Insight into smoking

How do you get addicted to cigarettes?

When you take a puff of a cigarette, nicotine gets absorbed into the lungs. It reaches the brain in seven seconds where it attaches to the receptor. This leads to dopamine release. Dopamine releases a “reward” signal that generates urges to smoke in the presence of smoking cues. Repeated exposure leads to damage to the reward part of the brain and develops a “nicotine hunger” when your body is depleted.

Why smoking is not good

A cigarette contains more than 4000 chemicals. More than 80 have been identifed as high causes of cancer. We all know that smoking is bad for your health, and recent research supported this. Every year, smoking after your mid-30s loses on average three months of life.

How can I reduce craving / withdrawal symptoms / desire to smoke?

Walking: Ten minutes of brisk walking has been proved to reduce the cravings. It also improves your mood and helps to keep your weight under control.
Isometric exercise: Alternatively contract the muscle of your arms, buttocks and thighs for a few minutes each, working in total for about 10 minutes.
Mindfulness: Ten minutes of bringing your attention to your body, sensing it and accepting the feelings that arise, without fighting back.
Changing your routine: Reduce exposure to cues by changing your activities when regular smoking habit occurs. For example, take a different route towork, different place for coffee.
Talk: When you talk with someone you get distraction from cues; for example picking up the phone, visiting a friend.
Imagery: Use virtual reality programmes or imagine that you are crushing cigarettes.

quit smoking image What gives you the best chance of quitting?

In the UK in 2019, 14.1% of people aged 18 years and above smoked cigarettes, which equates to around 6.9 million people in the population. The proportion of current smokers in the UK has fallen significantly from 14.7% in 2018 to 14.1% in 2019. Smoking Cessation Support and medication enhances your chance of quitting four times more.

What is a Smoking Cessation Adviser?

A Smoking Cessation Adviser is a trained person who supports you on your journey to quit.

What can I do to remain an ex-smoker?

Remind myself that there is no such thing as "just one” cigarette:

  • Take each day at the time
  • Remind myself why I decided to quit and what the benefits are
  • Develop relationships; for example family, friends and community
  • Learn new things; for example dancing, languages, recipes, new hobbies
  • Be active: walk, go to the gym, play football, go swimming
  • Remind myself that there is a helpline that I can call

Medication - what is available?

NRT products come in different forms: gum, patches, inhalers, microtabs, lozenges and nasal, sprays.If you have tried to quit in the past, NRT might be one of the methods that you have used. Every year new NRT products appear on the market. These have improved in tolerance, taste and time of nicotine delivery. It might be difficult to distinguish between all of them. It is very important to use them correctly to get the most benefit out of them. A Smoking Cessation Adviser can help you find out what is available and how to use it correctly so that you can decide what works best for you.

Zyban is a treatment that changes the way your body responds to nicotine.

Varenicline (Champix) is very effective in reducing the craving and reward effect of smoking. Use it with caution if you have a mental health illness. Zyban and Carenicline are medicines that do not contain nicotine. It is available on prescription. The decision to prescribe Zymana dn Varenicline must be made by a GP as a full medical history has to be taken in account.

E-cigarettes are electronic devices that delivers nicotine in a vapour. This allows you to inhale nicotine without most of the harmful effects of smoking, as the vapour contains no tar or carbon monoxide. Research has found that ecigarettes can help you give up smoking, so you may want to try them rather than the medications listed previously. As with other approaches, they’re most effective if used with support from an NHS stop-smoking service.

Medication information

Information about medicines can be obtained from the Choice and Medication website.

Further help

Camquit Cambridgeshire

Stop Smoking Peterborough

The NHS Smokefree app can help you stop smoking by providing daily support and motivation. If you stay smokefree for the four-week programme you’re up to five times more likely to stay quit for good. Join the thousands who have already quit with our support. There's lots of other free support on offer – from e-mails, SMS and texts – so you can choose the support that's right for you. Available from the Apple app store and Android Google Play store.

Pdf version of this page:  Insight into smoking 2018.pdf 266KB

As a patient

As a patient, relative or carer using our services, sometimes you may need to turn to someone for help, advice, and support. 

Patient Advice and Liaison service  Contact the Trust