Stoptober. This phenomenon is more than just the combination of the words ‘stop’ and ‘October’. Every year, countless individuals around the world make the decision to quit smoking, recognising the numerous health benefits and improved quality of life that come with breaking the habit.
In the United Kingdom, an initiative known as Stoptober, created by the National Health Service, has been playing a significant role in helping people kick the smoking habit for good. With October on its way, we’ll be exploring what Stoptober is, its history, the benefits of quitting smoking, and the resources available to support individuals on their journey to a smoke-free life. Let’s do this.
What Is Stoptober?
So what actually is Stoptober and what’s the point of it? Well, Stoptober – a brilliant combination of two words – is an annual public health campaign in the United Kingdom that encourages people to quit smoking for the entire month of October. Launched by Public Health England (PHE) in 2012, this campaign has grown significantly in popularity over the years, motivating millions of smokers to take the first step towards a smoke-free life. What began as a UK affair, has now developed into a worldwide movement. Spectrum writes:
“Stoptober is a national smoking cessation campaign led by Public Health England that encourages smokers to start by abstaining from smoking for 28 days during the month of October. In England… first implemented in 2012… versions have since been adopted in other countries, including New Zealand, the Netherlands, and France, following a positive evaluation of the first campaign”
The central idea behind Stoptober is to provide support, motivation, and resources to individuals who wish to quit smoking, making it easier for them to succeed. As anyone who’s ever tried to quit anything will know – be it drinking, unhealthy food, or smoking – doing it with other people makes it a lot easier. How easy would it be to avoid having that delicious Friday pint if all your mates were avoiding it too. Or, in this case, how much easier would it be to stop smoking if lots of people around the world were doing it too.
The History of Stoptober
Where did it come from? The concept of Stoptober was inspired by similar successful campaigns in other countries, such as “mois sans tabac” (month without tobacco) in France and “Stoptober” in the Netherlands. Public Health England adapted and launched the campaign in the UK in 2012, capitalising on the idea that setting a specific, month-long quit date could help individuals overcome the psychological barriers associated with quitting smoking. We’ll get on to why using a month to begin with can be a very useful method of quitting a bit later. Since its inception, Stoptober has seen remarkable success, with millions of participants and numerous success stories of people who have successfully quit smoking during the month of October. Supposedly, since its creation in 2012, over 10 million people have attempted Stoptober. The Gov UK website writes:
“Stoptober continues to effectively drive smokers to make a quit attempt. In 2020, the campaign generated quit attempts among 12.3% of all smokers and recent ex-smokers, with 4% reporting that they were still not smoking at 4 weeks.”
Like Dry January, and many other months dedicated to quitting a habit, Stoptober has become an annual tradition for many, offering a structured and supportive environment for those looking to stop smoking.
How Stoptober Works
So, how does it work? Well, Stoptober is a campaign that helps you quit smoking during October – that much is clear. But there are specific methods that help along the way. Here’s how it goes down:
Choose Your Quit Date
The first step is choosing your quit date. Participants are encouraged to set a specific quit date within the month of October. This date serves as a target to work toward, helping individuals mentally prepare for their quit attempt. Usually, as you’d expect, this is the 1st of October.
There’s a bunch of online and offline resources that the Stoptober campaign offers. These include a dedicated website, a mobile app, and a free Quit Kit, which can be ordered online or picked up at specific pharmacies.
There’s also support that comes with the Stoptober app. The app and website provide personalised support based on individual smoking habits and preferences. Users can set goals, track progress, and access helpful tips and advice. Participants can also engage with others on the online community, sharing their experiences, challenges, and success stories. This sense of community can be incredibly motivating. It’s always easier stopping a habit when you have other people’s stories to feel inspired by. How is anyone supposed to know that climbing a mountain is possible, if there’s no one who’s climbed it around to tell their story? It’s the same concept.
For those who require it, Stoptober provides access to NRT (Nicotine Replacement Therapy) products, such as nicotine gum, patches, and lozenges, to help manage withdrawal symptoms. They may also suggest you try vapes, although this probably doesn’t count as completely stopping smoking. Although, if you’re finding it very difficult to stop, a vape is better than smoking.
