What Is Stoptober?
Stoptober is a nationwide campaign launched by Public Health England in 2012. It encourages smokers of all ages to go without cigarettes for 28 days throughout October, and aims to help people quit altogether!
In the UK, approximately 1 in 5 adults are smokers, but with the rising costs and health concerns, many of these people are looking to ditch the habit. Since 2012, thousands of people have banded together every year with the aim of saying goodbye to their addiction and hello to better health and an extra bit of cash in their pockets.
Stoptober comes as part of a larger shift towards being an anti-smoking Britain. Recent legislation has banned the use of attractive branding and packaging, set the minimum pack size to 20 cigarettes and caused a rise in tobacco costs in the UK. This combined with public reports on the damaging effects of smoking has caused many people to reconsider their addiction.
Why Is Stoptober So Important?
Taking part in Stoptober is far more than completing a 28 day challenge - it’s the beginning of your journey to finding a healthier, happier you.
Quitting smoking carries with it a whole host of health benefits which take effect just hours after your last cigarette. During the next few weeks, months and years without smoking, your health continues to improve dramatically and before you know it, you’ve added years on to your life.
So, what health benefit does quitting smoking have?
Benefits on your body
Breathing and general fitness will be improved alongside having more energy due to the increased oxygen in your body.
Improved taste and smell senses as smoking damages nerve endings in the nose and mouth, which begin to grow back just 48 hours after quitting smoking.
Appearance of skin and teeth will be improved, and within a week you’ll start to feel the difference in your mouth.
Improved sex life as smoking can reduce genital lubrication and orgasm frequency in women, also increasing the risk of erectile dysfunction in men.
Improvement in fertility levels and increased chances of having a healthy pregnancy and baby.
Lower risk of cancer after a few years of being smoke-free. This includes lung cancer, esophageal cancer, kidney cancer, bladder cancer and pancreatic cancer.
Benefits on your mind
The majority of us are aware of the numerous physical health benefits that quitting smoking has, but what about the effects on your mental health?
Many people believe that smoking helps to calm them down, and relieves the feelings of stress and anxiety. However, the NHS states that smoking actually increases anxiety and tension, and it is in fact the craving for a cigarette which causes these feelings, so it’s only once they’ve had a cigarette that they associate it with the feeling of relief.
According the NHS, smokers are more likely than non-smokers to develop depression over time, and reports state that stopping smoking can actually be as effective as antidepressants. This is because quitting smoking has been proven to improve mood and help relieve stress, anxiety and depression.
Quitting smoking has also been known to boost confidence in social situations, as it eliminates the paranoia of smelling like stale smoke.
With all of that being said, it’s worth noting that if you’re a smoker who suffers with anxiety or depression and uses cigarettes as a coping mechanism - smoking could have been the very cause of these issues in the first place.
What happens when you quit smoking: A timeline
This NHS timeline details how quickly you will notice the benefits of stopping smoking, and the improvement on your quality of life over time.
After 20 minutes
Your pulse rate has returned to normal.
After 8 hours
Oxygen levels are returning to normal, and carbon monoxide levels are reduced by half.
After 48 hours
All carbon monoxide has been flushed out of the body, so your lungs will start to clear out mucus. Taste and smell senses have improved.
After 72 hours
The bronchial tubes have started to relax, therefore breathing feels noticeably easier and energy is increasing.
After 2-12 weeks
Circulation has improved, meaning that blood is pumping through to your heart and muscles better.
After 3-9 months
Lung function has increased by up to 10%, with a noticeable improvement in any coughs, wheezing or breathing problems.
After 1 year
Risk of a heart attack has now halved compared to that of a smoker.
After 10 years
Risk of death from lung cancer has now halved compared to that of a smoker.
After 15 years
Risk of a heart attack is now the same as someone who has never smoked.
Why Is Stoptober Successful?
Public Health England evaluated the effectiveness of the 2017 Stoptober campaign, and the report on the findings makes for interesting reading. It stated that:
Public awareness of the Stoptober brand was measured at 76%
The number of people attempting to quit met their target of 16% of smokers
The number of people who carried on after Stoptober increased from 6% to 8%
All of this would suggest that Stoptober has a positive influence on the smoking population of the United Kingdom and more importantly, that it does generate results in terms of helping people to quit. There are a few possible reasons for this success.
Doing It Together
It can be a powerful thing, being part of up to 1,000,000 people attempting to quit smoking at the same time. The concept of “strength in numbers” comes shining through during the month of October as peers encourage each other to make a beneficial change to their lifestyle.
Achievable One-Month Target
Quitting smoking is hard work. When attempting it for the first time, many people struggle to go 24 hours without a cigarette. It could be argued that Stoptober is aimed at a slightly older audience, one that includes people who have attempted to quit in the past but to no avail.
The one-month milestone, combined with a strong campaign and encouragement from others, is a manageable first step towards ditching cigarettes. Having a clear target at the end of the challenge is crucial, it gives participants an end goal in sight.
It Saves You Money
Quitting smoking will save you money. How much you save will obviously depend on how often you smoke, but removing that expenditure from your lifestyle will free up some disposable income and this is another huge plus point for Stoptober.
Participants will be able to use the saved money as a source of inspiration throughout the month, and this can form a big part of a personal quit plan.
Cultural norms in the United Kingdom have shifted and smoking is now perceived differently. This has come around after years of stringent anti-smoking policies being put in place.
As you are now far more restricted in terms of where you can smoke in public, this can have a positive impact on Stoptober participants as the act of smoking can be socially problematic.
How To Build A Personalised Stoptober Quit Plan
If you’re aiming to tackle Stoptober this month then you’re going to need a plan of action.
It doesn’t have to be as regimented as “on day one, I’m going to do this” but we hope that by supplying you with some tips and ideas you may find the task of quitting smoking a little easier to manage.
Track Your Savings
We touched on this earlier and it’s so important for your Stoptober mindset - track how much money you would have spent throughout the month by adding your rough daily spend into a savings jar.
Being able to physically see the amount of money you have saved will give you that little extra encouragement, knowing you’re healing the bank balance as well as the mind and body.
Combine Stoptober With Exercise
Studies show that physical exercise reduces the urge to smoke, so you can work on managing the negative mental impacts of your cravings by exercising more often.
Activities such as running and swimming release natural endorphins and hormones and these will help to make you feel more positive, cope with stress and generally have more energy on a day to day basis.
Try to set aside a regular time for exercise, one that fits with your schedule and you can stick to. If you are committing to Stoptober with a friend or relative then why not exercise together?
Be sure to change your exercise routine from time to time so you don’t get stuck in a cycle.
Products To Help You Quit
Going cold turkey may not work for everyone and this is why there are proven nicotine aids out there that can help increase your chances of success. The three main widely available products are:
Prescribed medication (Champix and Zyban)
Nicotine patches, inhalers and gum
All of these products have one thing in common - they provide your body with the nicotine hit that it’s craving, but without the damaging effects of tobacco and other harmful substances contained in cigarettes.
Therefore, it’s all just about choosing the best stop smoking aids for you, the ones which are most effective and enjoyable.