Ash Wednesday – our top tips to help smokers quit

By June Shannon Policy News   |   26th Feb 2020

This Ash Wednesday we are encouraging smokers to quit the habit as it is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease

The Irish Heart Foundation is encouraging all smokers to give up the habit on National No Smoking Day which takes place today, Ash Wednesday (26 February 2020). Research shows that 70 per cent of smokers want to quit, while the vast majority (83%) regret ever starting to smoke in the first place and say they wouldn’t smoke if they had the choice again.

Smoking is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease, including heart attack and stroke. Tragically one in two smokers will die of a tobacco-related disease and in Ireland nearly 6,000 people die each year from the effects of smoking – with thousands more suffering from smoking-related diseases and the effects of exposure to second hand smoke.

A recent study found that in Ireland, in 2016, almost 5,950 people died as a direct result of smoking with an additional 100 deaths estimated to be due to exposure to second hand smoke.

According to the Irish Heart Foundation’s Medical Director Dr Angie Brown, quitting smoking is one of the most positive steps you can take to instantly improve your health and the good news that it is never too late to quit smoking, with the benefits happening almost immediately.

“Even 20 minutes after you quit that last cigarette your blood pressure and pulse return to normal, while the risk of heart attack begins to fall just one day later. Smoking tobacco is both a physical addiction and a psychological habit. The nicotine from cigarettes provides a temporary – and addictive – high and given that nicotine is a highly addictive drug, smokers can find quitting extremely difficult and often fall back into old habits and eventually return to smoking. However, smokers wanting to quit do not have to do it alone, there is valuable help out there,” Dr Brown said.

“Even 20 minutes after you quit that last cigarette your blood pressure and pulse return to normal, while the risk of heart attack begins to fall just one day later ,"

Dr Angie Brown, Medical Director , The Irish Heart Foundation

Quit.ie is Ireland’s dedicated smoking cessation service and smokers can give themselves the best chance to quit by availing of their services. Thousands of people have successfully quit smoking each year with the Quit plan through its available services such as stop smoking clinics, the dedicated quit phone line and prescribed treatments.

Dr Brown added, “Not only will quitting smoking reduce your risk of life-threatening diseases, your sense of taste and smell will improve, you will have better skin, teeth and hair and you will instantly save money. Smoking 20 cigarettes a day costs almost €5,000 a year. Smoking will no longer dictate your daily routine and you will be protecting your family and friends from the dangers of second-hand smoke.

“If you quit smoking even for just 28 days, you are five times more likely to quit for good. So, this National No Smoking Day, give yourself the best possible chance of quitting for 28 days and beyond. The HSE Quit service provides personalised, free support by phone, in-person, by email, SMS and live chat that will double your chances of making a successful quit attempt.”

The Irish Heart Foundation’s seven tips for quitting smoking

1. Change your routine: If you’re used to a cigarette after a meal, try chewing some sugar-free chewing gum or go out for a walk and some fresh air.

2. Reduce your caffeine and alcohol: When you stop smoking, caffeine and alcohol will affect you more than when you were a smoker.

3. Learn to deal with cravings: Some people experience withdrawal symptoms when they quit smoking. These symptoms are a positive sign because your body is getting rid of the toxins and poisons from smoking.

They can range from: feeling hungry, coughing and bringing up phlegm, tingling in your fingers and toes, feeling dizzy, lack of concentration and mouth ulcers. The majority of these pass within four weeks.

If you experience cravings, remember that they only last for a few minutes and use the four Ds to beat them:

• Delay at least 3-5 minutes and the urge will pass
• Deep breathe, slowly, in through your nose and out through your mouth
• Drink a glass of water
• Distract yourself, call a friend, go for a walk or run, etc.

4. Get regular exercise: Now that you have quit, getting more active will help you deal with your cravings. Aim to be active for at least 30 minutes five days a week.

5. Make your home and car smoke-free

6. Choose healthy snacks: Some people find they eat more when they quit. Try to snack only when you are hungry and choose healthy snacks such as fruit, natural yogurt or plain popcorn.

7. Avoid substituting cigarettes for sweets, cakes and biscuits. Eating three meals a day is good for your health and eating breakfast has been shown to help with quitting smoking.

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Ash Wednesday cardiovascular disease heart disease quit smoking stroke Tips to help quit smoking tobacco

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