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Stop Smoking

Information, advice and clinically proven medication to help quit smoking

Did you know that approximately 66% of smokers want to quit? Thankfully, there are a variety of techniques and treatments that can be tried, depending on what best suits your situation and habit.

It's important to remember that quitting will take time and effort — it wouldn't be an addiction otherwise. At HealthExpress, we provide the only prescription treatment available in the UK. This should be taken with a doctor's advice and only once all non-prescription options have been exhausted. More information can be found below.

Content reviewed on 22-03-21
Dr. Sarah Donald Clinical Lead MRCGP DFSRH DPD DRCOG (GMC Reg: 6099482)

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Why is smoking bad for you?

The effect smoking has on the body is not unknown, however, did you know you the benefits of quitting can be enjoyed within as little as 20 minutes from your last cigarette? This is how long it takes for your pulse to return to normal levels.

However, it is the long-term benefits that should be the main drive to quit. Smoking is directly linked to long-term health conditions and terminal illness, though the risk of these is considerably lessened the longer you can stay smoke-free.

How smoking causes lung damage

Living smoke-free reduces your chance of developing the following health problems:

  • Lung cancer
  • Liver cancer
  • Throat and mouth cancer
  • Bladder cancer
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • Heart disease and stroke
  • Impotence in men
  • Cervical cancer in women
  • Infertility
  • High blood pressure
  • Kidney failure

The effects of smoking

Health - It is estimated that smoking is responsible for around 85% of deaths related to lung cancer, and 25% of all cancer deaths in the UK, with the World Health Organization (WHO) predicting global smoking deaths to rise from 6 million to 8 million by 2030. Most surprisingly, in England, almost 250,000 NHS GP visits are due child exposure to passive smoking. To be gender specific, smoking lowers female fertility whilst men have an increased chance of suffering from erectile dysfunction.

The senses and organs - Smoking has been known to negatively impact your taste and sense of smell. It goes without saying that smoking may exacerbate breathing problems such as asthma, and damage your lungs, stomach, liver and pancreas.

Price - The NHS is said to spend around £2 billion on smoking related illnesses, aid and medication, annually. And it's no exaggeration to say that stopping smoking can also save you a small fortune.

The effects of smoking on your smile

It is a well-known fact that smoking discolours the teeth. Nicotine also narrows blood vessels, preventing oxygenated blood and vitamins from reaching the surface of the skin- this leads to wrinkles developing around the mouth.

Smoking affects more than just your appearance. The habit also increases the build-up of plaque and tar. Whilst this can initially be cleaned off at the dentist, the continual build-up leads to deterioration of the root and tooth loss.

It comes as no surprise then that smoking is a leading cause of gum disease and oral cancer. Smoking can also cause gingivitis, which is when the bacteria in plaque attacks gums and makes them bleed. This, in turn, can lead to periodontitis where the gum and bone pull away from the teeth.

Research also shows that smoking can interfere with the function of gum tissue cells. This can lead to smokers developing infections more easily. Contracting infections in the mouth can be very serious as they can spread quickly throughout the body and are difficult to heal because of moisture in the mouth. Smoking causes the gums' healing process to slow meaning sores caused by these diseases will remain open for longer. This is a painful and unsightly cycle of cause and effect. Gum disease is not something you want to have.

Oral cancer can occur on the tongue, lips, gums, salivary glands, tonsils and pharynx. Despite often being attributable to the HPV virus, smoking is still the major cause of mouth cancer. 93% of cancers in the oropharyngeal region of the throat are caused by smoking.

Symptoms of mouth cancer include:

  • Red or white patches on the lining of your mouth or tongue
  • Ulcers
  • Lumps

Your dentist may notice these changes, or question you on your symptoms and refer you to your GP. If you spot any of these signs see your doctor straight away. Many of the early signs are similar to gum disease, but catching cancer early can make a significant difference to treatment and recovery.

How long does it take to recover from smoking?

Quitting smoking has near immediate health benefits. Here is what happens when you stop smoking:

Stop smoking

For the years after, your risk of stroke and smoking related cancers will continue to decrease.

What health effects does smoking have?

Symptoms of smoking affect the entire body, from the stained teeth to limiting blood flow. This includes the less severe, day-to-day symptoms:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • Hoarseness
  • Persistent coughing
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Bad breath
  • Stained teeth and nails

It's likely you'll experience some 'withdrawal symptoms' when quitting smoking, especially in the first 8 weeks. However, these can be easily alleviated with the right support.

Due to the withdrawal of nicotine in your system, you may experience the following symptoms:

  • Headaches
  • Mood swings
  • Stress
  • Common cold symptoms
  • Irritability
  • Boredom
  • Fatigue
  • Weight gain

Above all, you will experience intense cravings for nicotine initially, however, it's important to remember all withdrawal symptoms are temporary.

What is the effect of nicotine on the body?

Nicotine is the most commonly known chemical in a cigarette, and is the very reason why the habit is so addictive. Nicotine dependency is demonstrated in the below diagram:

How nicotine dependence develops in the brain

Nicotine also increases your heart rate, your breathing and affects blood-pressure.

Effects of nicotine on the body Structure of nicotine

What are the benefits of quitting smoking?

Did you know, 85% of a cigarette's smoke is completely invisible? The fumes can affect yourself, as well as those close to you.

  • Clearer skin - Stopping smoking can reverse the damaging effects it has on the skin
  • Improved sense of smell and taste - Allowing you to properly enjoy the taste of food and drink without the bitterness of tobacco in your mouth
  • Improved personal hygiene - Personal hygiene will also improve as smoking can often lead to bad breath, stained teeth and gum disease
  • Improved cardiovascular health with less damage to the lungs, you could experience improved breathing and fitness emergency trips to the hospital

For yourself

As well as containing highly addictive nicotine, the typical cigarette contains more than 4,000 different chemicals, with over 60 of them having been proven to cause cancer. When you stop smoking, you visibly notice a difference in your appearance and demeanour:

  • An enhanced complexion.
  • Improved senses.
  • Better hygiene.
  • Improves fitness.

