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- You’ll be healthier and less out of breath because smoking decreases your lung capacity.
- You’ll save yourself a packet. The average smoker spends an astonishing £27.54 a week and £90,000 over their lifetime on cigarettes.
Use this tool to work out how much money you are saving by quitting smoking.
- You’ll look better. Chemicals in cigarettes restrict blood flow to your skin. Smokers have more wrinkled and saggy faces by the time they’re in their mid-20s.
- Quitting helps save the planet. Deforestation due to tobacco production accounts for nearly 5% of overall deforestation in the developing world.
- Someone who starts smoking at 15 is three times more likely to die from cancer than someone who starts smoking in their mid-20s. Read more about the dangers of teen smoking.
- The younger you start smoking, the more damage there will be to your body as an adult. Read more about the dangers of teen smoking.
- Not smoking will make you instantly more attractive. Most people prefer kissing non-smokers.
Eight ways to get through quitting
OK, enough of the arm twisting. You want to give up, so where do you start?
- Make a deal with good friends to quit. You may find that they want to quit as well.
- It’s very hard to give up by willpower alone. Get all the help you can find: 12 to 18-year-olds get free nicotine replacement therapy (patches, sprays, gum) on the NHS. Ask your GP for help stopping smoking. They won’t be shocked that you’re a smoker.
- Smokers often hate other people quitting, so be prepared for a few put-downs. It’s a good idea to have something ready to say when you’re offered a cigarette. Here are a few reasons (but we’re sure you can think of better ones):
"Smoking costs me £xxx a year. I’m giving up so I can buy myself a new mobile/driving lessons/a holiday."
"I can’t smoke in my new weekend job so I want to give up."
"My boyfriend/girlfriend doesn’t like kissing a smoker." It’s true: two-thirds of teenagers say smoking reduces sexual attractiveness.
"I’m taking my sport seriously and I need to give up if I want to be an athlete."
- Prepare for a tough few days when you first quit. Most people find that the first days are the hardest to cope with. But most of your withdrawal symptoms should subside after the first four weeks. Using nicotine gum and patches (NRT) is the best way to cope with cravings.
- Worried about weight gain while you’re quitting? Load your bag up with low-calorie snacks, such as apple chips, carrot sticks, mints, popcorn or chewing gum, to get you through the cravings. Read more about how you can quit smoking without putting on weight.
- Get your family to support you. Your parents will be on your side. If they don’t know you smoke, they might freak out at first, but if you tell them you’re quitting they’ll do all they can to help.
- Do your best to stay away from alcohol, coffee, sugar and sweets while you quit. Studies have shown that these foods (especially the booze) can stimulate cigarette cravings. Here's some advice on how to cut down on your drinking.
- And remember, it takes about a month for the nicotine cravings to subside. Take it one day at a time and soon you’ll be smokefree for the rest of your life.
Dr Julie Sharp of Cancer Research UK answers seven important questions about the effect of sun on your skin and the importance of sunscreen.
1. How long can sunburn last?
Days. You can get sunburnt in just 10 minutes, even in the UK. If you overdo it at a festival or on holiday, skin can be red, painful and peeling for a week or more.
2. What suncream should I use?
Use factor 15 plus with UVA and UVB protection, and apply regularly (every two to three hours). Use more after swimming. The paler your skin is, the more care you need to take. If you're blonde, a redhead, have fair skin or lots of moles or freckles, you have a higher risk of skin cancer and need to take extra care.
3. I'm black. Is sun exposure still dangerous?
Yes. Black skin can burn too – it just takes more heat to do it. Although very dark black skin has a natural SPF, we still advise using an SPF of 15. Although skin cancer is less common in black people, it tends to be more aggressive. Take particular care of the soles of your feet and palms of your hands, as they're more prone to skin cancer.
4. Sun makes me feel good. What's so bad about it anyway?
Right now the worst thing about it might seem like sunburn and strap marks, but give it a few years and you could have wrinkles, moles, freckles, brown patches and, sometimes, skin cancer. Every year, more than 2,000 people die from malignant melanoma, and more than two people aged 15 to 34 are diagnosed with malignant melanoma every day in the UK.
5. Is sunbathing really worse when you're a teenager?
Yes, younger skin is more easily damaged than older skin. And you can't undo the damage. Once you've been sunburnt your skin will age prematurely.
6. I'm still not persuaded. Anything else to put me off?
The most common kind of skin cancer is rarely fatal. But it can be seriously disfiguring. If skin cancer is found on the face, it has to be cut out and may even need plastic surgery. There is a risk of permanent scarring, or part of your nose may have to be cut away.
7. Are sunbeds safer?
No. Getting a tan on a sunbed will increase your risk of getting skin cancer and make you look old.
It's illegal for under-18s to use sunbeds. Find more information on the Cancer Research UK website.
Nobody smokes their first fag thinking they’ll be a smoker, but if you’re experimenting it’s easy to become hooked. Most adult smokers start in their teens, and half of them will be killed by their habit – coughing, spluttering and having heart seizures (on average, they’ll have paid £40,000 each for the privilege).
Right now, smoking means that you’re becoming unfit, you’re getting tiny wrinkles all round your mouth, and you’re losing lots of cash. If your boyfriend smokes too, sex probably doesn’t feel as good as it could: cigarettes affect his erections and your sensitivity.
