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What Causes a Smoking Addiction?

Posted Sunday 04 October 2020 11:00 by in Smoking Cessation by Harman Bhamra

People addicted to smoking often find it hard to quit the habit for good. In this article, we are going to explore the main causes of smoking addictions and provide ways on how to spot and prevent them before it’s too late.

When do people start smoking?

Most smoking addictions start out of curiosity — particularly during teenage years. Studies show that those who have friends or family members who smoke are more likely to smoke than those who have a non-smoking circle.

Those who start smoking will eventually become addicted to nicotine — a very addictive drug found in cigarettes. According to studies, 90% of adult smokers started before they were 18 years old. This means that 75% of high school smokers will become addicted to smoking when they turn to adulthood. 25% of these adult smokers are at risk of dying from tobacco-related diseases.

Defining addiction

Addiction is compulsory dependence on a product despite its harmful consequences. Addiction is mental and emotional. Smoking addicts are hooked to nicotine which is known to be as addictive and destructive as cocaine.

What are the symptoms of nicotine addiction?

On average, a regular cigarette contains between 1 to 2 mg of nicotine. The amount of nicotine you take in will depend on several factors (e.g. how deep you inhale, number of puffs, etc.). Below, we list down some of the common symptoms of a nicotine addiction so you’ll know when your smoking habit is getting out of hand:

You can’t stop - one of the surefire signs of nicotine dependence is your inability to stop despite trying many times before.

You experience withdrawal symptoms - nicotine withdrawal symptoms vary from one person to another. Some of the common ones include:

  • Strong cravings
  • Diarrhoea
  • Increased hunger
  • Anger
  • Irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Feeling sad
  • Inability to focus or concentrate

You continue your smoking habit despite health warnings - another sign of a smoking addiction is choosing to ignore the health warnings because you can’t stop.

Your smoking affects your quality of life - some heavy smokers stop socialising with friends and families because the situation doesn’t allow them to smoke.

How nicotine “hooks” you

Nicotine from tobacco enters your bloodstream through your lungs. From there, it travels to the brain, flooding its reward circuits with a chemical known as dopamine (e.g: the happy hormone). This explains the high that smokers feel whenever they smoke.

The problem is that the effects of nicotine wear off after a few minutes, causing the smoker to long for the feeling again. This leads to a vicious cycle of smoking so that the ‘high’ can be felt again.

Your body tends to adapt to the amount of nicotine in your bloodstream. As your tolerance increases, the number of cigarettes you need to smoke in order to get the same high will also increase — leading to a full-blown addiction.

Know your smoking triggers

Smoking is often connected to your emotions and other habits. For example, common patterns that lead to smoking include:

  • Drinking coffee
  • Drinking alcohol
  • Spending time with friends who smoke

The best way to deal with these triggers is to be mindful. Identify which of these triggers affect you and make a plan on how to deal with them. Knowing and then dealing with these smoking triggers is one of the first steps to successfully stop smoking.

On the emotional side, some people smoke because it’s their way of coping up with stress and PTSD. Aside from getting support from your loved ones, counselling is also a great way to deal with emotional stress.

When to get help

There are many ways to stop smoking. And you are not alone on this journey. The majority of smokers make several attempts to quit before committing fully.

The best way to stop smoking is by experimenting with various methods. From medication to nicotine patches, there are so many resources to help you.

Doctors and counsellors can even give you a structured treatment plan that addresses the physical, social, and emotional aspects of nicotine addiction. This treatment plan will be tailored to your specific needs and your doctor may even prescribe you certain medications to increase your likelihood of quitting the habit for good.

No Tobacco Day: How to Stop Smoking for Good

Posted Sunday 31 May 2020 10:00 by in Smoking Cessation by Harman Bhamra

World No Tobacco Day occurs on the 31st of May every year. It sets out to raise awareness on the dangers that tobacco can have on your health.

If you have a smoking addiction, taking part in No Tobacco Day may seem like a huge challenge. This guide will help you to not only give up smoking for 24 hours - it will help you to stop smoking for good.

How To Stop Smoking

Just like any addiction, the road to quitting smoking is not always an easy one. It takes an immense amount of willpower to squash the symptoms of a nicotine addiction and cut out smoking for good.

