Liz Stoptober frame.jpgNo Smoking Day takes place tomorrow and is designed to encourage and support smokers to quit the habit.

Liz McDonald, a stop smoking advisor based at the Cumberland Infirmary, has looked at the effect smoking has on mental health and wellbeing.

Liz said: “Stopping smoking improves your physical health but it is also proven to improve your mental health and wellbeing. 

“Cutting out smoking does improve mood and reduces anxiety.

“Stopping smoking can be as effective as anti-depressants as people with mental health problems are likely to feel much calmer and more positive.

“Studies have shown that quality of life and positive mood improve. Anxiety, depression and stress levels lower.

“Quitting smoking is one of the best things you will ever do for your health. Within 20 minutes your blood pressure and pulse rate return to normal. After nine hours the carbon monoxide level in the blood reduces by half and oxygen level returns to normal.

“Within 72 hours – Breathing becomes easier. Bronchial tubes begin to relax and energy level increase.”

Improvements can also been seen after a couple of weeks.

Liz said: “Within two to 12 weeks your circulation improves and three to nine months any coughs, wheezing and breathing problems improve as lung function increases by up to 10 per cent.

“After a year your risk of a heart attack falls to half that of a smoker and after five years your risk of stroke is reduced to that of a non-smoker. Within 10 years your risk of death from lung cancer falls to half that of a smoker.”

If you take antipsychotic medicines or anti-depressants it is important you talk to your GP or Psychiatrist before you stop smoking – the dosage of these medicines may need to be monitored and the amount you need to take may need to be reduced.

Liz has also been looking at whether smokers are at greater risk of catching COVID-19.

She said: “People who smoke generally have an increased risk of contracting respiratory infection and of more severe symptoms once infected. COVID-19 symptoms may therefore be more severe for smokers.”

Outside of the hospital, people wanting help to stop smoking can contact their GP and local pharmacy for support.


Stopping smoking isn't easy, but there are things you can do to improve your chances of success.

1. Pick a quit date

Choose a day that will be stress-free, and stick to it.

2. Make a list

Write down all the reasons you want to quit. Keep the list handy and read it when the cravings start.

3. Build a support network

Pair up with someone else who’s looking to give up smoking and support each other.

4. Remove any reminders

Before your quit date, get rid of ashtrays, lighters and matches, and any remaining cigarettes.

5. Use stop smoking services

Contact your local NHS Stop Smoking Service for support from trained specialists.

6. Try nicotine replacement therapy

Consider using nicotine replacement therapy, which can more than double your chances of stopping smoking.

  • Read about e-cigarettes and whether they can help quit smoking 

7. Start moving

Scientific studies have proven that exercise, as little as a five minute walk or stretch, cuts the urge to smoke and may even help your brain produce anti-craving chemicals.

8. Avoid trigger situations

Anticipate stressful or trigger situations. So, if you smoke after a meal, go for a short walk instead.

9. Practise saying “no”

Don’t be tempted by just one cigarette; it often leads to another.

10. Treat yourself

Put away some, or all, of the money you would have spent on cigarettes and buy something special.


  1. It is a common thought that smoking helps you to relax.  Smoking actually increases anxiety and tension.
  2. Smoking cigarettes interferes with certain chemicals in the brain.  When a smoker has not had a cigarette for a while the craving for another one makes them feel irritable and anxious. These feelings can be temporarily relieved when a smoker lights up a cigarettes.  Therefore smokers link their improved mood with smoking.
  3. It is the effect of smoking itself that has caused the anxiety initially.
  4. Smokers with mental health problems are much more likely to smoke than the general population. They tend to smoker more heavily. They need higher doses of some antipsychotic medicines and anti-depressants because smoking interferes with the way these medicines work.
  5. Die on average 10 - 20 years earlier than those who do not experience mental health problems.
  6. Smokers are also more likely than non-smokers to develop depression over time.
  7. Smoking can affect every part of the body from your skin to your brain. It causes heart attacks, strokes and cancer.


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