Most importantly, the chance of contracting life-threatening conditions associated with smoking is drastically reduced.

For others

When quitting smoking, your state of health will improve, but there are also benefits for those around you"

  • Quality of air will improve, making for a pleasant environment and clean smelling fabrics.
  • Children, babies and those vulnerable to cigarette smoke will have a reduced chance of developing respiratory diseases.
  • The chance of those around you becoming smokers themselves will be reduced.

Second-hand smoke is responsible for, 'around 165,000 new cases of disease in children in the UK, annually', according to Cancer Research UK. In England and Wales, it is now against the law to smoke in a vehicle with anyone below the age of 18.

For your spending

Aside from the aforementioned benefits, cigarette prices are incredibly high in the UK, and continue to rise year-by-year. Quitting saves you a considerable amount of money. For example, a 20-a-day habit costs over £2,000 a year to maintain. That's the equivalent of:

  • 2 versions of the latest Macbook
  • A 66" HD LED TV
  • 3 nights at the best 5 star hotel in London
Lung infographics

How do I stop smoking?

The success rate of each quit smoking method depends entirely on the individual. You may find the best way to stop smoking is willpower alone. Alternatively, there are the pills and patches that HealthExpress provide after a free online consultation. This will take into account certain factors such as:

  • Your age
  • Lifestyle
  • The amount you smoke

All our consultations are conducted by an experienced, UK-qualified doctor.

Prescription treatment

Prescription medication has been shown to be a more effective treatment, with a 50% success rate, than nicotine replacement therapy and any other quit smoking method. Champix is currently our only medication- easy to use, with a course lasting for a 12-week period (with some users opting for a further 12 weeks to ensure all nicotine cravings have completely disappeared). Those who opt for a further 12 weeks of treatment have an additional 20% chance (70% overall) of quitting for good. In a recent UK study (of June 2010), seven methods of treatment were tested amongst a group of participants over 6 months. Results showed Champix combined with behavioural support to be most effective.

Nicotine replacement therapy (NRT)

The most common method of treatment, nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) is available over-the-counter and comes in the form of pills, patches, gums and sprays. Despite the exposure and availability, these are not actually proven to be the most successful. Relapse rate is also very high, with only 17% remaining permanently smoke-free. Counselling and therapy is another method that can be explored.

Chance of relapse is mainly due to the individual's mindset, so it is imperative you are motivated to quit. Before quitting, certain factors that help include:

  • A conversation with your doctor; agree on a date to quit smoking.
  • Track your progress with a journal.
  • Make lifestyle changes, such as spending less time around smokers and avoiding environments that encourage smoking.

These are just three ways to help you banish the bad habit. For even more, check out our 'quit smoking tips' in the section below.


As e-cigarettes are a fairly new invention, the effect they have on smokers is yet to be thoroughly monitored- however in the UK they are used to aid in quitting smoking. For more information about e cigarettes, visit the NHS stop smoking service.

Quit smoking apps

There are free stop-smoking apps out there for anyone with a smartphone to take advantage of. Healthline offer a comprehensive summary of the best phone apps, including free options:

  • Smoke Free
  • Kwit
  • LIVESTRONG MyQuit Coach
  • Quit It Lite
  • Quit Smoking: Cessation Nation

Cold turkey

In rare instances, you can quit smoking cold turkey. Whilst it's possible to give up on the spot, the majority of smokers stand a more realistic chance of quitting with additional help. It is important to be in the right frame of mind to quit; commitment and dedication is essential.


The NHS kicks off its 'Stoptober' campaign alongside the likes of Cancer Research UK and the British Heart Foundation. Whilst this is focused around October, there is no reason why you can't apply the month rule any time of the year. Listed success stories are promising; around 250,000 people quit during this period, and numbers are expected to rise. Research suggests that those who quit smoking for a month are five times more likely to quit successfully. You can find out even more from the NHS Smokefree site, including how to receive your quit smoking kit.

What are some tips for quitting smoking?

It is not unusual to combine methods in order to quit smoking. As well as the over-the-counter methods and prescription treatment options previously mentioned, there are a number of self-help tips from the NHS you can try to stop smoking:

Methods to quit smoking
  • Adjust your diet - smoking is a habit, and if you're not careful you may fill this space with eating. If you find yourself eating more, try including foods such as fruit and vegetables.
  • Identify your triggers - for example, when feeling stressed or anxious, or when drinking alcohol.
  • Get support - whether a professional or friends and family, the value of support can never be overstated.
  • Replace one habit with another - When out and about, keep busy.

How long does it take to quit smoking?

The more help and support you have available to you, the easier it is to stop. Like losing weight, quitting smoking should be approached in a reasonable manner over a number of weeks to months. For example, Champix is estimated to take 12 weeks, but in some cases an additional 12 weeks are needed, which can be better in the long run.

It is advised, with all techniques and medications, to first consult your doctor. Our online consultation service is confidential and can help you to take the first step towards a smoke-free life.

What treatments are available?

HealthExpress offers clinically proven medication Champix that comes in a 12-week course and is available for repeat prescription.

Champix doesn't contain nicotine and works by reducing the withdrawal symptoms that can make giving up smoking so hard; effectively doing the hardest job for you.

For more information on Champix, head to our treatment page. You can order and receive your tablets the next working day if ordered before 4.30pm.

Surprising facts about smoking - infographic

Surprising facts about smoking - infographic
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