Smoking is no longer cool: the benefits of quitting cigarettes

I read an amazingly inspiring article this week that said Generation Z think being vegan is cooler than smoking.  If you’ve no idea what Generation Z is then it’s those who are born in the 2000s (I didn’t know, I had to Google it, sounds like a name of another zombie movie to me!).    Being born in 1985 makes me a millennial, apparently, which I had no idea about until recently!  Anyway, I found it really inspiring that kids nowadays find healthy living and caring for the environment cool.  It’s only now I’m in my thirties that I’ve developed this passion myself and I can only wish that I had been into natural, healthy living and a plant based diet as a youngster.

Instead, unfortunately for me, smoking was cool, or so I thought.

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Photo by Duncan Shaffer

My smoking story

I remember my friend sneaking cigarettes out of her mum’s handbag and we’d run to the park and hide in some bushes smoking them!  I must have been around age 14 or 15.  I never developed a habit this young, but it was seen, for reasons unknown, as a cool thing to do.  At that young age it was mischievous and exciting as we weren’t meant to do it.  We didn’t really understand or absorb the dangers of smoking and the terrible addiction that came with it.

At age 16 I picked up this terrible habit again and for the most stupid of reasons.  I fancied a boy.  He smoked.  I wanted to impress him.  I thought he was cool and that I would appear cooler to him if I smoked.

That silly immature decision turned me into a smoker for ten years of my life.  It was only when I decided to stop the party lifestyle of my early 20s, become healthier and settle down, that I desperately wanted to quit.

Luckily for me I have strong will power and at that time I wanted to try for a baby so I had an amazing reason to quit.  I cut down the number I smoked until I was on one a day and then poof.  I quit.  I’ve never looked back.  Within days I felt lighter.  It was the most strange experience, but as though my whole upper body felt clear and not weighed down.

I stopped smelling.  I never noticed it before, but I noticed how bad my smoking colleagues smelt.  When they came in from a cigarette break the stench, even from across the room, was unbearable.  I realised how badly I must have smelt for all those years!

I stopped getting my annual winter cough that would linger for months.

I felt healthier overall and knew I had taken the first step on my path to a healthier lifestyle.  Nothing could stop me now.

That was approximately seven years ago and since then I have transformed my lifestyle.  I also stopped drinking alcohol at the same time and have since turned to a plant based wholefoods lifestyle.  I no longer eat any animal products and I don’t buy anything that contains refined sugar at home.  I go to the gym almost daily and have become ever so passionate about healthy living from what I eat to the natural beauty products I use on myself and the plant based cleaners I use in my home.  It has become a lifestyle choice to me and I cannot believe I spent ten years of my life smoking cigarettes!  It’s such a deadly and disgusting addiction!

Smoking is no longer cool the benefits of quitting cigarettes

Photo by Jaroslav Devia

How to quit smoking

There are lots of methods to quit smoking and what works for one person may not work for another.  So don’t give up if you fail at one method.  Smoking is an addiction!  It’s not just a habit, but your body craves and thinks it needs to smoke.  Many people say ‘but I like smoking’.  I now realise I never really liked it, but I was actually addicted!  Once you’ve stopped smoking for a while you realise how disgusting it is and that no one would really like it if they could fully taste every cigarette as if it were their first!

Firstly, I think you really have to want to quit smoking.  I think many people say they want to quit or try to quit without really wanting to.  They just say it because they know it’s what others want to hear or what they should be doing, but they’d rather keep smoking if they were truthful.  If this sounds like you then I’d advise you to research the dangers of smoking.  Really inform and educate yourself about how much of a higher chance of so many horrid diseases you are putting yourself at risk of.  Basically, change your mind-set.  Quit because you really want to quit.  You want to better your health and take charge of it.  It’s also so selfish to smoke.  I never realised how selfish I was being as a smoker.  Read why I think smoking is selfish here.

Here are some of the ways you can quit smoking:

Go cold turkey

For some people they are able to simply stop.  There will be some cravings and you’re going to feel on edge, but if this is the right method for you then go for it.  I admire you!

Cut down

This is the method that worked for me.  I made the decision to quit and I was going to stick to it this time.  I used to smoke around 20 cigarettes a day!  So every 1-2 days I reduced this by one cigarette until I was down to just one in the morning.  Then it was totally easy to let this final one go.  Depending on how much willpower you have and how many you smoke a day, you may need to cut down more gradually than this or you may even be able to do it more rapidly if you smoke less than I did.

Switch to vaping

Even the NHS has, surprisingly, suggested vaping as a method to quit smoking.  This is because it is so much less harmful than actual cigarettes.  Public Health England in Augsut 2015 found that e-cigarettes could be 95% less harmful than real cigarettes.  There are conflicting articles out there and more research is needed, but as an interim measure to stop you smoking for good and start ingesting less toxins then these are a great idea.  They have so many fewer chemicals than actual cigarettes.  If you’re worried they will taste bad or have strange chemicals then try a range like Reserva from which taste like cigarettes and tobacco, if you enjoy that, and use only naturally produced flavours and extracts.

