The UK government recently declared it wants to help people quit smoking by 2030, highlighting that the LGBTI community has higher rates of smoking than the general population. But smoking in the LGBTI community is a problem across the world.
An Institute of Medicine (IOM) report found 20.6% of gay, lesbian or bisexual people were likely to smoke. That number increases to 35.5% for trans people. But only about 14.9% of people of heterosexual people smoke.
But quitting smoking is not easy. Cigarettes are highly addictive whether that’s because of the nicotine they contain or the underlying emotional issues that drive people to smoke in the first place.
So, as a part of Gay Star News’ commitment to address the smoking crisis in the LGBTI community, we’ve put together a guide on how to get started on kicking your smoking habit.
There are a number of methods to try, but it is important to start with identifying why you want to quit. It is also important to know why you smoke in the first place and what triggers you to save a cigarette.
Being prepared and tailoring a quit plan to your needs means you’re more likely to be successful at kicking the habit.
Get support to quit:
Whether that’s approaching your GP for advice, relying on a friend to hold you accountable or joining a quit smoking support group, having people to help you is fundamental.
People who join stop smoking services are four times more likely to quit.
The UK’s NHS (National Health Service) runs a number of stop smoking services and support groups.
In the US, the smokefree.gov site has an app that will support people through the quitting process.
While quitting smoking without any aids or medication may appeal to some, going cold turkey is the least effective way to stop smoking for good.
Research suggests that willpower alone isn’t the best method to stop smoking and only 3 in every 100 smokers manage to stop permanently by going cold turkey.
This is because untreated cravings can lead to lapses.
The NHS says there are three ‘tried and tested ways to tame cravings’:
- nicotine replacement therapy
- prescription stop smoking medicines
- behaviour changes
Which stop smoking treatment you choose will depend on your personal preference but are a proven way to manage craving and give up the habit in the long run. Here are the options:
Nicotine replacement therapy (NRT)
Nicotine is the main reason people become addicted to cigarette smoking.
NRT is a medication that provides you with a low level of nicotine, without the tar, carbon monoxide and other poisonous chemicals present in tobacco smoke.
You can buy NRT from pharmacies and some shops. It’s also available on prescription from a doctor or NHS stop smoking service.
NRT is available as:
- skin patches
- chewing gum
- inhalators (which look like plastic cigarettes)
- tablets, oral strips and lozenges
- nasal and mouth spray
An increasingly popular method of smoking in the UK, e-cigarettes do carry some health risks, but not as many as cigarettes. They’re also shown to help people quit cigarettes permanently
More commonly known as ‘vaping’ e-cigarettes are not currently available on prescription in the UK.
E-cigarettes are devices that allows you to inhale nicotine in a vapour rather than smoke. They do not burn tobacco and do not produce tar or carbon monoxide, two of the most damaging elements in tobacco smoke.
The different types of e-cigarettes available include:
- Cigalikes look similar to tobacco cigarettes and can be disposable or rechargeable.
- Vape pens are shaped like a pen or small tube, with a tank to store e-liquid, replaceable coils and rechargeable batteries.
- Pod systems are compact rechargeable devices, often shaped like a USB stick or a pebble, with e-liquid capsules.
- Mods come in different shapes and sizes, but are generally the largest e-cigarette devices. They have a refillable tank, longer lasting rechargeable batteries, and variable power.
Behavioural psychologist Jo Hemmings told Gay Star News that being prepared and avoiding triggers was key to quitting smoking forever.
‘One of the misconceptions about quitting smoking is that it’s not just the nicotine we crave that makes it hard to quit,’ Hemmings tells Gay Star News.
‘It’s actually the rewards system… we frequently consciously or otherwise reward ourselves or we get into a habit that makes us crave smoking.’
‘We’re very likely to smoke out of habit and sometimes that’s reassuring for people that it’s not just the nicotine they crave.’
Other key things you can do to change your behaviour is change your diet, exercise and changing the drinks you consume.
Some people love to have a smoke after a meal, while certain food such as meat, make cigarettes more satisfying. If you like smoking after eating try changing your post-meal routine.
Certain drinks make cigarettes more appealing. Fizzy drinks, alcohol, cola, tea and coffee all make cigarettes taste better. Switch to juice, or spirits rather than wine or beer.
Get moving: scientific studies have proved exercise, even a 5-minute walk or stretch, cuts cravings and may help your brain produce anti-craving chemicals.
Finally, make non-smoking friends.
Medications are perhaps the most effective tools for quitting cigarette smoking. Here are the two medications most commonly used to help people quit.
Varenicline is a medication that works in 2 ways. It reduces cravings for nicotine like NRT, but it also blocks the rewarding and reinforcing effects of smoking.
Evidence suggests it’s the most effective medication for helping people stop smoking and is only available on prescription. Take it one to two weeks before you decide to quit.
Bupropion, a medication originally used to treat depression, has since been found to help people quit smoking.
It’s thought to have an effect on the parts of the brain involved in addictive behaviour and is only available on prescription.
Start taking it a week or or two before you try to quit, with a course of treatment usually lasts around 7 to 9 weeks.
Smokefree National Helpline:
England: 0300 123 1044
Scotland: 0800 84 84 84
Wales: 0800 085 2219
Northern Ireland: find local numbers here, https://www.stopsmokingni.info/ways-quit/local-help-and-support