Smoking during a break Bild: Alexan­der Meyer-Köring

Smokers don‚Äôt have it easy ‚Äď and the condi¬≠ti¬≠ons are getting more and more diffi¬≠cult. Fewer and fewer places allow smoking at all. Smoking in aeropla¬≠nes and trains? In the past ‚Äď thanks to separate smoking carri¬≠a¬≠ges or rows ‚Äď this was common practice, but is now comple¬≠tely unthinkable. Smoking in shopping centres, waiting rooms, and offices? Forget it! The same is true for restau¬≠rants and (in most federal states) for bars. As a hobby, smoking is also becoming more and more expen¬≠sive. While in the mid-90s, a pack of branded cigaret¬≠tes cost around 5 DM (‚ÄėDeutsche Mark‚Äô = German Mark), today, you won‚Äôt be spending less than 7 euros, or 13.70 DM in the old currency, for a standard pack of 20 cigaret¬≠tes. And the next increa¬≠ses in tobacco tax have already been decided ‚Äď meaning that in 2022 and 2023, ten cents will be added to the cost of each pack. Even today, smokers who go through one pack per day are spending around 3,000 euros per year. For compa¬≠ri¬≠son, this amount of money would easily cover a 14-day holiday for two to a five-star resort!

At work the air is also getting thinner and thinner ‚Äď recent case law pertai¬≠ning to labour law has shifted towards the position that employ¬≠ers no longer have to pay employees for smoking breaks, meaning that they are not counted (like toilet breaks ‚Äď though there are also excep¬≠ti¬≠ons to this) as part of your working hours. Moreo¬≠ver, stric¬≠ter work health and safety guide¬≠lines and employees‚Äô right to protec¬≠tion from smoke mean that there are fewer and fewer offices where smoking is permit¬≠ted, though these were still common in the 90s and 00s. Even in inpati¬≠ent nursing homes, residents who smoke are someti¬≠mes put on the defen¬≠sive. It is almost not worth mentio¬≠ning the health risks, given that they are widely known. Accor¬≠ding to a study by scien¬≠tists at the German Cancer Research Centre, men who smoke live on average nine years, and women who smoke live on average seven years shorter than their non-smoking peers.

Smoking rates and social prestige both in decline

In light of all of this, it is unsur¬≠pri¬≠sing that the smoking rate has gone down over the past few years. Accor¬≠ding to a study by the Founda¬≠tion for Health Knowledge conduc¬≠ted in 2017, 28 % of adults currently smoke ‚Äď 32 % of men and 25 % of women. It is parti¬≠cu¬≠larly striking that fewer and fewer young people and young adults smoke. Also parti¬≠cu¬≠larly interes¬≠t¬≠ing: while, in the years of the econo¬≠mic miracle, smoking was still a kind of status symbol of the upper and middle classes, this has now comple¬≠tely rever¬≠sed. Perhaps the so-called ‚Äėshock images‚Äô on cigarette packs, which have been a requi¬≠re¬≠ment since May 2016, have also contri¬≠bu¬≠ted to this. This despite the fact that many of their motifs are not shocking, but are inadver¬≠t¬≠ently funny ‚Äď like the mother blowing smoke in her baby‚Äôs face, which is grimacing comic¬≠ally, or the misjud¬≠ged symbo¬≠lic depic¬≠tions of impotence as a possi¬≠ble conse¬≠quence of smoking.

Maybe you are also conside¬≠ring giving up smoking? For this purpose, we have created an overview of the most common methods ‚Äď inclu¬≠ding the cost, likeli¬≠hood of success, as well as the advan¬≠ta¬≠ges and disad¬≠van¬≠ta¬≠ges of each approach.

Good bye! Bild: Alexan­der Meyer-Köring

An overview of the most common methods

For termi¬≠na¬≠tors: the ‚Äěcut-off point‚ÄĚ method

‚ÄěYou only have to skip one cigarette ‚Äď namely: the next one.‚ÄĚ It sounds amazin¬≠gly simple, but it is also the hardest method, requi¬≠ring an enorm¬≠ous amount of willpower. From 100 to zero, all of a sudden. Though the plan is simple, the execu¬≠tion is diffi¬≠cult: the rate of relapse within a year is at least 95 %. The first eight days after the ‚Äěfinal cigarette‚ÄĚ are conside¬≠red the hardest. But maybe it‚Äôs precis¬≠ely this high bar that motiva¬≠tes the few people who manage it straight away!

For strate­gists: gradual reduc­tion

Day by day ‚Äď or maybe week by week ‚Äď have one less cigarette, until you reach zero: maybe, instead of the abrupt cut-off point method, this is your method of choice! You should reflect on your cigarette consump¬≠tion and begin by elimi¬≠na¬≠ting the cigaret¬≠tes that are less important to you, that you smoke on the side. With time, you can take the next steps, and also give up the cigaret¬≠tes associa¬≠ted with strong ‚Äěritua¬≠li¬≠sa¬≠tion‚ÄĚ. Of course, this method can be combi¬≠ned with other cessa¬≠tion aids (see nicotine gum).

