Winter is always the worst time of year for smokers. Bogey and Bacall – those most glamourous of nicophiles – never had to suffer the indignity of juggling cigarette, matches and umbrella while exiled to a frozen fire escape and forced out onto the icy streets to sate their cravings. Neither did they have to put up with the smug self-righteousness of non-smoking colleagues, nor the pointed coughs of passive-aggressive second-hand martyrs at bus stations and pub gardens. And with National No Smoking Day coming up on the 14th March, winter might be the best time of year to quit.
But for many, kicking the habit can seem like an impossible challenge. Compared to drug addicts or alcoholics, would-be non-smokers often receive less support and less sympathy while trying to renounce the evil weed, even though the physiological effects of nicotine dependency can be just as debilitating. When it comes to quitting, the one thing experts agree on is that a combination of techniques is always more powerful than just using one. So don’t be afraid to mix up your approach, although remember that no matter what technique you use, you will always need willpower. Also, it almost goes without saying – if you’re serious about qutting, ask your GP for advice. To make matters worse, a lucrative industry of con artists and hucksters has sprung up on the internet, all vying to relieve you of your hard-earned cash in return for remedies that are dubious, spurious, or just plain ridiculous. Lucky for you, then, that the Ecologist is here to sift through the quackery, and bring you five all-natural ways to quit cigarettes. All of these methods are entirely drug-free, sustainable and green, so as well as being good for your lungs, they’re also good for the planet.
For most, the phrase 'cold turkey' summons up visions of suffering, anxiety, and crushing drudgery. But quitting by willpower alone isn't impossible. In fact, in a meta-analysis published by the American Public Health Association, cold turkey was the method used by 85 per cent of successful long-term quitters. It’s also by far the cheapest option. But don’t attempt cold turkey just on the spur of the moment, warns Doireann Maddock from the British Heart Foundation. ‘Quitting smoking is a process,’ she says. ‘Cold turkey quits would be much more successful if smokers prepared ahead of time. Firstly, set a date to quit, and make sure it’s at a relatively stress-free time. Avoid situations where you know you’ll be tempted, like post-work drinks, and plan what you’re going to do with all the money you save. And tell yours friends and family that you’re quitting – it’ll help you focus.’
For more information, go to www.smokefree.nhs.co.uk
Seen by many as a natural, healthier alternative to anti-smoking drugs, herbs such as valerian, motherwort and lobelia are widely available, and have been used for centuries in folk medicine to combat stress, anxiety and depression – common side effects of quitting nicotine. The effectiveness of such remedies remains controversial, however. Many deride them as mere placebos but an equal number swear by them. As yet, not enough clinical trials have been conducted to settle the matter once and for all, although recently St John’s Wort has been the focus of some preliminary research. In one pilot study, a combination of St John’s Wort and smoking cessation counselling boosted quit rates by 37.5 per cent. Avoid lobelia though – although widely used in herbal smoking remedies, too much can make you seriously ill (hence its traditional name of ‘puke weed’). Try Organic Herbal Remedies’ UK grown and Soil Association certified St John’s Wort Tincture, £11.95, instead.
For more information, go to: www.organic-herbal-remedies.co.uk
Cognitive behavioural therapy
CBT has been used to treat everything from depression to stuttering, and its applications for helping people conquer their addictions are becoming increasingly clear. The process consists of working together with a therapist to change deeply ingrained patterns of thought and behaviour – essentially 'reprogramming' the smoker’s mind away from nicotine. CBT therapists often help smokers to identify the things that cause cravings, learn to manage their addiction, and try to reinforce positive thoughts and habits to take the place of nicotine. CBT breaks down the potentially overwhelming problem of smoking into lots of little problems, which are much easier to tackle one at a time. According to the NHS, professional support such as CBT can double your chances of successfully quitting.
For more information, go to: www.babcp.com
Self help books
Caveat emptor – there are millions of self-help smoking books out on the market, and many make claims which are borderline messianic. Probably the most famous, however, is Allen Carr’s ‘Easy Way’ series, which to date has sold over 13 million copies. Endorsed by celebrities as diverse as Sir Anthony Hopkins to East 17’s Tony Mortimer, the Allen Carr books start out by denying that quitting smoking is difficult at all. In fact, says Easy Way MD and therapist Robin Hayley, once smokers lose their fear, it really is easy. ‘The idea that smoking provides any genuine pleasure or crutch is a delusion,’ he says. ‘The stress that nicotine supposedly relieves is actually created by the nicotine itself – it’s a bit like putting on a tight pair of shoes just for the pleasure of taking them off again. We remove this delusion.’ With a 12-month success rate of over 50 per cent, perhaps he’s on to something.
For more information, go to: www.allencarrseasyway.co.uk
The internet is awash with anti-smoking hypnosis books, CDs and clinics, and again, results may vary. Advocates claim that drugs and self help books only affect the conscious mind, and thus ignore the huge power of the subconscious. By unlocking this power, hypnosis can supposedly reinforce an improved level of motivation, focus of attention, positive visual imagery and freedom from anxiety and tension, as well as break the subconscious association of smoking with pleasure. Scientifically, the jury’s still out – although medical trials have been conducted, the results remain inconclusive. Hypnosis tends to be one of the more expensive anti-smoking techniques out there, however, so it’s probably not advisable if you’re trying to quit on a budget.
For more information, go to: www.hypnotherapistregister.com
Natural antiseptics: safe for your skin and the environment
Essential oils and plant extracts can zap zits without causing lasting damage to your skin or the planet
Antioxidants: the natural way to tackle ageing
If the roll call of scary ingredients has put you off conventional creams then antioxidants could be the alternative you’re looking for
Top 10… natural ways to detox
From upping your antioxidant intake to raising your yoga game, we round up 10 easy ways to detox – no dodgy pills or extreme diets involved
The Ecologist meets… Dr Fabrizio Mancini
The concept of ‘self-healing’ might sound like mumbo jumbo but it’s actually a sensible way of giving our lifestyles a healthy overhaul says Dr Fabrizio Mancini - starting with organic food, plenty of sleep and lots of exercise
Five of the best… natural beauty quick fixes
Whether it’s tiredness, stress or winter skin, Green Living Editor Ruth Styles has some super speedy suggestions – and no chemicals involved