Today (Wednesday 14th March) marks the 35th national No Smoking Day, challenging smokers to be a quitter for 24 hours.
The annual day, which sees around 700,000 attempted quits across the UK, encourages smokers to give no smoking a go for one day in the hope they will eventually feel ready to quit for good.
Currently in Wales, 19% of adults and 9% of 15/16-year olds smoke regularly. A recent survey showed that 64% of all smokers would like to give up, 44% have tried and 7% of people currently use an e-cigarette.
The unknown of what to expect when stopping smoking often puts off would-be quitters but that’s where No Smoking Day comes in, giving smokers an insight into what to expect when they finally go smokefree. Picking a specific date to quit, such as No Smoking Day, also means quitters are more likely to stay smokefree as they’re mentally ready for the challenge.
Tobacco control campaign group ASH Wales Cymru have created a timeline looking at what happens to the body during the 24 hours of No Smoking Day.
- 20 minutes: After just 20 minutes of that last cigarette the body begins to recover. Nicotine, the addictive bit of smoking, is a stimulant which gives the body that ‘hit’, but this only lasts for a matter of minutes. Not long after the last puff of smoke, heart rate and blood pressure return to normal following this high.
- 8 hours: This is the testing time when most quitters reach for another cigarette. The effects of withdrawal are strong as nicotine leaves the bloodstream and cravings start to increase. A top tip is to find something to keep the mind and hands distracted - fiddle with a pen and pick up a crossword!
- 12 hours: Oxygen levels return to normal as poisonous smoke leaves the blood and body. It is this smoke which is the killer part of smoking, causing 1 in 2 long-term smokers to die from the addictive habit.
- 24 hours: Anxiety and ‘stress’ levels peak. The feeling of stress associated with quitting smoking isn’t really stress - it’s a sign of withdrawal. It’s untrue that smoking de-stresses – it just feeds a craving. In fact, research shows non- and ex-smokers feel less stressed than smokers.
Quitting smoking has enormous long-term benefits too as making it 10 years smokefree will see an ex-smoker’s risk of lung cancer, one of the most likely harms to a smoker’s life, become half that of a smoker. It’s great news for the heart as well; after 10 years smokefree the chance of a heart attack becomes the same as a non-smoker.
ASH Wales’ Chief Executive, Suzanne Cass, said: “No Smoking Day is a fantastic opportunity for smokers to give quitting a try and hopefully spur them on to say goodbye to tobacco for good. With thousands of others taking part of the day, would-be quitters can be reassured they’re not alone and there’s lots of great support out there, like with Help Me Quit, to keep them motivated throughout the day.
“Over 5,000 people die every single year in Wales from preventable illnesses caused by smoking. Every event like No Smoking Day or Stoptober which helps tackle this shocking statistic are crucially important and must be supported across Wales.”
The NHS offers a free stop smoking service in Wales called Help Me Quit. Smokers are four times more likely to stay smokefree with support than if they go it alone. To get free, local, and tailored advice visit www.helpmequit.wales, text ‘HMQ’ to 80818 or phone 08000 852 219.