SUPPORT is important when people try to quit smoking and a new Quit Tobacco group run by the HSE is about to begin in Shannon.
Smoking cessation specialist Mary McMahon said that giving up nicotine is hard enough to do with support, but the odds are awful without some backing. She also says that even if people fail to kick the habit, having tried makes it easier to do in the future.
“Without any help its so hard that only one to three per cent of smokers who quit will still have quit at the end of a year. But the more support you get the easier it is to quit. In the UK they would aim to get at least a 15% quit rate at the end of a year. What happens is that 38-40% would quit with help and support for four weeks, but the more often they practice it and the longer the quit attempt, they bring all that learning and skills into the next quit attempt.”
She says that the effects of smoking are stark, and more information is still becoming available about it. “It affects practically every aspect of health really. The three main ones would be caridovascular disease, respiratory illness and cancers, those are the three main groups of illness. In total, tobacco related disease in Ireland causes 19% of all deaths. Then there are pneumonias, myeloid leukaemia, macular degeneration of the eyes. There is new evidence every day really. It’s estimated that smokers will lose nine years of quality life if they continue to smoke.”
While the dangers of smoking are well known, something that doesn’t receive as much attention is how quickly improvements can be seen after stopping. “The benefits are immediate really. Within 20 minutes of the last cigarette the heart rate begins to go down. The carbon monoxide begins to clear from the system and really it’s gone from the body within 48 hours. Oxygen levels come back up because the blood binds to carbon monoxide and oxygen and carbon monoxide compete in the body. Blood pressure goes down and the heart rate can down by as much as 17 beats a minute in a very dependent smoker.”
The reason that the odds are against people trying to kick the habit is because nicotine is one of the most addictive drugs that can be bought legally or illegally and cigarettes are designed to give people a hit extremely quickly. “Some of the research would say that it’s (nicotine) as addictive as heroin. The cigarette is designed to be highly addictive really, it’s very much engineered to get nicotine to the brain in as little as ten seconds.”
She said that the programme does make a real difference to people who want to stop. “The good news is that everyday people are quitting and are quitting for good. That’s why these services are provided, they are evidence based and show to increase the quit rate.
“We’re offering a six week structured cessation programme that will cover all aspects of quitting, really equipping people to feel more confident and competent for quitting. It’s really getting them to reframe how they think about smoking and that they would explore their smoking behaviour and understand it more deeply. It’s informing them around the evidence-based approach to quitting and we would do carbon monoxide monitoring as well. It’s very much about people in the group supporting each other to quit.”
The programme, which is free of charge, will kick of on February 11. For more information call 065 6865841/6865839 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.