While it’s not an easy journey, it’s not impossible. Around 1.3 million smokers successfully quit each year, proving that with the right tips and tricks, you can too!

1. Prescription Medication

Prescription medications provide one of the most effective solutions to help you stop smoking. The most popular medication, Champix, contains an active ingredient called varenicline which works in a variety of ways. It reduces your body’s reliance on nicotine, eliminating all of the nasty withdrawal symptoms associated with smoking. You can buy Champix right here at Express Pharmacy.

2. Go Cold Turkey

You’ve probably heard of the phrase ‘cold turkey’ before. It is a quitting method which involves no assistance - you just have to use a lot of willpower to never touch a cigarette again.

While the cold turkey method is possible, many people tend to find that it doesn’t have long-lasting effects. More times than not, smokers will end up straying back towards cigarettes after attempting to go cold turkey.

3. Nicotine Replacements

Nicotine replacements can come in many forms - patches and sprays are the most popular. As nicotine is the most addictive part of a cigarette, these nicotine replacements help to satisfy your cravings without having to inhale any nasty tobacco.

Nicotine replacements are pretty effective at reducing your cravings, but it’s important to remember that they can’t be a long-term solution. You will eventually need to stray away from these products so that you can quit the habit properly. They act as a good stepping stone.

Want More Information?

Looking for more resources to help you with your quitting journey? Check out the two guides below, which will provide you with further information.

If you’re struggling with a smoking addiction and need more assistance, visit your doctor or get in touch with us on 0208 123 0703.

No Smoking Day: Why Should I Use Champix to Stop Smoking?

Posted Wednesday 11 March 2020 09:25 by in Smoking Cessation by Harman Bhamra

Cigarettes contain nicotine. This highly addictive substance increases the levels of two important chemicals in your brain - dopamine and noradrenaline. These changes happen rapidly.

When you smoke, nicotine rushes to your brain, creating feelings of pleasure as well as reducing anxiety and stress. This is why many smokers enjoy the “high” and eventually, depend on it. There are about 7.4 million smokers in the United Kingdom.

Eventually, your brain gets used to nicotine. To get the same effect, you will need to smoke more. This leads to an addiction that’s hard to quit.

The Effects of Smoking

Smoking addiction can lead to severe consequences. Below are some of the health complications:

  • Emphysema
  • Lung cancer
  • Leukaemia
  • Chronic bronchitis
  • Stroke
  • Diabetes
  • Cataracts and other eye issues
  • Heart disease
  • Impotence
  • Infertility
  • Cold and other respiratory infections
  • Miscarriage
  • Gum disease
  • Dental problems
  • Weakened immune system
  • Osteoporosis
  • Peptic ulcer
  • Premature ageing
  • Loss of sense of smell or taste

Second-hand smoke is also as dangerous. Studies show that it can cause cancer, heart disease, asthma, and other respiratory infections to people close to smokers. Children are particularly at risk.

Use Champix Tablets to Stop Your Smoking Addiction

Quitting smoking is not easy. But it’s not impossible. Aside from lifestyle changes, there is now a prescription medicine designed to help you quit smoking for good.

What is Champix?

Champix is a prescription treatment made from varenicline. Unlike nicotine addiction therapies, Champix smoking tablets don’t contain any nicotine. Instead, it works by blocking the effects of nicotine in your brain - reducing your cravings and helping you cope up with the withdrawal symptoms associated with quitting smoking.

Champix is a twelve-week course of tablets that you take with food in the mornings and the evenings. During the first three days, you will only require to take one tablet each morning.

How do Champix smoking tablets work?

Champix tablets work by blocking nicotine. When you smoke, nicotine enters your bloodstream and attaches itself to nicotine receptors which then release dopamine - your pleasure hormone. Champix works by attaching itself to most of these receptors thus:

  • Giving you a continual hit of pleasure that’s spread evenly throughout the day.
  • Decreasing your cravings.
  • Decreasing your withdrawal symptoms like anxiety, restlessness, difficulty concentrating, and frustration.
  • Preventing you from getting a strong pleasure hit when you smoke.

How effective is Champix?

The Champix success rate is very high. According to the NHS, more than 6 in 10 smokers who use Champix tablets, along with proper support, stop smoking for a month or more.

