Stoptober: stub out your worst habit

YOU HAVE probably seen or heard about Stoptober, the latest campaign launched by the NHS to encourage the nation to give up smoking. Beth has been smoking for …. Years and has finally decided that Stoptober is her chance to give up the habit for good. Here, Beth is in the midst of her challenge and is experiencing some of the withdrawal symptoms that come from the absence of nicotine in the body. As well as giving a brief account of her attempt to give up, she shows the way in which the NHS can help those trying to give up and why life without smoking is so rewarding. 

As a participant in Stoptober myself, I would not describe trying to give up a four-year habit as the ‘new and exciting’ challenge that the NHS website depicts it as being. However, I do feel that if I can beat the addiction for 28 days, there’s no reason why I can’t kick the habit for good. There’s no doubt that it will be a difficult month; not just for me but also for the people around me – the word ‘grouchy’ doesn’t even begin to cover it – but, as the campaign says, ‘if you can go 28 days without a cigarette you’re five times more likely to stop for good’. Lets hope they’re right.

For me, as for many people, smoking started out as a social thing. I would have the occasional cigarette at a party or when I was with friends, or if I was suffering from what I thought counted as a ‘stressful day’. The word ‘addiction’ never really crossed my mind.The thought that smoking wasn’t something I could just drop whenever I pleased didn’t occur to me for a long time. Four years down the line and I’ve noticed that running up the stairs is a good deal more tiring than it used to be. It has become a well known fact amongst my friends and family that ‘Scary Mcgee’ comes out when I haven’t had a smoke, and my bank balance takes a significant blow due to my unhealthy and, let’s face it, pretty pointless habit. I think it’s time to stop.

Hopefully, there will be some people reading this article who will see it as more than just another anti-smoking article and appreciate that it is coming from someone who knows – and is currently experiencing – just how difficult giving up can be, but also how rewarding it is. It’s been 18 days since my last cigarette and I feel like I’ve had every withdrawal symptom under the sun. It has not been the most enjoyable experience. However, having gone through the hacking cough, the inability to sleep and the irritable moods, I am now feeling generally healthier, even if it took a while to get here. Of course, there will always be those of you that will never be persuaded, adamant that you enjoy smoking too much to even attempt giving it up. Stoptober might not be for you. However, for those of you that genuinely feel that you have had enough, that it’s just not as enjoyable as it used to be and you really do want to stop, then here are a few tips that might be useful…

1. NHS Stoptober Website

Even if you didn’t start at the beginning of October, setting yourself a date to stop will help prepare you for what is ahead.

2. Set goals and have a reward system

The thought of never having another cigarette ever again can be a daunting one, so set goals and reward yourself when you meet them. For example, if I can get to six months without smoking, I am going to blow all of the money I will have saved on shoes.

3. Use exercise as a distraction

One of the good parts of giving up smoking is feeling healthier; why not add to that by doing more exercise?  Not only will you find it easier once you’ve given up, but going for a run or swim can also be a really good stress buster to replace smoking.

4. Not One Puff Ever (N.O.P.E)

Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that one toke is OK, or that a quick puff of someone else’s cigarette doesn’t count. It does. One puff leads to another and, before you know it, you’re smoking again.


A FEW WEEKS later, I went back to speak to Beth to see how the rest of her Stoptober went and to find out whether she thought the campaign was a success. 

AH: So, the big question is, have you had a cigarette since you began Stoptober?

BW: No. I’ve managed to completely kick the habit.


AH: Do you still get cravings for a cigarette?

BW: Occasionally, but not as much as I used to. It’s only really when I go out because I find it harder when my friends are smoking. When I’m trying to write an essay it’s also really difficult. Essays make me want to smoke so much. [I do get cravings] sometimes in the morning when I drink coffee but most of the time I’m fine. I thought it would be a lot harder.


AH: Why is it harder when you drink coffee?

BW: Basically, [in the morning] I’d wake up, and the first thing I’d do is go downstairs and have a coffee and a cigarette, so I had to give up coffee for a while. I’m drinking it again now, though.


AH: Do you have any advice for people wanting to give up?

BW: Use other people’s negativity as encouragement. Matt* and Craig* said I’d be the first to crack and couldn’t do it and instead of thinking ‘yeah, they’re probably right’, I was like ‘right, I’m going to prove you wrong!’ I believe I have.


AH: What benefits have you noticed from giving up?

BW: My hair is so lush. My hair is really shiny, it feels really nice and I really think it’s because I’ve given up smoking.  I just feel healthier. Like walking up the hill; I can actually [walk up the hill]. Well, it’s still difficult, but nowhere near as difficult as it was. I’ve been doing more exercise and I can actually breathe [whilst doing it].  I just generally feel less lethargic. I didn’t realise how tired smoking made me; [I just feel] generally healthier, really. Also, money. I would spend at least £8 a week on smoking.


AH: What do you spend that extra money on now?

BW: I said before that I was going to buy a nice pair of shoes and I think at Christmas I’ll treat myself to some new boots!


AH: What do you think of the Stoptober campaign overall?

BW: I think it was a good idea because you need a starting date to make you give up. If you say it’s ‘Stoptober’, it’s not as daunting as saying you’re going to give up forever. You think to yourself ‘right, I’m going to give up for the whole of October’, and then you get to the end of the month and think ‘why not carry on?’ It’s like baby steps. Having friends do it with you really helps as well.  If they hadn’t decided to give up, I don’t think I could have done it.  So, yeah, you know lots of other people are trying to give up too, which helps; you’re not on your own.