Almost 80% of people who smoke intend to quit the habit, a recent survey has found.
According to the survey carried out by the HSE Quit service, 79% of smokers intend to quit, however 5% of previous smokers began smoking again in 2020 as a result of COVID-19.
Around 40% of smokers who intend to quit have set a goal to stop smoking for 28 days. People who stop smoking for 28 days are five times more likely to quit the habit for good.
"Most people who smoke want to quit, but for many the idea of quitting can seem impossible. We know that smoking isn't just an unhealthy habit that you need to break. There are the physical cravings for nicotine, the psychological dependence and the emotional dependence, which all need to be worked on when quitting," explained Martina Blake, national lead of the HSE's Tobacco Free Ireland Programme.
She urged people who want to quit to avail of the HSE's Quit service, which provides practical resources and supports to those who want to stop smoking.
"This has been a difficult year for all of us and it is not surprising that some people have used smoking as a way of managing stress or boredom. We want to let people know that the Quit service can help you plan for quitting and suggest ways to help you cope with difficult periods in your life without smoking," Ms Blake said.
Dr Paul Kavanagh, a public health medicine specialist with the HSE, emphasised that smoking is "incredibly harmful".
"One in two smokers will die from a tobacco-related disease and a smoker can expect to lose, on average, about 10 years of life due to smoking. Stopping smoking is the single most important thing you can do for your health, for your future and for your loved ones," he commented.
He noted that because smoking is an addiction, it is often associated with, and reinforced by, routine activities, people and situations, for example, when socialising with certain friends, at the end of a meal, or when drinking tea/coffee/alcohol.
"The good news is that quitting smoking helps build up your natural resistance to all types of infections including COVID-19. When you stop, the natural hairs in your airways (cilia) begin to work again. Within one to two days, the oxygen levels in your body will improve. Your blood pressure and pulse reduces, which in turn decreases the overall stress on your body," Dr Kavanagh explained.
With the help of the Quit service, Sandra Whelan stopped smoking seven weeks ago, after smoking for 40 years. She said that the service provides her with a "fabulous support structure".
"I would advise any one even contemplating packing in the cigs to give it a chance. Yes I still miss a smoke, but I feel so much better and have a huge sense of achievement to boot.
"I would encourage people who smoke to first make the decision that you want to quit, have that first conversation with the Quit team and they will help you. The support is there and it's so important, but you have to be ready in your head," she noted.
The Quit service offers a number of supports and resources, including a free Quit Kit to help people prepare to stop smoking, a helpline (1800 201 203), weekly phone support from a stop smoking advisor and an online personalised quit plan.
For more information on the Quit service, click here.
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