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Home / Stop Smoking

Stop Smoking

Information, advice and clinically proven medication to help quit smoking

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Approximately 66% of us want to quit smoking and there are a variety of tactics depending on what best suits your situation and habit. These can include one or a mixture of methods such as support from a doctor, lifestyle changes and the right treatment.

It's important to remember that stopping smoking will take time and effort. Self-help, NHS resources, and family support all make a difference. At HealthExpress, we aim to offer advice as well as the only prescription treatment available in the UK to increase the chances of quitting for good. More information about the topic can also be found below.

Available Treatments for Stop Smoking


  • High success rates
  • Limits withdrawal cravings
  • Hassle-free tablets
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The smoking facts: why is smoking bad for you?

The effects of smoking are not unfamiliar, however, did you know you could feel the positives of quitting within 20 minutes of your last cigarette as your pulse returns to normal level?

Whilst reaping the benefits so soon is ideal motivation, it's the long-term benefits that should be the main driver to quit. For example, many smoking statistics have directly linked the habit to long-term health conditions, as well as terminal illnesses, but the risk of these can be considerably lessened the longer you can stay smoke-free.

How smoking causes lung damage

Making the decision to quit smoking 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 a quarter of all cancer deaths overall in the UK, with the World Health Organization (WHO) predicting the global toll related to smoking to rise from 6 million to 8 million by 2030. Most surprisingly, in England, almost a quarter of a million NHS GP visits are due to children being exposed to passive smoking. To be gender specific, women have a lowered level of fertility whilst the male counterparts in their 30s and 40s have a 50% chance of suffering from erectile dysfunction.[1]

The senses and organs - Smoking has been known to have a negative impact on your taste and sense of smell while passive smoking may also affect your health, sometimes triggering breathing problems such as asthma, which may affect the mouth, lungs, stomach, liver or pancreas.

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

The effects of smoking on your smile

It is a well-known fact that smoking discolours your teeth. Firstly you will develop a yellow stain that gradually gets darker. There will also be wrinkles developing around the mouth due to the nicotine narrows blood vessels. This means less oxygenated blood and vitamins reach the surface of the skin. It can also cause bad breath for obvious reasons.

It's more than the look and smell that you should be concerned about when it comes to smoking. The habit also increases the build up of plaque and tar. Whilst this can be cleaned off during a dentist visit, the continual build up can lead to deterioration of the root and tooth loss.

It comes as no surprise then that smoking causes gum disease and oral cancer. Smoking can 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 eventually causing tooth loss.

Research also shows that smoking can interfere with the function of gum tissue cells. This can lead to smokers attracting 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 the mouth's moist nature. Smoking causes the gums' healing process to slow down meaning that sores caused by these diseases will remain open for some time. This is a painful and unsightly cycle of cause and effect. Gum disease is not something you want to have.

Oral cancer is more often called mouth cancer, but it can occur on the tongue, lips, gums, salivary glands, tonsils and pharynx. It's attributable to the HPV virus too, but smoking is still the major cause of mouth cancer. 93% of cancers in the oropharangeal part of the throat is caused by smoking. Mouth cancer usually appears between the ages of 50-74 years.

Symptoms of mouth cancer include:

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

Your dentist may notice these changes, or question you on your mouth 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 the chance of a full recovery.

Stop smoking timeline

The Healthline states that quitting smoking has a near immediate health benefit, and it isn't just your pulse regulating. Here is what happens when you stop smoking[2]

Stop smoking

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

Symptoms of smoking

The symptoms of smoking affects the entire body, from staining teeth of limiting blood flow around the body. This includes day-to-day symptoms.

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

It is likely you'll experience some 'withdrawal symptoms' when quitting smoking, especially in the first 8 weeks. However, they can be easily subverted with the right support. This is why many decide to opt for additional methods such as prescription medication, as well as help from friends and family, rather than going cold turkey.

