Quitting doesn’t need to be stressful.
No Smoking Day 2021 – 10th March 2021
It might not feel like a good time to quit smoking – but it is. Last year, during lockdown, one million people quit. New research confirms that now those ex-smokers will now be feeling happier and more positive than if they were still smoking.
We don’t often talk about the benefits of quitting to mental health, but just as it improves your physical health, stopping smoking also improves your sense of wellbeing. Withdrawal can be tough, but with help, smokers can come out the other side feeling happier, healthier and wealthier too.
This is a positive message that acknowledges smokers’ preconceptions while challenging
them and providing hope. The messages will drive smokers towards using aids in their quit
attempt and inform smokers that those who have been quit for more than six weeks have
seen improvements in their mental health.
- Quitting smoking doesn’t have to feel painful – stop smoking aids can really help
- Quitting isn’t always easy but getting the right stop smoking aids and support can
stop you feeling like you need a cigarette all the time
- Today is the Day to put smoking behind you. Smokers who quit for 6 weeks or more
are happier and experience less anxiety and depression than those who carry on
- Research shows that people who have quit smoking for a year are happier than
those who continue to smoke.
Quitting during covid
The last year has been difficult for many of us. Stress and concern about our health is on the
rise. For smokers this has pulled them in two directions. On the one hand, the chances of
smokers successfully quitting are has high as they’ve ever been. On the other, smokers
experiencing stress and mental distress are more likely to be smoking more. This No
Smoking Day we want to take the opportunity to inform smokers that quitting can be less
stressful than they fear and can ultimately improve their sense of wellbeing. We all of us
have less control over our lives than we’d like at the moment, but smokers can take some
positive control on No Smoking Day. We can support smokers to cease the moment and
look forward to happier smokefree future.
Evidence behind the campaign
Getting support can reduce symptoms of withdrawal – Nicotine Replacement Therapy, Varenicline and Bupropion have all been shown to improve a smokers’ chance of successfully quitting by reducing the extent to which smokers experience withdrawal. These medications do not completely eliminate the symptoms of withdrawal but behavioural support can help smokers to manage those withdrawal symptoms that remain. Most smokers see their withdrawal symptoms peak after the first week and pass within 4 weeks.
Stopping smoking boosts your mental health – In 2014 a meta-analysis found that stopping smoking is associated with improvements in mental health such as reduced depression and anxiety when compared to continuing to smoke: https://www.bmj.com/content/348/bmj.g1151
This analysis has been updated by Cochrane and is due to be published shortly. In summary the findings from over 160,000 people suggest that people who quit smoking are likely to have improved mental wellbeing, in particular:
- Reduced depression
- Reduced anxiety
- Improved mood
- Improved quality of life
The study also looked at people’s social contacts and found no evidence that quitting smoking damaged people’s social connections (something that some people who smoke worry about). The Cochrane update is due to published to coincide with No Smoking Day and ASH will be putting out a press release on the findings as will Cochrane. To see academics talking about the findings of the 2014 analysis watch this video (below).
How quickly do smokers see the mental health benefits of stopping? – The immediate impact of quitting for most smokers is a range of withdrawal symptoms that worsen people’s sense of mental wellbeing from increased irritability to heightened sense of depression. Research indicates that these symptoms rarely exceed 2 – 4 weeks. The improved mental wellbeing scores are from at least 6 weeks after quitting though people may well feel the benefits sooner.
Why does stopping smoking improve your mental health? – There could be a number of reasons why quitting improves your mental health but one is that it breaks the cycle of nicotine dependence. Every day smokers go through withdrawal symptoms which damage their mental wellbeing, these are alleviated by smoking but quickly return as the effect of the nicotine wears off. Stopping smoking breaks this cycle improving people’s sense of wellbeing. To understand more watch this video.