The methods behind Stoptober are not random, they are rooted in behavioural science and evidence-based strategies. There’s a lot of thought that goes behind this approach of quitting. By encouraging participants to set a quit date and providing support in the form of resources, counselling, and NRT, the campaign addresses some of the key factors that influence successful habit breaking. Remember, it supposedly takes around a month to develop a habit, which can also apply to breaking them. Committing for an entire month seems like a far more accessible plan than simply quitting forever. However, the reason why this is perfect, is because after that month the substance will have far less of a hold over the user. The GOV UK website writes:
“People are 5 times more likely to quit for good if they can make it to at least 28 days smoke free”
This kind of goal setting is accessible, doable and genuinely effective. In addition, goal setting is also a part of this behavioural therapy. Setting a starting date establishes a clear and achievable goal, making it easier for individuals to commit to quitting. Then, when individuals feel stuck or tempted, there’s a great deal of online support for them to look through to not feel so alone. In addition, because it’s a global movement, the chances of smokers finding other people that are also giving Stoptober a try is highly likely. Therefore, as is the case with collective mentality, stopping with others simply is easier. You’re part of a campaign, not on your own.
Why Quit Smoking?
You most likely already know this stuff, but reminding yourself why you want to stop smoking is paramount to increase the success of Stoptober. If you can always remember the ‘why’, then the ‘how’ becomes a lot more doable. Around 80% of the world smokes, which is around 1.3 billion people. In the UK, it’s around 6.6 million people and in the US it’s around 28.3 million. Smoking is everywhere and it’s a leading cause of preventable death worldwide. In fact, in the US, half a million deaths a year are smoke-related. Smoking is responsible for a range of health problems, including:
Smoking is the largest preventable cause of cancer worldwide, with carcinogens in tobacco smoke leading to lung, mouth, throat, oesophagus, pancreas, and bladder cancers.
Smoking damages the lungs, leading to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), chronic bronchitis, and emphysema. This makes it harder to breathe, as well as do exercise.
Smoking significantly increases the risk of heart disease, stroke, and peripheral artery disease.
Smoking can affect fertility in both men and women and is linked to complications during pregnancy, including low birth weight and sudden infant death syndrome.
Smoking accelerates the ageing process, leading to premature wrinkles, yellowed teeth, and an ‘old look’.
Smoking is an expensive habit, with the cost of cigarettes accumulating over time. It’s way cheaper to not smoke than to smoke.
Although it’s rather bleak to think about all the problems and health concerns that smoking causes, it’s also good to remind yourself if you are deciding to try Stoptober. These hard cold facts may be the driving force for your quitting attempt.
The Benefits of Quitting Smoking
Remember, if you do try Stoptober, another great reason to keep going is for all the benefits. Quitting smoking is not just about avoiding health problems; it also comes with a wide range of immediate and long-term benefits. Some of the most notable advantages of quitting smoking include:
The body starts to repair itself almost immediately after quitting. Lung function improves, and the risk of many smoking-related diseases decreases.
Increased Life Expectancy
Quitting smoking significantly extends life expectancy. The earlier one quits, the greater the benefits. Woop!
Better Quality of Life
Ex-smokers report improved quality of life, including enhanced physical fitness, better sleep, and increased energy levels.
Quitting smoking results in substantial financial savings by not purchasing cigarettes. You can finally go for all those expensive meals you wanted!
By quitting, individuals also protect their loved ones from the harmful effects of secondhand smoke.
Sense of Accomplishment
Successfully quitting smoking is a remarkable personal achievement that boosts self-esteem and confidence. It might feel difficult now but, once you do it, you’ll feel like an absolute boss.
Stoptober is a vital public health campaign that has made a significant impact in the UK and beyond. By providing support, resources, and a structured framework for quitting smoking, it empowers individuals to take control of their health and break free from the grips of tobacco addiction. While Stoptober is a great starting point for anyone looking to quit smoking, the journey to a smoke-free life is a personal one, and it may require multiple attempts. Anyone who tries, deserves a round of applause. So what do you reckon, will you give it a go?
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