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Is a lifetime of NRT better than smoking?

Posted in Personal Health 25 Oct, 2012

According to a health watchdog people should be advised by their doctors to use nicotine replacement therapy methods instead of simply quitting cold turkey. According to the report by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE), advising people to use healthier nicotine substitutes or ‘inhaling less’ will be a much more effective approach to preserve the nation’s health than simply advising people to quit smoking cold turkey.

New guidance for helping smokers quit

The draft guidance by NICE is advising that it will be much better for people to quit smoking gradually than simply giving up cigarettes completely straight away. While the report believes that methods such as electronic cigarettes are not advisable because they aren’t regulated by the MHRA, they believe that NRT substances should be more readily available in shops. The draft also recommended people should be advised to inhale less when they do smoke in an attempt to gradually wean yourself off cigarettes, although the health benefits of ‘inhaling less’ hasn’t been established, which is to say if there are any.

Downside of NRT

However, the reason why many people don’t use NRT is because of exactly the purpose it performs, which is to satisfy the body’s nicotine addiction by providing a comparatively healthy alternative. This means that, essentially, you are swapping one form of addiction for another, thereby creating a potential future scenario where you’d be required to stop using patches or gum without relapsing back to full-on smoking. Not that I am saying cold turkey is better, it certainly is by no means easier. Quitting by sheer willpower can be a nightmare, especially if you have to contend with particularly aggressive nicotine cravings in moments where you are vulnerable to relapse.

A more gradual approach

I don’t think replacing one addiction with another is ideal, but I do think there is some merit to substitution. Even the NHS recommends substitution to people who would like to quit, in the form of a hobby or even exercise. Although what I do think smokers can take from this report is the method of slowly stopping smoking, rather than simply completely stopping even when they choose to use NRT. Just like weight loss should happen slowly and healthy habits should form part of everybody’s lifestyle, smoking could be approached in a similar way, as you’ll always be vulnerable to the urge once you’ve been a long-term smokier.

Treatments other than NRT

Smoking cessations treatments such as Champix, which is sometimes used by people to help them quit, works with a similar principle. Instead of removing all traces of cigarettes, patients to still smoke during the start of treatment. Champix also doesn’t work to replace nicotine, but rather helps satisfy nicotine receptors in another way, so that smoking isn’t as pleasurable as you would like it to be.

Everyone should find a method that suits them

I think every smoker should find what works for them best, whether it’s cold turkey, treatment that involves NRT or prescription medication, as long as it’s sustainable and isn’t likely to cause an issue of future addiction or relapse. There is no quick fix and when we start talking about people rather using NRT all their lives than smoking, we are not really dealing with the problem, but rather creating another one.

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