Who should take Champix?

Champix tablets are for those who are motivated to give up their smoking addiction but can’t find success using other means.

Who should NOT take Champix?

Although Champix is considered safe for most people, doctors don't recommend taking Champix smoking tablets if you are:

  • Under 18 years old
  • Suffering from severe kidney failure
  • Suffering from mental health problems
  • Pregnant or breastfeeding

What if I miss a dose of Champix?

You should take Champix smoking tablets regularly, at the same time each day. If you miss a dose, don’t double dose to make up for it. Take a dose as soon as you remember it. If it’s almost time for your next dose, do not take the Champix tablet that you missed.

Can I still smoke while taking Champix?

Yes. Part of the course is deciding on a specific date when you will stop smoking. This is usually done during the second week of treatment. This date is known as your “quit date”. If you choose to continue smoking after your quit date, your chances of successfully quitting your smoking addiction will drop.

Can I use Champix with other medications?

Champix should not interfere with other medications. But to be sure, consult with your doctor before starting the course.

What are the Champix side effects that I need to be aware of?

Some of the common Champix side effects include:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Nausea
  • Abnormal dreams
  • Headache

Champix tablets may also cause sleepiness. If you drive regularly, operate complex machines, or work in a hazardous environment, don’t take Champix smoking tablets until you are sure that it doesn’t interfere with your ability to perform these tasks.

Depression, anxiousness, irritability, and inability to focus are common symptoms of smoking withdrawal. You’ll experience this with or without taking Champix tablets. Rarely though does depression lead to suicidal thoughts. If you experience suicidal behaviour while taking the course, stop taking Champix immediately and consult with your doctor.

Other Champix side effects include weight gain or increased appetite and decreased heart rate.

Is Champix Enough to Quit Smoking?

No. Champix helps you give up smoking, but without willpower, you are unlikely to succeed. Quitting smoking is hard. Below are some tips on how to keep yourself motivated.

  • Remember the reasons why you want to quit smoking. This could be personal, health, financial, or family reasons. It's best if you write these on paper and place them on a place that you can see every day to continually remind yourself.
  • Most cravings last for 5 minutes. You can develop a strategy to help you cope up with these episodes (e.g. taking a walk, chewing gum, listening to a song, stretching, etc.)
  • Avoid going to places where smoking is common (pubs, bars, etc.). Instead, try to enjoy other social activities where there is no opportunity to smoke (playing sports, cinema, etc.)
  • Talk to your family or friends and ask for their support. There are also helplines available if you want.

Where can I buy Champix?

You can buy Champix tablets online from Express Pharmacy. Browse our stop smoking treatments to get started.

5 Common Symptoms of a Nicotine Addiction

Posted Friday 10 January 2020 09:07 by in Smoking Cessation by Harman Bhamra

Smoking addictions are incredibly common - the nicotine found in tobacco becomes highly addictive when smoked regularly.

While millions of people smoke globally, studies show that over 70% of smokers want to quit their addiction, but struggle to succeed. Read on to discover five of the most common symptoms of a nicotine addiction that you should be aware of, including ways to stop smoking if you wish to put an end to this health-damaging addiction.

Common Symptoms of a Nicotine Addiction

There are many tell-tale signs of a nicotine addiction, but the clearest indicator will come from how often you reach for a cigarette. If the cravings are always too strong to ignore, then the addiction is more prevalent. The most common symptoms of an addiction are as follows:

Weight Gain

Many people who suffer from a nicotine addiction find themselves gaining a little bit of weight. Nicotine actually triggers the release of glucose in the muscles and liver which alters your insulin response. As a result, you suffer from a drop in blood sugars when away from a cigarette, resulting in the need to replace energy stores with food.

Irritability and Anger

Stress is a common sign of nicotine withdrawal in people who are addicted. This is triggered by the strong dysregulation of the endocrine and central nervous systems. This dysregulation leads to changes in your mood which can make you angry and irritable when you’ve not had a cigarette. This is an incredibly vicious cycle as smokers begin to believe that they need a nicotine rush to stay calm.

Smoking Even When Unwell

If you’re tempted to light up a cigarette even when you’re sick, there’s a strong chance you’re addicted. This is especially the case in people who still insist on maintaining their habit, even with serious conditions such as cancers or heart problems.


