As a hypnotherapist it is natural that I would think that hypnotherapy is very effective in helping smokers to quit and remain abstinent. I know this because I have helped many people to stop and my experience is that it does work a lot of the time, however I appreciate that some people are nervous about hypnotism and it may not be for everyone and so am always pleased to see new ideas such as the latest NHS initiative to encourage smokers to quit.
It is called “Stoptober” and involves smokers committing to stop for the month of October. There is a web site, an iPhone application and other help available. Obviously the hope is that some smokers who stop for the month will stay stopped. You can find more details here: http://smokefree.nhs.uk/stoptober/
In its report “Statistics on Smoking: England, 2011” (available here) The Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) produced a large quantity of facts about smoking, many of which are very disturbing.
In England we spend some £17.7 billion on tobacco products each year, 1.5 million hospital admissions have smoking as the primary cause of the disease for which the patient is admitted and 461,000 people are admitted with diseases caused as a direct result of smoking. These are cancers, circulatory and respiratory conditions. Each year about 81,000 deaths are caused by smoking. In fact 29% of all deaths in England are attributable to smoking.
Cigarette smoke contains 4,000 compounds of which many are toxic and can damage human cell tissue. Tar is one of the three main ingredients in cigarettes, with 70% of the tar in each cigarette being deposited directly in the lungs and even though the EU has legislated that there can be no more than 12mg of tar per cigarette, this is still a highly damaging amount.
According to the HSCIC survey 67% of smokers want to stop and 75% have tried in the past. The success rate though is very poor, approximately only about 8% will remain abstinent for more than 2 years. Typical reasons for starting again are reported to include “liking smoking”, “being stressed”, “missing the habit”, “partner or friends still smoking”, “not coping with the cravings”, “putting on weight” and “drinking”.
As well as the damage to people’s health and disruption to families, research carried out by Oxford University estimated that smoking cost the NHS in the UK £5.2 billion in 2005/06 which represented approximately 5.5% of total healthcare costs so it is not surprising that there is a continued drive to try to encourage smokers to quit.
Stoptober is an attempt to get people to stop smoking for at least 28 days because if people can abstain for 28 days then there is a good chance they will continue to abstain.
The problem however is that even with the various Nicotine Replacement Therapies (gum, lozenges, inhalers, patches etc.), drugs such as Champix and Zyban and other support interventions, people do find it hard to stop smoking and stay stopped.
In my experience smokers are addicted to nicotine and smoking in three ways. Firstly there is the physical reliance on nicotine, which is a highly addictive drug and secondly there is the habit factor, which is people smoking after a meal, with a drink, with friends, as a break from work and perhaps with their first cup of coffee or tea in the morning.
Finally there is the psychological or emotional addiction which stems from the reasons people started in the first place. This could have resulted from wanting to ‘be one of the gang’; ‘more adult’; ‘more rebellious’; ‘more attractive’; or perhaps ‘cool’.
Of course when people first smoke they typically cough, choke and feel sick and dizzy. This is their body and subconscious informing them that smoking is not good for them. However as they persist in smoking the subconscious part of the mind begins to accept that they are a smoker and then does all it can to reinforce the belief that smoking is beneficial.
I believe that this psychological or emotional addiction is the hardest one of the three to overcome because the subconscious mind retains the belief that smoking is beneficial – despite all the protestations of the conscious mind to the contrary.
Hypnotherapy works by communicating with the subject’s subconscious mind, working with the ‘part’ of the mind that is responsible for maintaining the smoking habit to change its beliefs and response to situations where the smoker would typically reach for a cigarette. Once the change has been made at this level, remaining a non smoker is easier because the reasons for smoking no longer exist and people can become healthier and fitter.
Perhaps it can help a smoker turn ‘Stoptober’ into Stopvember, Stopcember and into 2013 and beyond?