A: There are no two ways about it, smoking is the single biggest cause of preventable death in the UK and around 114,000 people die prematurely each year because of a smoking-related illness.
So your decision to stop smoking is quite possibly the single healthiest one you’ll make. Well done!
The hardest part of course is what comes next, fighting those cravings and having the willpower to stay stopped.
Understanding the nature of your addiction should help you to do this.
Nicotine is a highly addictive substance; it creates the need for the next cigarette, altering the brain chemicals dopamine and noradrenalin within seconds of inhaling, which the smoker interprets as a rush of pleasure.
In reality the ‘rush’ only satisfies the craving created by the last cigarette.
This is the physical addiction. The psychological addiction is often the hardest to break. Nicotine stays within the system for up to 5 days but it takes a whole lifetime of experiences and mental associations to mould the smoker’s psyche.
However breaking the cycle and changing the way you think is by no means impossible.
Start by being aware of your craving triggers and do your best to avoid them. The initial craving doesn’t last for longer than a couple of minutes.
Nicotine replacement therapies (NRT) can help to wean you off nicotine gradually by giving you a steady, low dose of nicotine which helps to avoid strong cravings.
NRT is usually taken for 8-12 weeks after which time you cut down the dose until you stop altogether.
There are several replacement therapies to choose from including patches, chewing gum and fake cigarettes.
As far as herbal remedies are concerned, Plantago tincture can be very effective.
For years it has been recognised for its ability to clear congestion and inflammation of mucous membranes, but now it is also thought to cause an aversion to smoking as well. Dilute 15 drops in a little water, two to three times a day.
Avena sativa tincture (from fresh oats) can also help, especially with withdrawal symptoms and cravings. It’s also a rich source of B vitamins, minerals and other nutrients needed to help support the nervous system. Again, dilute up to 20 drops in a little water, two to three times a day.
Finally, regular exercise stimulates the release of brain chemicals that help to curb nicotine cravings, so try some form of brisk exercise for at least 20 minutes a day.
For further information ask at your local health shop.