Stoptober is an initiative from Public Health England to increase the number of smokers stopping for good. The tag line is that if you stop for 28 days, you are 5 times more likely to stop for good.

According to figures from ASH (Action on Smoking and Health) in 2014: 20% of adult men and 17% of adult women are smokers, meaning there are 9.6 million adult smokers in the UK. The rates have halved since 1974 when 51% of men and 41% of women were smokers. The prevalence is highest in the 25-34 year age group and lowest in the over 60 age group. The rates are much higher amongst poorer people. 59% of all adults now report that they have never smoked. Two thirds of smokers start before the age of 18 despite it being illegal to sell cigarettes to anyone under 18. Use of tobacco is associated with an increased risk of certain cancers as well as heart disease. These cancers include lung, larynx (voice box), oesophagus (gullet), mouth and pharynx, bladder, pancreas, kidney, liver, stomach, bowel, cervix, leukaemia ( blood) and ovary. With the reduction in smoking, rates of lung cancer in males and oesophageal cancer in females as well as laryngeal cancer have all reduced.

Aids to stopping smoking

There are multiple aids to smoking cessation and all are effective. All methods are most effective if used within a structured NHS stop smoking service. NRT or Nicotine Replacement Therapy Nicotine replacement is available in many forms- patch, chewing gum, inhalators, tablets, nasal and mouth spray. Each has different release mechanisms and rate of release of the nicotine and are used in different ways. Treatment tends to last 8-12 weeks before reducing the dose of the NRT and stopping that too. NRT is suitable for anyone over 12 but under 18 year old should get advice before using the lozenges. Any side effects are usually mild and short lived.

Varenicline or Champix

This reduces cravings for nicotine as well as blocking the mechanism that rewards smoking. It is available on prescription only and a treatment course lasts around 12 weeks. It should be started 1-2 weeks before stopping smoking. It is not suitable for pregnant or breastfeeding women, those with severe kidney problems and children under 18.

Buproprion or Zyban

This was originally an antidepressant that has subsequently been found to help with stopping smoking. It is also available on prescription only and should be started 1-2 weeks before stopping smoking. Treatment lasts 7-9 weeks. It is not suitable for pregnant and breastfeeding women, children under 18 and those with epilepsy, bipolar disorder or eating disorders.

E- cigarettes

This is an electronic device that delivers nicotine as a vapour. This avoids many of the harmful effects such as tar and carbon monoxide but the long term effects have not been measured. They are a useful aid in stopping smoking The thrust of the campaign is once again to encourage as many smokers as possible to stop for good.