online. Self-help materials likely increase quit rates compared with no support at all, but overall, individual counseling is the most effective behavioral support method.

The National Cancer Institute (NCI) provide help to anyone who wants to stop smoking through their support services:

  • LiveHelp online chat
  • Smoke-free website
  • SmokefreeTXT text messaging service
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Instagram

Support groups, such as Nicotine Anonymous (NicA), can prove useful too. Nica applies the 12-step process of Alcoholics Anonymous to tobacco addiction. You can find your nearest NicA group using their website.

5. Try alternative therapies

Some people find alternative therapies useful to help them to quit smoking, but there is currently no strong evidence that any of these will improve your chances of becoming smoke-free, and, in some cases, these methods may actually cause the person to smoke more.

Some alternative methods to help you to stop smoking might include:

man comparing e-cigarette and cigarettes
E-cigarettes have had some promising research results in helping with smoking cessation.
  • filters
  • smoking deterrents
  • electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes)
  • tobacco strips and sticks
  • nicotine drinks, lollipops, straws, and lip balms
  • hypnosis
  • acupuncture
  • magnet therapy
  • cold laser therapy
  • Herbs and supplements
  • yoga, mindfulness, and meditation

E-cigarettes

E-cigarettes are not supposed to be sold as a quit smoking aid, but many people who smoke view them as a method to give up the habit.

E-cigarettes are a hot research topic at the moment. Studies have found that e-cigarettes are less addictive than cigarettes, that the rise in e-cigarette use has been linked with a significant increase in smoking cessation, and that established smokers who use e-cigarettes daily are more likely to quit smoking than people who have not tried e-cigarettes.

The gains from using e-cigarettes may not be risk-free. Studies have suggested that e-cigarettes are potentially as harmful as tobacco cigarettes in causing DNA damage and are linked to an increase in arterial stiffness, blood pressure, and heart rate.

Quitting smoking requires planning and commitment – not luck. Decide on a personal plan to stop tobacco use and make a commitment to stick to it.

Weigh up all your options and decide whether you are going to join a quit-smoking class, call a quitline, go to a support meeting, seek online support or self-help guidance, or use NRTs or medications. A combination of two or more of these methods will improve your chances of becoming smoke-free.