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

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

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

The effect of nicotine on the body

Nicotine is the most commonly heard-of chemical in a cigarette and one of the main reasons why the habit is so addictive. A dependency on nicotine can be shown in the below diagram, linked to the brain.

How nicotine dependence develops in the brain

The effect that nicotine can have on the body can increase your heart rate and therefore your breathing and blood pressure around the entire body. You can more at risk of blood clotting and sensitive to pain.

Effects of nicotine on the body Structure of nicotine

Benefits of quitting smoking

Smoking isn't just the puffs you see in the air. In fact, 85% of the smoke is completely invisible and can affect yourself, others close to you and, superficially, your wallet.

  • Better 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 the highly addictive nicotine substance, the typical cigarette contains ingredients including more than 4,000 different chemicals with over 60 of them being proven to cause cancer. When you stop smoking however, you will visibly see a appearance in your attitude, looks and demeanour:

  • It enhances your complexion by restoring grey, wrinkled and damaged skin to its natural colour
  • Your senses will improve, allowing you to properly enjoy the taste of food and drink without the bitterness of tobacco in your mouth
  • Your personal hygiene will also improve as smoking can often lead to bad breath, stained teeth and gum disease
  • Improves your fitness and sporting performance

The chances of contracting any life-threatening condition associated with smoking is drastically reduced when quitting and continues to lower the longer you stay smoke-free as seen in our quit smoking timeline.

For others

Your state of health will improve, but there are so many other benefits for the others around you:

  • The quality of air will considerably improve making for a pleasant environment and fabrics smelling clean and fresh in your home or vehicle
  • Children, babies and those especially vulnerable to cigarette smoke have that threat removed reducing the chance of developing respiratory diseases from sidestream smoke
  • The chance of those passive smokers become smokers themselves is reduced

Second-hand smoking is responsible for "around 165,000 new cases of disease in children in the UK every year" according to Cancer Research UK, and 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 these benefits, cigarettes prices are 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:

  • Approximately two months spending money in Thailand
  • 2 versions of the latest Macbook
  • 66" HD LED TV
  • 3 nights at the best 5 star hotel in London
  • Season ticket to the top Premier League clubs
Lung infographics

How to stop smoking

The success rate of each quit smoking method depends entirely on the person. You may find the best way to stop smoking is willpower alone, or pills or patches might work better with your lifestyle or therapy is the answer; only you will know the best method(s) for you. The choice of treatment can also be influenced by a medical professional and will take into account certain factors such as:

  • Your age
  • Lifestyle
  • The amount of cigarettes you smoke

We offer a free online consultation for our prescription medication here that can offer advice on quitting by a UK qualified doctor if you would like an answer without booking a face-to-face appointment.

Prescription treatment

Prescription medication has shown to be a more effective stop smoking treatment, offering a 50% success rate, than nicotine replacement therapy (pills, patches and chewing gums) and any other quit smoking method. A course of the only prescription stop smoking tablets called Champix are easy to use, taken continuously for a 12-week period with some users opting for a further 12 weeks to ensure withdrawal symptoms and nicotine cravings have completely disappeared. Those who take a further 12 weeks of treatment have an extra 20% chance (70% overall) of quitting for good. In a recent UK study (undertaken in June 2010), seven methods of treatment were tested for success rates amongst a group of participants for over 6 months. Results showed Champix combined with behavioural support to be most effective, way ahead of nicotine replacement therapy and support.

Nicotine replacement therapy (NRT)

The most common methods of quit smoking treatment, nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) is available over-the-counter and can come in the form of pills, patches, gums, inhalers or sprays. Despite their exposure and availability, they are not actually proven to be the most successful.

The main appeal of NRT is that it can be obtained without a prescription making them extremely convenient however the main con is a poor success rate; the relapse rate is high, with only 17% of people remaining permanently smoke free after their first attempt. Counselling or therapy is another alternative quit smoking method that can be explored, and a combination of these methods will improve the success rate.

