Most people are aware that smoking is addictive, meaning when someone attempts to quit smoking they experience physical withdrawal sensations that can be deeply unpleasant. However, it is not actually the smoke itself that is addictive, but rather a chemical contained within: namely, nicotine. It is nicotine that smokers are addicted to, and it is nicotine withdrawal that makes quitting smoking so unpleasant.
To try and combat the difficulties of nicotine withdrawal, smokers are now offered a choice of nicotine replacement therapies. These therapies – referred to as NRTs, for ‘nicotine replacement therapy’ – are designed to give smokers a more realistic chance of quitting the habit, by replacing their nicotine ‘fix’ usually found in a cigarette with a less harmful way of ingesting nicotine. This can come in the form of slow-release patches that are applied to the skin, from inhaling nasal sprays or from chewing gum.
The theory is that if a smoker attempts to quit nicotine ‘cold turkey’ – i.e. ceasing to ingest it completely – they are less likely to succeed in their attempts to stop smoking. As the withdrawal from nicotine can be unpleasant, the idea is that by gradually reducing the amount of nicotine someone ingests rather than stopping it altogether allows people to gradually wean themselves off their reliance on this addictive chemical.
It would seem that it is effective. Studies have shown that smokers are up to three times more likely to quit if they use a form of NRT in the weeks after they stop smoking, so give it due consideration.
For years, smokers groups have complained about one thing in their singular voice: the continued raid on cigarette duty by successive governments, which has almost doubled the cost of a packet of cigarettes over the past 20 years. With every new budget that is announced, a few cents or pennies are customarily added on to the already well-burdened smoker, and the smokers rights groups protest again.
In reality, governments have nothing to fear from taxing cigarettes at astronomically high levels. Smoking is bad for health; the health of smokers, through direct contact, and for non-smokers who may become victims of passive smoking. Therefore, if a government adds extra taxation on to cigarette duty, they can claim it is in the public interest – that by making cigarettes more expensive, smokers may be more likely to quit. It’s one tax that no one can argue with on the grounds of health and protecting the public as a whole; smokers rights don’t come in to it.
It is therefore pointless to argue. If you, like many smokers, feel trepidation at the announcement of a new budget and have steadily watched the cost of smoking increase several-fold over your lifetime – accept it. You really have no other option. In the United Kingdom, tobacco taxation brings the government treasury nearly £9 billion per year – and they’re not going to stop now. With the health argument on their side, no government is going to be the ones to make it easier and cheaper to smoke; so if you want to carry on smoking, accept that higher and higher taxation is a certainty you cannot avoid.
In the cycle of a smoker’s life, they will usually have more than one attempt at quitting. Only a small percentage – sometimes given as low as 15% – of smokers actually manage to kick the habit on their first attempt, and the norm is three to five attempts before finally managing to banish the demon cigarettes.
To some, knowing the difficulty involved in quitting smoking, there is the natural conclusion that to prepare yourself you should cut down on the number of cigarettes you consume. So let’s be clear: cutting back on cigarettes does not work, does not have any particular health benefits and could actually decrease your chances of quitting altogether in the future. Here’s why:
- You’re battling for little reward.
When you cut back, you will experience some of the withdrawal symptoms involved in quitting smoking. If you’re going to be going through withdrawal, what’s the point of stringing the process out? Quit altogether first, and you only have to go through it once, rather than twice; when you ‘cut back’ and when you stop altogether.
- If you find cutting back unpleasant because of the withdrawal, you’re less likely to be willing to quit altogether.
Sometimes, ignorance is bliss. If you know how unpleasant withdrawal can feel, you’re going to be less likely to quit altogether and go through that withdrawal all over again.
- You’re not improving your health.
Smoking at all is damaging to health, so for as long as you continue to smoke on a daily basis, your health is going to suffer – no matter how many cigarettes you smoke.