Want to save hundreds of pounds? Quit smoking
8:50am Saturday 16th March 2013 in News
IF the health benefits of quitting smoking haven't persuaded you to kick the habit, how about looking at the benefits it could bring to your bank balance?
For instance £7 - the average price of a single packet of cigarettes - could buy a new lipstick or an album. A 20-a-day smoker could treat their kids to a trip to the cinema with their £49 saved after a week, or a new TV with the £210 saved after one month.
A year after quitting, they'd have saved £2,555 - enough for a family holiday.
"It's turning those cigarettes you used to smoke into tangible rewards," says Dr Mike Knapton, associate medical director of the British Heart Foundation (BHF), which runs the No Smoking Day campaign. "There's so much you can buy with the money you save.
"As a doctor, I want people to stop because of the health benefits, but a lot of smokers, while they know about the health risks of smoking, are motivated by something completely different."
Indeed, a BHF survey of 2,000 smokers found a quarter believed money was a bigger motivator to quit smoking than the effects on their long-term health, even though more than 100,000 UK smokers die every year from smoking-related causes.
The health risks of smoking are well-known, but it's estimated that around 10 million UK adults still smoke.
"Most smokers are aware of the health consequences," says Knapton, "but they see the risks as being a long way off, particularly if they're young.
"However, the guilt they feel about smoking and the money it costs, affects them today. It's much more immediate - short-term versus long-term risks and benefits.
"People don't ignore the health messages, they just need to get the motivational triggers right."
The survey found more than a third of smokers feel guilty about the amount they spend on cigarettes, with 28% confessing that they avoid thinking about how much they spend on the habit. One in five said they probably underestimate how much smoking actually costs them.
In addition, nearly a third (29%) said their children or family hated them smoking, and 19% acknowledged they could buy more for their family if they quit.
Knapton says: "These figures reveal the emotional burden smokers endure by feeling guilty about the impact their addiction has on family life and their finances."
Want help quitting?
Each year, No Smoking Day inspires more than 750,000 smokers to quit, and a further 1.5 million to seek information to help them quit in future.
But kicking the habit isn't easy, mainly because nicotine is highly addictive. It is possible though, and there are things you can do to improve your chances.
Setting a date to quit, getting rid of all of your smoking paraphernalia such as ashtrays and lighters, and writing down why you want to stop and how much money you're saving can all help, says Knapton.
Why not start a savings box - and plan how you're going to treat yourself and your family with the money you've saved after a certain length of time?
Plus, identifying when you're most likely to want a cigarette - like when you go to the pub or meet friends - and either avoiding those situations as you try to quit, or making sure you have some nicotine gum or other nicotine replacement therapy with you, might help you stay on track.
Going 'cold turkey' can be very hard, and many people need additional support to quit for good.
GPs and pharmacists can provide advice about quitting, and refer you to an NHS Stop Smoking support service.
GPs can also prescribe nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) such as gum, patches, or inhalers, which are available free to some people, or can be bought over the counter.
"Nicotine replacement therapy is very important and will help deal with the withdrawal symptoms that a lot of people who are addicted to nicotine get," says Knapton.
It's the other toxic substances in cigarettes, such as the tar and carbon dioxide caused by burning tobacco, which is associated with the health risks like lung cancer and heart disease - not the nicotine.
By using an NRT product, smokers are able to wean off nicotine slowly, while avoiding all the health risks of cigarettes.
:: For more advice call the No Smoking Day helpline on 0800 434 6677 or visit www.wequit.co.uk.