Anyone who has smoked will know just how difficult it can be to fight the cravings for a cigarette. If you find yourself in a situation where you can’t smoke and are desperate to have a cigarette, it’s a strong indication that you’re very addicted to the nicotine. The longer you can go without needing to light up, the milder your addiction is.

Avoiding Activities That Will Halt Smoking

Many places, such as hospitals, schools and cinemas, are no-smoking zones. If you are avoiding activities with friends or family on the grounds that you know you won’t be able to smoke there, your addiction is taking over.

What Happens When You Stop Smoking?

Nicotine addictions are detrimental to your health, but hard to escape. What happens when you stop smoking? Is there a light at the end of the tunnel?

When you decide to stop smoking, the cravings for cigarettes come in waves – they can be incredibly intense at first, but then will gradually pass and fade. The body has an amazing ability to heal itself, and it actually happens sooner than you think - just as long as you persevere.

Within 20 minutes, your body has already started the process of healing itself. Your circulation begins to improve, and your blood pressure and pulse return to normal. After eight hours of no nicotine in your system, you have half the amount of nicotine and carbon monoxide in your bloodstream. However, you may also be experiencing intense cravings by this stage.

At 12 hours, your carbon monoxide levels in the body have returned to normal and your heart will be able to perform better as a result. Smokers who smoke a packet of cigarettes a day are twice as likely to suffer from a heart attack as a non-smoker, but by 24 hours without nicotine, the chances of this have lowered.

At 48 hours, your sense of smell and taste are improving, and your body is detoxing the chemicals in your lungs and bloodstream. At this point, you will no doubt be experiencing headaches, dizziness and irritability as your body cleans itself up. This is the toughest time in the quitting stage but sticking with it is vital for success.

By the end of day three, your energy levels will rise and your ability to breathe will be clearer. Between two weeks and three months, you’ll make huge strides and will find you can exercise for longer and breathe more freely. Cravings are still common at this stage, but the intensity will have started to calm down, making it easier to control. From here until the one year mark and beyond, your health continues to improve and your risk of diseases and health concerns drop dramatically.

Check out our guide on the timeline of smoking withdrawal for more information.

Ways to Stop Smoking

If you’re wondering how to stop smoking, we’ve compiled some tips to help you get on the road to recovery. There are many strategies you can choose, from using prescribed stop smoking tablets to specialised chewing gum. Here are the top picks that most smokers find useful.

Use Champix tablets

Champix tablets are one of the most popular medications used to quit smoking. They’re simple to consume and can successfully fight addiction in as little as 12 weeks. There are many benefits which come from using Champix tablets - they help to reduce cravings and eventually win you back a higher quality life. They also help to reduce stress and irritability, as well as alleviating headaches and other addiction-related symptoms; making it easier to keep on track.

Keep yourself busy

Finding a distraction is a great way to reduce your need for nicotine, as often cigarettes are used out of habit. If you can go for a walk, play a game with family or chat to a friend when you feel a craving coming on, you’ll distract yourself enough to let it pass.

Make a list of reasons to quit smoking

When you’re struggling to stay on track, remind yourself of the benefits of quitting and the reasons why you wanted to in the first place. Write down your top five reasons why you want to stop smoking and refer to it every time you have an urge to smoke.


Nicotine is an addictive substance and quitting is never easy. But with the right support and a great mindset, you can overcome your addiction to smoking, as many others have in the past. Whether it’s keeping busy, using prescription medication (which can be through purchased through Express Pharmacy) to ease your cravings or setting goals, quitting smoking is achievable for anyone.

Here at Express Pharmacy, our pharmaceutical experts are passionate about getting you on the road to a healthier life. Be sure to take a look at our stop smoking products or get in touch on 0208 123 0703.

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The Top 6 Healthiest New Year's Resolutions

Posted Wednesday 08 January 2020 17:48 by in Smoking Cessation by Harman Bhamra

When the New Year rolls around, the majority of us enter into a state of reflection, picking apart how we can better ourselves over the coming months. But while resolutions are fun to make, they can be challenging to maintain, resulting in most of us failing to keep them up for the entire year.

