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Smoking: Decision to quit

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Five million people still smoke tobacco in the UK alone.

Health experts estimate up to a million of them will try and kick the habit this January. Just how hard is it to stop smoking? Richard Wilcox an ex-smoker at Express Medicals reports.

I am old enough to remember when GPs surgeries had ashtrays in their waiting rooms and often the doctor would smoke while seeing you. Patients could smoke in a hospital. Adverts for cigarettes were everywhere, on billboards, television and magazines. Tobacco company sponsorship of sport was widespread. Smoking was permitted on the railways and London Underground.

A considerable minority

The world has been trying to give up the evil weed for some time. Smokers are now in a considerable minority. Some will give up smoking on a whim; others will struggle for weeks and months. What worked for me might not work for you but it’s worth a try.

I was a smoker for over 40 years. Actually let me rephrase that. I am a smoker who has not had a cigarette for three months, with a view to becoming a non-smoker. ThisistoletyouknowIamnot on some holier-than-thou crusade to stop everybody smoking.

It’s a free country and it’s your choice, as it is mine. On the other hand I have never encouraged anybody to smoke and there is an increasing body of evidence to suggest that continuing to smoke is unwise.

Why did I give up? Whether it was age or smoking-related, I don’t know but I wasn’t feeling healthy. However the real reason was the cost, 35p for a single cigarette. On 10 a day that’s the equivalent of a week’s holiday for every two years. I like my holidays. Others, I am sure, will find something else to spend it on.

What’s so hard about giving up?

The important thing is what you tell yourself. Decide who is bigger, you or the cigarette. Decide why you want to give up. It has to be your decision, not a response to others who want you to give up. Then set up a date. Don’t worry if you miss a date, extend the time frame a little. Just don’t give up giving up – ever.

What made it easier for me was giving up with my partner. We all respond well to rewards. Promise yourself that frivolous expensive treat you have wanted for so long when you have stopped for three months. After all you will now have some cash that can be wasted in other ways other than on cigarettes.

There is plenty of support for people serious about giving up smoking. Local GPs will help and put you in touch with support groups. Discussing how you are doing with other smokers can also be very helpful. On the web see

  • http://smokefree.nhs.uk
  • http://www.patient.co.uk/health/Smoking-Tips-to-Help-you-Stop.htm
  • http://www.quit.org.uk/

Recommended reading

‘Easy Way to stop Smoking’ by Allen Carr available from Penguin Books

Tips for Quita

  • Check out the various web sites and doctor’s guides. Here are ten common tips you may find helpful:
  • Decide. The power of decision is crucial. Only you can take the decision and own it.
  • Set a date to stop.
  • Plan for the challenge of quitting and read up about it
  • Keep trying: you are stronger than any chemical.
  • Tell family and friends and enlist their help.
  • Junk ashtrays, all tobacco, lighters and matches.
  • Expect to feel off-colour physically and make allowances for this.
  • Avoid social situations where you light up.
  • Alcohol is often the adjunct of a smoke and lessens self control so avoid it.
  • Reward yourself. What you’re doing is not easy, so you deserve a reward. Promise a meal out or a new movie. Look forward to it.

Run for your life

We are told time and again that exercise is good for us. Few doubt this. Yet by the time you read this, mid-January, you may already have quietly let slide that new year’s resolution. Our editor has completed a year of running every day, started 4th January 2012. If the track shoes are back in the box, the gym card tucked away at the back of your wallet what follows might help you. Andy Milne reports.

This sport is for free

New Year’s resolutions are all very well but imply a massive effort of will sadly beyond most of us. Factor in 12 hour shifts and late night booking-on and a visit to the gym sinks rapidly down the agenda. What I discovered is a little known secret which once grasped makes exercise easy.

Joining a gym is expensive and yet many new members will never return after a visit or two. This sport is for free. Most people switch off at the mention of running. However, the sport is misunderstood.

What I mean by running is ambling along a park or country lane breaking into a trot every now and again. Forget pelting round a cinder track or competing in a race. The majority of runners are not finely honed Olympians but horizontally challenged men and women who have stumbled on the most peculiar secret.

The human body implies movement. We are born to run. Millennia ago men and women moved on every day, keeping up with herds of animals. They ran from predators and towards animals they would catch and eat.

The instinct to run is still with us, albeit hidden beneath the girth in many cases. Look at children and their endless games of tag. Buried deep within us is a delight in running. Running for sheer exuberance. Running is inherent in our make up.

Don’t grit your teeth and say: I’m going to do this, I have to, I shall…’ Better to say, ‘I shall go out the door and move for a hundred metres, a quarter of a mile. That’s all. Easy.’

Teach yourself to run by walking. Walk at your own pace and run lightly down hills. Run on a walk for a 100 metes or so. Go every day, but try not to get out of breath. Walk easily and run slow. Wear the lightest shoes you can and learn to land on the front of your feet, the bones behind the toes are spring loaded to bounce you along.

Slamming down on the heel jars your entire skeleton, damaging ankles and knees, splaying hips and hammering the spine. The foot is a natural spring, let it cushion the step. Make this step a small ballet dancer of a step. When starting to run stand up straight and lean very slightly forward. You will feel your feet step forward to adjust balance. It is this movement that is the key to effortless running – falling with style.

A better physical future

Forget the need to break records or win races. When we run we run away from the person we became, the fears and regrets that smother the immobile. We leave behind the over weight underachiever.

To run is to enter a better physical future. We run because being outside in the rain and the wind feels good. The natural world is a great healer. Never mind what you wear. Throw on old tennis shoes, your brother’s rugby shirt, baggy trackies, an anorak and a bobble hat. No one cares what you wear.

John Bingham, who took up running as a 43 year old very heavy couch potato, once said, ‘People say you can’t run away for your problems. I say you can.’

If the gym is crowded and embarrassing, the pool full of orange tanned supermen, then go running. Step out of your own front door in your own time. Tell yourself you will walk the difficult bits. The great thing about running is that as you improve it becomes expedient to run more of the route, to move better. You do it because you like to.

The wind at your back, the sun on your face, the snow pinching your ears leaves you feeling good, alive. It is then, bouncing along the road, that you discover the great secret peculiar to all runners. We run because we enjoy it.

Even if you only have time for a mile the run is an escape, a road to freedom. Once you realise that you run because you enjoy it, because you want to run, not because you have to, you’ve cracked it.

Recommended reading

‘The Courage to Start’ by John Bingham ‘Born to Run’ by Christopher McDougall


  1. The way you have explained how to quit smoking is really commendable. People who wants to quit smoking can also prefer electronic cigarettes as these are less harmful and affordable.


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