Here we are again in December. It’s time to reflect on the year we’ve just had and think about all of the success and learnings we can take with us into 2018. For most people, New Year comes with resolutions, and health related ones, such as giving up smoking and joining the gym, are usually high on the list. We make these promises to ourselves on 1 January when our motivation levels are high, but as time passes, it’s just not that easy to keep them.
It’s positive to see that the number of smokers is gradually declining. The most recent statistics show that nearly 16 per cent of the UK adult population smokes, which equates to about 7.6 million people, and this is down four per cent since 2010, according to the Office for National Statistics. Sales of smoking cessation products have also increased year on year by +0.2 per cent to £141,401, says customer insights company Nielsen, which highlights that people are using the appropriate methods to support their journey to quitting and giving themselves the best possible chance.
Evidence shows us that a quit attempt is more likely to be successful if the individual has access to behavioural support from a stop smoking advisor as well as licensed nicotine replacement therapy (NRT), both of which community pharmacies can provide.
If someone enters the pharmacy and asks for help and advice to stop smoking, then you should take the time to offer a one-to-one consultation and sit down to work out a plan to help them quit. The NHS Smokefree website is a great free resource to direct people to.
During the consultation, you could start by asking people to write down a list of the reasons why they want to stop smoking and suggest they look at it every time they’re tempted to smoke.
Setting a date to stop smoking can also help. If they are struggling to quit in January due to stress and pressure, then advise them to set a quit date later in the year when they’re more likely to succeed.
Some smokers may underestimate just how difficult it is to quit, so be sure to tell them what to expect from the start and that stopping will be tough at first, but progressively easier after the third or fourth day. Possible withdrawal symptoms can include nausea, anxiety, weight gain and coughing. If people can’t manage their withdrawal symptoms, there is a risk they will start smoking again.
This column first appeared in P3 magazine.