Why we still need Stoptober

Hard to believe that Stoptober is in its 11th year and whilst smoking rates are declining nationally - and are at record low -  we still need the campaign to encourage millions of smokers across the UK to quit the habit this October.

Nearly 6 million adults (13.8% of adults) in England smoke and smoking remains the single biggest cause of preventable illness and death in England.   Every year around 78,000 die from smoking related diseases with 70% of lung cancer cases due to smoking.  Smoking not only damages your lungs but increases your risk of diabetes, cancer heart attacks, respiratory illnesses, suppresses the immune system, impacts bone health, cause tooth loss and gum disease and can lead to infertility in men.  

Within recent years, the proportion of smokers who use cigarettes has rapidly declined whilst use of  hand-rolled tobacco has doubled.   Tobacco has become very expensive and rolling your own is a much cheaper alternative to cigarettes.   However, many roll-up users don’t use a filter and end up inhaling more tar and nicotine, becoming more addicted and therefore find it harder to quit. Roll-ups have been associated with a higher risk of cancer of the mouth, oesophagus, pharynx and larynx when compared to cigarette smokers.

There is also the health impact of 'second hand' smoke or passive smoking - i.e. the smoke non-smokers inhale from a lit cigarette or what a smoker exhales in their company.  In particular, children of smokers are more likely to suffer from asthma and have lower immune responses, making them more susceptible to invasive diseases, like meningitis.  However, there are lots of studies to show that since the ban of smoking in enclosed public spaces, smokers across the country have adapted a 'smoke free' policy in their homes and now there are small numbers of smokers who continue to smoke indoors.   There are, however,  ~10% of pregnant women who smoke at time of delivery, which increases the risk of miscarriage, stillbirth, low birth weight and sudden infant death syndrome.  


Most smokers want to quit.   Nationally 60% of smokers say they want to stop smoking.  When Lockdown happened more than a third of smokers tried to quit with attempts to quit being at higher levels than before the COVID-19 pandemic began.   However, smoking levels amongst adults didn't drop.   This is because most smokers try to quit themselves unaided using willpower alone which is the least effective way to stop smoking. 

If you want to quit successfully, you need support and the NHS and local smoking cessation services can help you to do that. For example:  

  • Using nicotine replacement therapies (NRT) or e-cigarettes makes it one and a half times as likely a person will succeed
  • Using a stop smoking medicine prescribed by a GP, pharmacist or other health professionals  doubles a person's chance of quitting successfully 
  • Combining stop smoking aids with expert support from local stop smoking services makes someone 3 times as likely to stop smoking successfully

There is national evidence that if someone manages to abstain from smoking for 28 days, they are 5 times more likely to quit for good.  So this month is as good a time as any to get in touch with your local pharmacist, GP or search for smoking cessation services online.   

Quitting smoking can help you to move more   

Within days of quitting, the heart rate decreases, blood circulation increases and the carbon monoxide level in the blood drops to that of a non-smoker. Between 1 to 12 months, lung function improves (such as coughing and shortness of breath decreases), enabling greater ability to physically exercise. In turn, increasing fitness levels means smokers are also more like to fight cravings.   Added benefits are improved taste and smell, an improved immune system and better mental health. See  the NHS Quit Smoking page for more information. 

Quitting will save you money

HM Revenue and Customs found that the average smoker could save around £2000 a year when they quit (that’s approximately £167 a month). That can equate to a nice holiday or some extra cash for your heating bills or to take up a new hobby.  Quitting smoking also reduces life assurance and car and home insurance premiums.

In 2019, at least 1.4% of household expenditure was spent on tobacco products.  Moreover, just under a quarter of households containing smokers live in poverty once spend on smoking is considered.  This means that tobacco usage appears to exacerbate poverty in low income households in the United Kingdom. 

NHS Scotland have a useful tool to help you calculate how much you can save: