cigarettes in an ashtray

Greater Manchester smokers are being encouraged to give quitting a go this No Smoking Day to feel happier and boost their mood after a challenging year.

According to a new Cochrane study  published in time for No Smoking Day 2021 (Wednesday 10 March), it can take just six weeks for quitting smoking to improve your mood and mental health.

Reductions in anxiety and depression in those who quit smoking are found to be at least as effective as taking anti-depressants.

The Cochrane study shows that quitting for at least six weeks may improve mental wellbeing, by reducing anxiety, depression and stress – compared to people who continued to smoke.

It comes as new Public Health England (PHE) data also highlights that smoking is not helping people’s mental health, as it shows smokers have poorer mental wellbeing than non-smokers. The PHE / Office National Statistics data found smokers scored worse than the general population on every mental wellbeing indicator in both 2019 and 2020.

The Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnership is encouraging smokers from across the 10 boroughs to make No Smoking Day the first day of their last, final and most successful quit attempt.

It aims to address the commonly held myth that smoking helps people to relax and relieves stress. A temporary sense of relaxation soon leads to a vicious cycle of increased cravings and withdrawal symptoms which actually increase anxiety and tension.

Andrea Crossfield, ‘Making Smoking History’ lead at the Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnership, said:

“Across Greater Manchester record numbers of people are quitting smoking successfully. This No Smoking Day, we’re calling on people to give quitting a go for their health and wellbeing.

“As we start to recover from the Covid-19 pandemic, and with lockdown restrictions starting to ease, it’s the ideal time to put your health first and quit. The past year has been challenging for everyone and many people have struggled with stress, anxiety and depression. All too often we hear the myth that smoking reduces stress when it actually increases tension and anxiety.”

“Quitting smoking can make a big difference to how you feel and we now know that in just a matter of weeks, you can experience better mental health. It might take you a few attempts to quit, but don’t give up. Get support and find the right quitting aid for you to help ease your cravings.”

43-year-old floor layer Andy Castle from Ashton-Under-Lyne in Tameside quit smoking after 25 years in February 2020. The turning point for dad-of-two Andy came when one day, he woke up and decided, enough was enough.

Andy said: “I was so used to smoking. I started young, around 18, so it became part of my life. I would even keep a secret stash of rolling tobacco somewhere in case I ran out.”

“The nature of my job meant it was easy to take a cigarette break. I’d say I smoked around 30 a day. I think I’d gotten so used to smoking, I lost any pleasure from it. It was a routine for me. I smoked first thing in the morning and last thing at night, mainly for boredom and because I thought it relieved stress. But I always worried it was going to catch up with me eventually.”

“I quit after 25 years in February 2020. My relationship had broken up and my daughter hated me smoking. I knew I had to do something for the sake of my kids, so I made an appointment with my GP and I was prescribed stop smoking medication. It took me a long time to finally get over the cravings, but I’m over that hill now and I consider myself an ex-smoker.”

“I have seen how badly smoking can impact people’s health – the really serious effects and I want to be around for my kids. I carried on smoking when I wasn’t in a good place in my life, but I knew I couldn’t go on like that and I am really glad that I have quit for good now.”

Deborah Arnott, Chief Executive of Action on Smoking and Health said:

“After the year we’ve all had some smokers might not feel it’s the right time to stop but it absolutely is. People trying to quit right now have a greater chance of success and if you use aids like NRT patches and gum, vaping or stop smoking services you will probably find it easier than going alone. Be confident that once you’ve put withdrawal behind you not only will you be healthier and wealthier but happier too.”

Visit YouCanGM.org to find information and details of stop smoking services and support across Greater Manchester or call the NHS Stop Smoking helpline free on 0300 123 1044.

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