May 31 is World No Tobacco Day, an annual event created by the WHO to launch a campaign on the dangers of smoking. Unfortunately, runners are not immune to nicotine addiction, so if you are a secret smoker eager to quit, clinical hypnotherapist and member of the Women’s Running Expert Panel member Lisa Jackson, author of a new book, Quit For Ever !, invaluable advice to help you succeed
“If you want to get out of bed on time to attend lectures, you just have to hide your cigarettes in the shower,” my boyfriend at university once believed. Unfortunately, he did not make a joke. As a student, I became more and more addicted to smoking until at one point I came across 60 cigarettes a day, and often smoked two at a time because I forgot I already had one on.
Luckily, I managed to quit years ago. I thankfully ran because I was helped to do this – I simply could not put myself through an exhausting workout just to undo all my good work by having a flash. I’m very sorry I smoked, but I took one good thing from the experience: it helped me help hundreds of smokers quit through my hypnotherapy work.
I thought I would put smoke firmly behind me, but my intention was very much in the temptation during the Turin Marathon, which I completed in the company of two incredibly encouraging pacemakers. In the last four miles, one of them, a desert ultra-veteran, lit a cigarette and I had a sudden desire to ask him if I could quit one of them. Luckily I resisted the urge and finally spent the last few miles singing Italian arias with my tempo group.
But it made me think of the other runners I know who smoke. Granted, our runners may be less likely to do this as we are aware of how smoking makes running much more difficult, but I have been to many races where I have seen participants pull a rogue as a reward for the crossing the finish line. If you’re one of them, and you’re eager to stop forever, here’s some surprisingly scary facts – plus some proven tips, tricks, and techniques – that might help you do just that …
Tobacco kills up to 50% of its users.
As Gro Harlem Brundtland, former Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO), put it: “A cigarette is the only consumer product that kills its consumer when used as indicated.” According to WHO statistics, tobacco smoke is so deadly that it kills almost six times more people worldwide than road accidents.
Even the strange rogue flicker can be deadly.
In 2011, the U.S. Surgeon-General dropped a bomb saying that “any exposure to tobacco smoke, even occasional smoking or exposure to secondhand smoke, causes immediately damage to your body. That damage can lead to serious illness or death. ” So you do not have to have smoked countless cigarettes, smoked for many years or indeed smoked a single cigarette yourself – simply inhaling tobacco smoke of any kind can put you at risk of developing a serious health condition.
According to a 2005 Norwegian study published in the peer-reviewed journal Tobacco control, even smokers who smoke as little as one to four cigarettes a day have a significantly higher risk of dying early than non-smokers.
Smoking is anything but sexy.
Many books and movies have portrayed smoking as a sophisticated habit. Take James Bond, for example. The original novel by Ian Fleming got him through an incredible 60 to 70 Morland cigarettes daily, but in real life, his heavy habit would probably have seen him utter rules like, “Not tonight Honey Ryder,” or “I will end the British – once the Viagra has kicked in,” – smoking causes impotence and a lower sperm count in men. Smoking also affects female fertility: women who smoke are twice as likely to be infertile as non-smokers. smoking during pregnancy makes up 20% to 30% of low birth weight babies and it can also lead to miscarriage and stillbirth.
It’s never too late to stop.
No matter how many times you gave your arm lungs, they have the ability to heal themselves from some of the damage caused by smoking, according to a study published in the journal Nature. Previously, the DNA mutations that cause lung cancer – and that result from the chemicals in tobacco smoke – were considered permanent, but the study showed that the cells that could escape in it to be damaged have the ability to repair the lungs.
And according to Cancer Research UK, the risk of lung cancer is much lower in people who smoked in the past compared to people who currently smoke, and the gap widens as the time since quitting smoking increases. The risk of lung cancer in former smokers who quit about 12 years ago is 72% lower compared to people who currently smoke.
Quitting is like awarding yourself an annual cash bonus of up to several thousand pounds a year for the rest of your life.
Assuming the average cigarette costs 50p, someone with a modest 10-a-day habit will save £ 18,200 in just five years. Setting up a direct debit so you can spend the huge amounts of money you will save on a great reward is a good idea, as well as spending as much time as possible doing things you enjoy after you quit because it will help convince your subconscious that you are much better off without nicotine in your life.
Just three to nine months after quitting, your lung function increases by up to 10%.
This is according to NHS Smokefree, and you’ll really notice it when you run, because you’ll stop squeaking and breathe less. After one year, your risk of having a heart attack would have halved compared to a smoker’s, and 10 years after you quit, your risk of dying from lung cancer would have halved compared to a smoker’s a.
So, now that we know the facts – how do we do it? It’s easy to say you’ll stop when you read statistics, but much harder to do when real life gets in the way. Here are some techniques that have helped me a lot.
Put a support network in place.
A great way to do this is to create a Target group of up to three people you can rely on to motivate and inspire you – as well as choosing a Quit Buddy who will just take a phone call or SMS away be if you need a little pep talk. The members of your Goal Group can be anyone, from an encouraging colleague (who can make you a cup of tea if you tell them you’re tempted to swallow for a flicker) to a personal trainer (who can continue to inspire you to make the most of your increased lung capacity).
Also use the power of social media through your intention to quit smoking and post your reasons for everyone to see it. Declare that you will post again if you feel like smoking – and then follow it up. Encourage your friends to post messages of support when they see such a plea from you – and promise yourself that you will read every single message before making the decision whether or not to fall back.
An astonishingly simple breathing technique can help you combat cravings and stay calm.
When smoking, exhaling from the smoke tends to take longer than inhaling it. One of the reasons why smoking feels relaxed is because it makes you breathe slower and really makes you focus on your exhalation, which feels like a physical release as your chest muscles relax after being expanded by your inhalation. By making each ‘exhale’ last longer than each ‘inhale’, it activates your parasympathetic nervous system, which slows down your heartbeat and lowers your blood pressure, causing relaxation.
Use this Serene Breathing technique, which is remarkably similar to smoking but does not involve inhaling at least 69 cancer-causing chemicals, whenever you experience cravings or feel anxious or stressed, and repeat it as often as you like.
- Inhale as deeply as you can comfortably through your nose.
- Pause briefly.
- Exhale as slowly as you can through your nose, with the goal that your exhalation should be longer than your inhalation.
Hypnosis is an easy and effective way to quit five times more effective than willpower alone.
This was according to a study published in the Journal of Applied Psychology, it also concluded that ‘hypnosis is the most effective way to quit smoking, according to the greatest scientific comparison ever of ways to break the habit.’ To find a trusted hypnotherapist, visit general-hypnotherapy-register.com.
Withdraw from Stop forever! Stop Smoking and Vaping the
Super-fast, easy and fun way by Lisa Jackson (Little Bandit Books), which features proven smoking cessation strategies, a 28-day quit journal and three free audio hypnosis downloads. Lisa also hosts Skype and face-to-face smoking cessation sessions: qmhypnotherapy.co.uk.