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Five ways to stop smoking

A man takes a co-oximetry test at the information stand in Malaga.
A man takes a co-oximetry test at the information stand in Malaga. / Paula Hérvele
  • The first step is to really want to give up smoking and to understand the toxic effects this addiction has on a smoker’s health

  • World No Tobacco Day on Wednesday invited us to think about ways to kick the habit

The most basic and principal method of giving up smoking is to really want to do so. Knowing the damage that a tobacco addiction does to the body is a major incentive to stop, and so is being aware of how much money can be saved by giving up a habit which results in 10,000 deaths each year in Andalucía, 2,000 of which are in Malaga province. Never starting to smoke or, at least, beating a dependence on tobacco in time, is definitely best for the health.

Determination

You must really want to give up: people often relapse

Determination is essential for someone who wants to give up smoking. About 70 per cent of smokers want to stop and have tried numerous times to do so, says Salvador Oña, a specialist in preventive medicine and the head of the smoking addiction unit of the Spanish Association Against Cancer (AECC).

The problem is that nearly 70 per cent of smokers who try to give up by themselves find it too hard and end up lighting a cigarette within 72 hours, because of the withdrawal symptoms. These normally last for about four weeks and this is the hardest period of all.

The passage of time helps those who give up smoking. As the days go by and they resist the temptation to light up, their ability to overcome their addiction becomes stronger. It has been shown that the degree of success in those who decide to stop smoking, focusing on one day at a time, is equal to that of those who consider the situation calmly and decide on a particular date to give up tobacco, says Dr de Oña.

Professional help

Doctors and pharmacists give advice to smokers

For those who find it too hard to give up on their own, health centres have a programme which can help. GPs provide advice to encourage people to continue and not give in to the urge to smoke. The programme includes information about the damage which smoking does to the body, and has helpful information about how to stop.

In the first four months of this year, doctors in Malaga province have given advice to 408,000 people who wanted to give up smoking. Pharmacists, in chemists’ shops, can also give advice about tobacco addiction and how to overcome it. The Junta de Andalucía also has a helpline (900 850 300) for smokers who want to give up the habit.

Treatments

There are specific medications for withdrawal symptoms and anxiety

The third method to overcome tobacco addiction is through medication. Dr de Oña says this has to be individually prescribed. Two types have shown particularly good results: in Spain they are called vareniclina y bupropión. The first is a non-nicotine product which basically reduces the effect of the nicotine on the brain and reduces the anxiety caused by the withdrawal symptoms. Bupropión has psychostimulant and anti-depressant properties and helps to overcome the addiction. These drugs have to be paid for, because they are not funded by the health service.

Effective

Combined medical-psychological therapy

This system is very effective and has a high success rate. It is available on the national health as well as privately. It is an advanced treatment to help smokers give up tobacco, and can be provided individually or on a group basis. It is a combination of cognitive-behavioural psychologies and pharmaceutical treatment. In the first four months of this year, 18,827 people received this treatment in health centres in Malaga province. This programme requires the smoker to attend the sessions in person.

Something new with good results

Combine e-cigarettes with chewing gum or nicotine tablets

This is a new tool to fight tobacco addiction. Smokers who want to give up combine the use of electronic cigarettes with nicotine chewing gum or tablets, explains Salvador de Oña.

With regard to hypnosis as a way of overcoming addiction, De Oña says this is no more beneficial than the products with a so-called placebo effect, and points out that the unit he runs did a study which showed that there was no significant difference between those products and hypnosis. He says every smoker needs to find the method which suits them best, and should always bear in mind that giving up tobacco will considerably improve their quality of life.