The low relapse rate can be due to the frame of mind, so it is imperative you are very keen on quitting. Before quitting, factors that can help include:

  • Speak to your doctor; agree to set a date when you wish to quit smoking
  • Track your progress with a journal or by simply ticking off days on a calendar
  • Try subtle lifestyle changes such as spending less time around smokers and avoiding environments that invite smoking, which has become easier now smoking has been banned in certain public places

These are just three ways to make simple improvements to your day-to-day living that can help you banish the bad habit. For even more, check out our 'quit smoking tips' just below this section.


As e cigarettes are still fairly new, the effect they have on smokers hasn't be thoroughly monitored, however in the UK they are used as a quit smoking cessation. The main difference between e cigarettes and prescription medication is that the vapours do include nicotine, however no tobacco. Smoking e cigarettes, also known as "vaping", are becoming increasingly popular as they don't underestimate the power of keeping your hand busy. Often the process of smoking can be part-and-parcel of the addiction, e cigarette can work as a stepping stone towards quitting for good. For more information about e cigarettes, you can read more at the NHS stop smoking service.[3]

Quit smoking apps

There are free stop smoking apps out there for anyone with a smartphone to take advantage of. The Healthline have offered a more comprehensive summary of the best phone apps for quitting smoking, including free options and those that are the most effective. These include the following:

  • 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 charities such as Cancer Research UK and the British Heart Foundation, and whilst this is focused around October, there is no reason why you can't apply the month rule any time of the year. The victory stories are promising; around a quarter of million people quit smoking during this period, and the numbers are expected to rise. Research has suggested that those who quit smoking for a month are five times more likely to quit successfully and you can find out even more from the NHS Smokefree site including how to get your quit smoking kit and other advice.[4]

Stop smoking tips

It is not unusual to seek multiple methods of help to overcome smoking. As well as over-the-counter methods and prescription treatment options 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 – cigarettes can be a routine so when quitting, you may fill this space with eating. Try instead including foods such as fruit and vegetables that studies have shown make the taste of cigarettes even worse, and of course, are healthier for you.
  • Identify your triggers – feeling stressed or anxious may have you reaching for the cigs, or when drinking alcohol, which can increase your chances of developing mouth cancer by 38 times, so identify these triggers and think of a unique way to avoid them. For example, think of alternative activities to do if you and your friends have a tendency to go to the pub.
  • Get support – whether this is professional support or friends and family, you can never have enough of it. Also be wary of your existing smoker friends. Of course, you don't want to rid yourself of your good friends, but maybe you can quit together? Or ask them to avoid you if they need to smoke.
  • Replace the habit with another – cigarettes can be just as much of a routine than anything else. Every usual cigarette break, decide to try something else. It can be as simple as making a cuppa, or getting some exercise. Make sure when out and about, your hands are busy, or collect the amount of time you spend usually smoking throughout the day and reward yourself in the evening.
  • Keep a reminder – whilst a day-by-day account of your progress can have a detrimental effect, keeping the thought of smoking in front of your mind, hard-hitting research on cigarettes personalise for your own reasons can help. For example when you're out, remind yourself that you're nearly 40 times more likely to get mouth cancer when smoking and drinking, or if you have high blood pressure, how take one relapse is going to affect you.
  • Take advantage of stop smoking forums – whilst friends and family can offer so much support, connecting with those that are going through the same process will make your determination go even further.

How long does it take to quit smoking?

This is dependant on the individual; it can take days, months or years. However, time will fly, and before long you will realise you no longer need to smoke.

The more help and support you have available, 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, nothing is set in stone; Champix is estimated to take 12 weeks, but in some cases an extra 12 weeks are needed, which can be better in the long run. This is the same for NRT or going cold turkey.

Bear in mind that a specific quit smoking treatment may not suit all users, so it makes sense to consult your doctor to discover what options you have open to you. Our online consultation service is a confidential service that can help you to take the first step towards a smoke-free life.

What are the options we have for quitting smoking?

HealthExpress offers clinically proven medication Champix that comes in a 12-week course and is available for repeat prescription if you need an extra dosage.

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

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