Quitting smoking is an extremely difficult task, but many patients manage it every year. As GPs we do our best to help and encourage (or cajole!) as necessary when it comes to helping our patients to quit smoking. It is never too late to quit!!



We are all aware that smoking is associated with a host of cancers, chronic lung disease, heart disease and strokes….the list is endless. The evidence from studies shows that encouraging patients to quit at every opportunity helps, so we bring it up all the time as a result. There is never a bad time to quit and the benefits of quitting are well documented.



So what is new and what works when it comes to smoking cessation?



A new paper by the New England Journal of Medicine reaffirmed that female smokers shorten their lives by on average 11 years, and male smokers by 12 years. Those who quit before the age of 40 gained about 10 years of life over those who continued to smoke. This study also showed that those who quit had decreased levels of depression, anxiety and stress and had a better quality of life after quitting smoking.

A dedicated chat about smoking along with a strong effort at quitting using willpower increases the chances of quitting, and adding in a medication to this increases your chances of quitting  by about 70% according to this review.


  • Nicotine patches alone
  • ‘Champix’ oral tablet alone
  • Lozenges & counselling alone

…generally had the same results when it came to quitting smoking.

As a result, it is probably best to choose the one that best suits you as an individual.

What about smoking in pregnancy?

Unfortunately smoking in pregnancy is always harmful and should be avoided always. It can lead to

  • Growth retardation in the womb
  • Preterm labour
  • ‘Small for dates’ babies
  • Babies more prone to developing respiratory issues like asthma in later life
  • Placental abruption



Using nicotine patches in pregnancy is not definitely safe in itself, however experts feel that it is safer to apply a nicotine patch as opposed to smoking when one is pregnant. Therefore in a roundabout way it is safer to do this as opposed to smoking (in pregnancy).

What about e-cigarettes?

This is a controversial topic and the jury is still out in many ways. Certainly the medical authorities do not want to give legitimacy to e-cigarettes in case this encourages younger children to start ‘vaping’. Also some very early studies show that it may be associated with heart attacks and strokes.

There are so many separate e-cigarettes on the market it is very difficult to know the amount of dangerous chemicals deposited by each one.

A recent New England Journal of Medicines review has highlighted that there is very little long term evidence on the long term safety of electronic cigarettes so patients should be very cautious about starting to use these.

Will an e-cigarette help me to quick smoking though?

There are studies out there that show that e-cigarettes do help people to quit.



We cautiously advise that they can be a useful help when trying to quit smoking but it is best to stop using e-cigarettes as soon as possible once you have quit smoking. If you do not smoke, it is not wise to start to use an e-cigarette.

If you would like to quit smoking or feel that you need direction or help to do so, please contact us to see one of the team on 01-8461335 or 01-8038881. Alternatively you can e-mail us on info@portmarnockgpclinic.ie. 

This post was by Dr. Niall