Quitting Smoking Will Always Beat Just Cutting Down
Questions about cutting down on smoking
When someone comes to Leeds Hypnotherapy Clinic wanting to give up cigarettes one of the first things I propose is that he or she makes a list of all the bad consequences of smoking.
This is known as negative reinforcement and simply reminds individuals why they need to quit. While it’s a good idea to acknowledge the harm caused by smoking, negative reinforcement is actually only a minor part of our stop-smoking programme. That’s because smokers are not morons – most know that cigarettes are bad for their health. But they believe they are physically addicted. The reality, however, is that smoking is a psychological condition – or more accurately the fear of giving up is a psychological disorder.
So at Leeds Hypnotherapy Clinic, using cognitive behavioural therapy combined with clinical hypnosis, we enable smokers to understand their condition and change their beliefs and at the end of just one session the client leaves as a non-smoker.
Now this might all sound very straightforward and too good to be true but the fact is that the treatment works.
Yet for many smokers making the decision that they want to quit is a giant leap and so rather than seek treatment they flirt with the idea of cutting down or taking up “vaping” or some other form of nicotine replacement therapy (NRT). While “vaping”might be less harmful than smoking, it fails to resolve the core issue regarding perceived addiction and in far too many cases ultimately fails to ween people away from their nicotine habit. And here is the crux of the problem – some smokers feel they can ween themselves away from cigs – either through NRT or simply by cutting down the number of cigarettes they smoke. They do not understand their condition. And as a consequence they remain a hostage to nicotine. Though a smoker might think that by just smoking the occasional cigarette, they won’t be doing themselves a lot of harm, they are wrong. It’s a fallacy to believe that the occasional cig is innocuous.
This fact was emphasised in a BBC report last week citing a study by the Cancer Institute at University College London, which was initially published in the British Medical Journal.
The research revealed that people who smoked only one cigarette each day were on average 50% more likely to develop heart disease and 30% more likely to suffer a stroke than people who had never smoked. There was no safe level of smoking in relation to these diseases.
Professor Allan Hackshaw, who led the research, is quoted as saying that in some countries there has been a trend for heavy smokers to cut down but while this might result in a proportionate reduction in the risk of cancer, the incidence of the more common disorder of smokers – cardiovascular disease was not reduced proportionately.
Smokers need to stop completely, he concluded.
OK – so that’s not what a lot of smokers want to hear but the good news is that those who do stop, quickly reduce the risk of cardiovascular illnesses.
Martin Dockrell, of Public Health England said the study adds to evidence that smoking just one cigarette a day still leads to a dangerous risk of a heart attack or stroke.
Others are more conciliatory – Paul Aveyard, professor of behavioural medicine at the University of Oxford, for example, points out that reducing the number of cigarettes smoked is not entirely without merit – but , of course, nowhere near as good as quitting.
Deborah Arnott, of health charity ASH, believes vaping is acceptable* if it means an individual stops smoking.
While I can understand Ms Arnott’s contention and recognise its best intentions – my gripe is that it promotes the myth that smoking is primarily a physical addiction. Most smokers believe they are addicted and that is why it becomes so hard for them to stop.
Here at Leeds Hypnotherapy Clinic we treat smoking as a psychological issue and I am currently rolling out my treatment methods across the country, starting with a conference in Birmingham for fellow therapists. My aim is to reach as wide an audience as possible with the message that it’s actually a doddle to stop smoking. And with the support of other professionals I am hopeful of this leading to significantly fewer people killing themselves with cigarettes.
*Latest research, at New York University, suggest that while e-cigarettes are less of a risk to health than smoking, they are not harmless and increase the chances of a heart attack or various cancers by damaging DNA. Defenders of vaping dispute the study’s conclusions.