Smokers have been urged to kick the habit for good this Ash Wednesday as health chiefs insist the benefits begin just 20 minutes after stubbing out the last cigarette.
HSE research shows 79% of smokers want to give up and the vast majority (83%) regret starting.
Ash Wednesday is National No Smoking Day, prompting renewed efforts to quit - with the added incentive of
20-a-day smokers saving almost €5,000 a year.
“The benefits of quitting happen almost immediately, even 20 minutes after that last cigarette,” said the Irish Heart Foundation’s Medical Director, Dr Angie Brown.
“Your blood pressure and pulse return to normal, while the risk of heart attack begins to fall just one day later.”
Smoking is a major risk factor in cardiovascular disease, including heart attack and stroke.
One in two smokers in Ireland will die of a tobacco-related disease and nearly 6,000 people in this country die each year from the effects of smoking. Thousands more suffer from smoking-related diseases and second-hand smoking.
“Nicotine from cigarettes provides a temporary – and addictive – high and given that nicotine is a highly addictive drug, smokers can find quitting extremely difficult and often fall back into old habits,” said Dr Brown.
“This means smoking tobacco is both a physical addiction and a psychological habit. However, smokers wanting to quit do not have to do it alone, there is valuable help out there.
“Stopping not only reduces the risk of life-threatening diseases, but it improves your sense of taste and smell. You will have better skin, teeth and hair and you will instantly save money. Smoking 20 cigarettes a day costs almost €5,000 a year.”
Quit.ie is Ireland’s dedicated smoking cessation service and smokers can give themselves the best chance of stopping by following the plan.
Irish Heart Foundation’s seven tips to give up:
- Change your routine: If you’re used to a cigarette after a meal, try chewing some sugar-free chewing gum or go for a walk/fresh air.
- Reduce your caffeine and alcohol: When you stop smoking, caffeine and alcohol will affect you more than when you were a smoker.
- Learn to deal with cravings: Some people experience withdrawal symptoms when they quit but these are positive signs that your body is ridding itself of the toxins and poisons from smoking.
- These cravings can be difficult to deal with, which is why many people benefit by getting help and may require smoking cessation tools to improve their chance of success.
- Get regular exercise: Getting more active will help you deal with your cravings. Aim to be active for at least 30 minutes five days a week.
- Make your home and car smoke-free.
- Choose healthy snacks: Some people find they eat more when they quit. Try to snack only when you are hungry and choose healthy snacks such as fruit, natural yoghurt or plain popcorn.
- Avoid substituting cigarettes for sweets, cakes and biscuits: Eating three meals a day is good for your health and eating breakfast has been shown to help with quitting smoking.