Still puffing? Shame. As a smoker you’re now looking older than your years. Your skin, which has been starved of oxygen, is grey and lined. Your teeth are stained and your hair is dull and smelly. If that’s not enough, all the smoke toxins in your body have given you cellulite.
When you want to have kids, things will be trickier for you than for non-smokers: female smokers reduce their fertility and increase their chances of miscarriage, cervical cancer and complications during pregnancy and delivery. Smokers’ babies are also more at risk of cot death.
The length of time that you've smoked is important. If you've smoked 20 a day for 40 years, your risk of lung cancer is about eight times more than if you've smoked 40 a day for 20 years.
Your body needs energy and nutrients from food to grow and work properly. If you don't eat a healthy, balanced diet, you could be putting your health and growth at risk.
A healthy diet also gives you the energy you need and can help you look and feel great. But eating well doesn't have to mean giving up all your favourite foods. A healthy diet means eating a wide range of foods so that you get all the nutrients you need, and eating the right number of calories for how active you are.
Beware of fad diets: they're rarely the best way to reach a healthy weight. Instead, use our tips to help you eat more healthily.
- Don't skip breakfast. Some people skip breakfast because they think it will help them lose weight. But skipping meals doesn't help you lose weight and is not good for you, because you can miss out on essential nutrients. Research shows that eating breakfast can actually help people control their weight. In addition, a healthy breakfast is an important part of a balanced diet and provides some of the vitamins and minerals we need for good health. Whole grain cereal with fruit sliced over the top is a tasty and healthy start to the day.
- Aim to eat at least five portions of a variety of fruits and vegetables a day. They are good sources of many of the vitamins and minerals your body needs. It's not as hard as it might sound: fresh, frozen, tinned, dried and juiced fruit and vegetables all count towards your total. So one glass (150ml) of fruit juice, smoothies and vegetables baked into dishes such as stews all count. Learn more at Why 5 A DAY?
- At snack time, swap foods that are high in saturated fat or sugars for healthier choices. Foods high in saturated fat include pies, processed meats such as sausages and bacon, biscuits and crisps. Foods high in added sugars include cakes and pastries, sweets, and chocolate. Both saturated fat and sugar are high in calories, so if you eat these foods often you're more likely to become overweight. Too much saturated fat can also cause high cholesterol. Learn more in Eat less saturated fat.
- Make sure you drink enough fluids. Aim to drink six to eight glasses of fluids a day: water and milk are all healthy choices. Even unsweetened fruit juice is sugary, so try to drink no more than one glass (about 150ml) of fruit juice each day.
- If you're feeling tired and run down, you may need more iron in your diet. Teenage girls are at higher risk of being low on iron, because they lose iron when they have their monthly period and they are still growing. Good sources of iron include red meats, breakfast cereals fortified with iron, and baked beans. Learn more in Anaemia, iron deficiency.
- If you often feel hungry, try eating more high-fibre foods such as wholemeal bread, beans, wholegrain breakfast cereals, fruit and vegetables. Foods that are high in fibre are bulky and help us to feel full for longer, and most of us should be eating more of them.
- If eating makes you feel anxious, guilty, or upset, or you're often worried about food or your weight, you may have an eating disorder. Help is out there: tell an adult you trust. Learn more in Eating disorders explained.
- If you are underweight, you may not be eating enough. Restricting foods (or food groups) or not eating a balanced diet can stop you getting enough of the calories and other important nutrients your body needs. This can lead to weight loss. Being underweight can cause health problems, so if you're underweight it's important to gain weight in a healthy way. Your GP can help with this.
- If you are overweight, you may be eating too much. Foods high in fat and sugar are high in calories, and eating too many calories can lead to weight gain. Try to eat fewer foods that are high in fat and sugar, such as swapping to low- or no-sugar fizzy drinks. A healthy balanced diet will provide you with all the nutrients your body needs. Your body mass index (BMI) can tell you whether you are a healthy weight – check yours with our BMI healthy weight calculator.
- Don't follow fad diets. If you have an overweight BMI, aim to lose weight to bring your BMI into the healthy range. If you want to lose weight, it's important to choose your diet plan carefully. It can be tempting to follow the latest fad diet, but these are often not nutritionally balanced and don't work in the long term: once you stop, the weight is likely to come back. Diets based on only one or two foods may be successful in the short term, but can be dull and hard to stick to and deficient in a range of nutrients. The healthier, long-term way to lose weight is by combining long-term changes towards a healthy, balanced diet with more physical activity. If you're concerned about your weight, your GP can help.
- Watch out for "low-carb" diets, or any eating plans that advise you to cut out whole food groups. This can be unhealthy, because you may miss out on nutrients from that food group. Low-carb diets can be high in saturated fat. Eating too much saturated fat can cause high cholesterol, which can lead to an increased risk of developing heart disease. Other diets may involve cutting out dairy foods such as milk, yoghurt and cheese. These foods are high in calcium, which you need to ensure your bones grow properly. Choose lower fat dairy foods when you can – semi-skimmed, 1% fat or skimmed milk contain all the important nutritional benefits of whole milk, with less fat.
Are you concerned you might be drinking too much? Answer these simple questions and find out what kind of a relationship you have with alcohol.
Do you think you're doing enough physical activity? This simple assessment will help you understand what the recommended levels are and will assess how close you are to meeting them.