With nearly a third of smokers saying they’ve increased their daily smoking since before the pandemic, we know how tough you may find quitting. But taking this step for the benefit of your present and future health could just be the best thing you’ll ever do for yourself.

New research has revealed that eight out of ten adults have been inspired to make at least one change to their health and wellbeing in 2021, in response to the fact that Covid-19 affects people with underlying health conditions generally more severely than it does people without any.

If you smoke, you generally have an increased risk of contracting respiratory infection and of more severe symptoms once infected. Coronavirus symptoms may therefore be more severe if you smoke

So, if theres a time to make a change, then there is no time like the present. Whether you are making the change for the first time or starting again, we are here to offer you support and advice.

Why quit?

Making the decision to quit smoking and getting started with that decision will make you feel good. You have taken positive action for yourself, which will have a positive impact on your wellbeing.

And then the good things just keep on coming after that.

Some of the physical health benefits of quitting smoking are pretty instant, with others following long term. Within two to twelve weeks of stopping smoking, your blood circulation will improve, which will make all physical activity (including walking) much easier. You’ll also give your immune system an instant boost, making it easier to fight off colds and flus. Plus the increase of oxygen in the body could also reduce tiredness and the likelihood of experiencing headaches. It improves your sense of smell and taste, makes skin look younger, whitens your teeth and making your breath fresher.

And quitting smoking can lead to an improved sex life, as that improved blood flow improves sensitivity, leading to men being able to get better erections and women may find their orgasms improve. Not to mention non-smokers are found to be three times more appealing to prospective partners. Non-smokers also find it easier to get pregnant and reduces the likelihood of having a miscarriage, improving your chances of giving birth to a healthy baby.

Mentally, studies show people’s stress levels are lower after they stop smoking, once you’ve got over the withdrawal from nicotine between cigarettes. And it’ll save you money, leading to less financial worries.

Not to mention, it’ll help you live longer. Half of all smokers die early from smoking-related diseases including heart disease, lung cancer and chronic bronchitis. Not only will you add years to your life, but you’ll also greatly improve your chance of living disease-free in your older years.

Your quitting journey

While giving up smoking, many smokers may slip and smoke a cigarette while trying to stop. That’s okay, it’s just a bump in the road, and should not be an excuse to give up giving up. It doesn’t mean you’ve failed, this is a marathon not a sprint. Rather than feeling like you’ve let yourself down, think instead about how far you’ve come, how proud you should feel.

It can be helpful to consider what caused you to slip. Think further about your triggers and find ways to avoid them, giving yourself alternative coping mechanisms.

Does being stressed make you light up? Seek alternative ways to deal with stress, such as going for a brisk walk. Or were you in a social setting when you had another cigarette. Involve your loved ones in your quitting journey; tell people you’re giving up so they can support you. Or did you simply do it out of habit or even without thinking? Find different ways to keep your hands busy, such as taking up a craft, cooking, or even something like a stress ball or fidget spinner.

If you’re a long-term smoker, you may experience symptoms of withdrawal, in which case you might like to explore different distractions or even see if nicotine replacement therapy is an option.

Be kind to yourself

The first few days will be hard, but take it one day at a time. You’re in this for the long haul, so success doesn’t have to be instant.

Recognise and celebrate your achievements. Gone a week without smoking for the first time in a decade? Amazing. Maybe consider rewarding yourself using the money you’ve saved, possibly on a nice takeaway or that new game you had your eye on.

Remember, you’re not in this alone. Shops and pharmacies offer different treatment options to help you overcome addiction and reduce withdrawal, and your GP may be able to advise you. Plus friends and family are all rooting for you, so involve your support network in your progress.

There are also some brilliant apps out there that can provide you with support and motivation to keep going. Digital health trends have vastly accelerated over the last year, with people seeking more digital support than ever before. You can find some recommended apps to help you quit via ORCHA.