Studies suggest that a third of us aim to try harder in at least one area of our lives in January, and while intentions are good for the first few weeks, they inevitably get forgotten about as life gets in the way and enthusiasm wanes.

However, if there’s one area of your life that you should make an effort to improve, it’s your health.

From gaining a more positive body image to reducing the risk of potential health problems, numerous benefits come with prioritising your health. The following six resolutions are some of the healthiest ones you can make, meaning sticking to them will bring you incredible benefits.

The healthiest New Year's Resolutions

1. Lose Weight

One of the most common New Year’s resolutions is to lose weight. It seems that many of us feel unhappy with our weight and resolve to shift the excess pounds after Christmas.

This is all fine and well, but losing weight takes effort and determination, so it can be difficult to commit to in the long-term. Weight loss is not a resolution that you can see overnight success from, and this reason alone is why so many people lose the motivation to shed some pounds.

There are various routes you can take when it comes to losing weight, from keeping a food journal to stay on top of progress, to taking prescription weight loss pills. You’ll likely find that a mixture of the best weight loss pills, exercise, and diet will be the perfect recipe for weight loss success.

2. Keep in Touch with Friends and Family

The New Year is the perfect time to reconnect with friends and family, which, in turn, is great for your health.

Research shows that people who have a strong bond with people in their lives live longer than those who don’t. The reason behind this is that a lack of social relationships and sense of loneliness can lead on to more serious problems like alcohol abuse, smoking and obesity.

With so many apps and technological devices on hand, it’s never been easier to keep in touch with people or rekindle a forgotten relationship. Send off some text messages or emails to loved ones and follow them up with an in-person visit – you’ll instantly feel better, and you’ll make someone else’s day in the process too.

3. Quit Smoking

Smoking increases the chance of having a stroke by as much as 50%, and it has also been linked to countless health concerns, from cancers to coronary heart disease.

If you are looking to stop smoking in the New Year, there are plenty of methods you can use to help make the transition easier. One of the most popular prescription medications used for quitting smoking is Champix; 45% of users manage to quit smoking after just 12 weeks of taking it.

4. Lower Your Stress Levels

A bit of pressure in life can be good for us, but when your stress levels increase too often, it can be incredibly detrimental to your health.

Chronic stress is prevalent in today’s fast-paced society, but it’s been linked to numerous health concerns including heart disease, obesity, insomnia and depression. Many factors in our lives can make us stressed, from long hours at work to a lack of sleep and poor diet.

Stress is inevitable in short bouts and can even give us a boost of adrenaline in certain situations, but this doesn’t mean you should disregard the importance of relaxation and a good night’s sleep. In the New Year, try to take time out of your schedule to spend time with loved ones, catch up on sleep and do relaxing activities such as reading or yoga.

5. Reduce Your Alcohol Intake

The festive period is a prime time to slip out of healthy routine and indulge in alcohol and food. Once over, many of us make the resolution to cut back on the amount of alcohol we drink.

Drinking alcohol to excess can impact the brain’s neurotransmitters, heightening the risk of several mental health problems, including depression, memory loss and seizures. Alcohol is also detrimental to our physical health, from weight gain and liver problems to heart disease and hypertension. Are the health consequences really worth it?

Make it one of your health-related New Year goals to cut back on alcohol to improve your health - and bank balance.

6. Get More Sleep

We’re always being told that a good night’s rest is healthy for us, but do you know just how beneficial to our health it really is?

From improving your mood to lowering stress levels, sleep is incredibly important for our physical and mental health. Lack of sleep increases the risk of type 2 diabetes, weight gain and high blood pressure, as well as making it more difficult to strengthen memories which is a process known as memory consolidation.

When you regularly get a poor night’s sleep, your mind is foggy, you struggle to cope with daily stresses effectively, and your immune system suffers. So, next year, make it one of your goals to go to bed early and get a good night’s rest.

Become a healthier version of yourself in the New Year

These top six New Year’s resolutions are great for many reasons, but the main point to take away is the fact that they’re all achievable. With help from a few small tweaks to your daily routine, you will be on the road to a better, healthier version of yourself.

For more information regarding effective stop smoking and weight loss treatments, get in touch with our pharmacists today on 0208 123 0703.

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