The NHS says ‘E-cigarette vapour doesn’t contain tar or carbon monoxide, two of the most harmful elements in tobacco smoke. Using an e-cigarette isn’t completely risk-free, but it carries a small fraction of the risk of smoking and can help you quit.’

Try patches or gum

Nicotine Replacement Therapy is perhaps one of the most widely known methods for quitting with an aid.  As well as patches or gum, there are also sprays and lozenges.  These methods will help to stop your addiction to nicotine and hopefully stop you craving a cigarette as it replaces the nicotine which you are addicted to.  After time you will reduce this nicotine with the aim of eventually no longer being addicted.  This method should stop any cravings and withdrawal symptoms too, or lessen them, so if cutting down isn’t working for you then try NRT.

Seek professional advice

Most importantly, you don’t need to do it alone.  If you are struggling to quit or want to learn more about the different methods available to you then seek professional advice.  Go to your GP or even a local pharmacy to discover the support and advice they can offer.  Together you will be able to find the quitting method that works for you.

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Photo by Mathew MacQuarrie

Why you should quit smoking too

I never really took on board how bad smoking was for me for the ten years I smoked.  I had an immature outlook of thinking disease and illness is caused by chance.  If I was going to get cancer then I was going to get it.  I ignored the fact that my lifestyle could cause such disease and allow it to develop.  I have since lost two family members who were heavy smokers to lung cancer and oesophagus cancer.  I truly believe it was the smoking that caused their disease and gave it the environment to thrive.  There’s no denying the statistics – according to the NHS over 85% of lung cancer patients are smokers.  That’s too high a correlation to be a coincidence.

The fact I had smoked for ten years and reached this milestone was a shocker to me.  Ten years.  That figure also started encouraging me to quit.  I imagined how many cigarettes I had smoked in ten years.  Over 35000.  Probably even more like 45000 as I often smoked 2-3 packets when I went out clubbing and I was quite the party animal and regular clubber from age 18-24.  That’s a lot of cigarettes.  I imagined how they would fill an entire room.  I was disgusted at myself .

It’s never too late though and the best decision I made was to quit.

Here are five great reasons to get you started on why you should quit smoking:

  1. Look younger for longer

If you want to look younger for longer and keep your skin in the best condition possible then smoking is not going to help you.  Chemical filled cigarettes cause premature aging such as lines and wrinkles, dull skin and they also reduce the amount of vitamins that reach the skin.

  1. Less likely to get cancer

Suffocating and toxifying your cells from cigarette smoke, which is filled with numerous carcinogens, increases your risk of cancer significantly.  Having two family members die from cigarette related cancers in the past few year is enough to make me never want to light up again.   Sadly in all the cases of cancer I’ve witnessed in my family, once it’s been discovered it’s then rapidly taken over and been too late.  Most of us are likely to be walking around with cancer and not know until it starts causing a lump or blockage.  It’s up to us whether we choose to feed that cancer through a bad lifestyle or whether we starve it through being as healthy as possible.

  1. Feel lighter, fitter and healthier

I strangely felt really light a few weeks after quitting.  It was like a weight had been lifted off me.  Perhaps it was a mental emotion from no longer being addicted to something, but I’m sure my chest felt lighter too.  It was no longer filled with gunk and smoke for the first time in ten years.  I felt healthier, fitter and more normal.  As a runner I can now run so much easier without smoking.  I no longer get my annual lingering chesty cough in the winter.  In fact I don’t think I’ve had one cough since quitting smoking.

  1. Stop poisoning those around you

I never realised how far my smoke travelled and how many people around me had to breathe in my smoke when I smoked.   This is so unfair and I feel so selfish for it now.  I was forcing people within 20 metres, or perhaps even more, to breath in the chemicals from my smoke whether they wanted to or not.  Passive smoking is a killer and people do not have a choice to be a passive smoker if it’s in public.  Chemicals from cigarette smoke cling to fabrics too, such as clothes, so don’t think you’re protecting anyone by smoking outside – you’re still subjecting anyone close to you to your second-hand smoke from your clothing.

  1. Save a ton of cash

It’s no secret that smoking is expensive.  I used to smoke 20 a day and it cost a small fortune!  Just think of all the better things you can treat yourself to with the money you’ll save!  Add up how much you spend a year on smoking, be honest.  I bet you’ll be shocked at the total!  Plus all you’re doing is making Big Tobacco richer and richer whilst you get no benefits yourself.

There are so many reasons to quit smoking and so many ways to do it.  Smoking is definitely not cool.


What to read next

How to break free from an addiction

5 areas of your health you should always prioritise as a busy mum

Getting your 5-a-day does not make you healthy

How to naturally boost your mood

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This is a collaborative post.  All opinions are my own.

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