For patch­work fans: the nicotine patch

A consis¬≠tent level of nicotine throug¬≠hout the day, without needing a cigarette: this is the promise of the nicotine patch (‚ÄėNicorette‚Äô is the best-known variety), which is applied in the morning after getting up, and removed in the evening before going to bed. This helps to ease the body‚Äôs craving for nicotine. At around 20 euros for a set of seven for one week, or around 35 euros for two weeks, this cessa¬≠tion aid is afforda¬≠ble and is, for this amount of nicotine, signi¬≠fi¬≠cantly cheaper than cigaret¬≠tes.

For a quick fix: nicotine gum

For people who previously didn‚Äôt smoke regularly throug¬≠hout the day, but instead only needed a cigarette in parti¬≠cu¬≠lar situa¬≠tions ‚Äď such as during times of stress ‚Äď nicotine gum could be useful. The nicotine in the gum goes directly into the blood¬≠stream, and quickly relie¬≠ves the craving for cigaret¬≠tes. With unit prices of around 20 cents, the gum is slightly cheaper than a (branded) cigarette.

For dreaming: giving up smoking via hypno­sis

Hypno¬≠the¬≠rapy offers a comple¬≠tely diffe¬≠rent approach to quitting smoking: a hypno¬≠the¬≠ra¬≠pist puts the person wanting to quit into a trance. While they are in this half-asleep state, the hypno¬≠tist attempts to reverse the subcon¬≠scious positive associa¬≠ti¬≠ons with smoking. Before the session, the thera¬≠pist will assess the participant‚Äôs motiva¬≠tions and reasons for smoking. At prices of several hundred euros ‚Äď typically, several sessi¬≠ons are neces¬≠sary ‚Äď this method is not cheap. However, you should inquire whether your health insurance provi¬≠der covers some or even all of these costs. In most cases, they will, because successfully stopping smoking will save your health insurance a lot of money in the long run.

Stopping smoking without ‚Äėstopping smoking‚Äô: e‚ÄĎcigarettes and tobacco heaters

E‚ÄĎcigarettes and tobacco heaters could also be an interes¬≠t¬≠ing alter¬≠na¬≠tive to ‚Äėtradi¬≠tio¬≠nal‚Äô cigaret¬≠tes. Both products have in common the fact that they do not burn tobacco. Purely for health reasons, switching to these products could be worth conside¬≠ring ‚Äď in addition to the inter¬≠me¬≠diate stage on the way to giving up comple¬≠tely.

With e‚ÄĎcigarettes, typically a liquid contai¬≠ning nicotine is vapori¬≠sed over a heating coil. Diffe¬≠rent levels of nicotine concen¬≠tra¬≠tion are available, and there are even liquids which are nicotine-free. The interes¬≠t¬≠ing thing about the liquids, from a sensory perspec¬≠tive, is the diverse range of flavours. In addition to the classic cigarette, cigarillo, and cigar flavours, there are also fruity, minty-fresh, and even sweet alter¬≠na¬≠ti¬≠ves; for those who enjoy experi¬≠men¬≠ting, the sky‚Äôs the limit, and new creati¬≠ons are arriving in shops all the time. Further¬≠more, the inhaling and exhaling of vapours helps to retain that ‚Äěsmoking feeling‚ÄĚ. Unlike cigaret¬≠tes, however, they contain neither carbon monoxide, benzol, formalde¬≠hyde, nor any of the other 70 poiso¬≠nous or harmful substances. A 10ml bottle of vaping liquid costs, depen¬≠ding on the brand, between 4.50 and 6 euros ‚Äď and the amount of nicotine is equiva¬≠lent to several packs of cigaret¬≠tes. However, somewhat illogi¬≠cally, the tobacco tax will also apply to vaping liquids from 2022, meaning the price is expec¬≠ted to increase by around 3 euros per 10ml bottle. E‚ÄĎcigarettes are available in all kinds of designs and comfort levels ‚Äď from the starter model for ten euros to the high-end models at ever incre¬≠asing prices. Although not all of the long-term side effects have been fully resear¬≠ched, scien¬≠tists assume that, if the nicotine intake is the same, e‚ÄĎcigarettes are up to 95 % less harmful for the body than tradi¬≠tio¬≠nal cigaret¬≠tes.

Tobacco heaters, like the systems made by ‚ÄėIqos‚Äô or ‚ÄėGlo‚Äô, work in a similar way. Unlike e‚ÄĎcigarettes, these use real tobacco, however it is only heated instead of being burnt ‚Äď this means they also produce vapours instead of smoke, without the harmful substances contai¬≠ned in normal cigarette smoke, such as formalde¬≠hyde, benzol, carbon monoxide, etc. 20 ‚ÄěHeets‚ÄĚ ‚Äď the tobacco sticks for ‚ÄėIqos‚Äô ‚Äď cost 6 euros, for example, and are there¬≠fore slightly cheaper than cigaret¬≠tes from an estab¬≠lished brand. However, they will also be affec¬≠ted by drastic tobacco tax increa¬≠ses from 2022.

This is yummy.…ahes to ashes Bild: Foto: Alexan­der Meyer-Köring

Further tips for quitting smoking

When giving up smoking, you shouldn’t just focus on the actual cigaret­tes you are (not) smoking. Nor should you agonize over the fact that you can’t smoke, even though you want to. Instead, there are psycho­lo­gi­cal tricks that can help to motivate you. Several of them are descri­bed below:

Disco­ver what you can do with all the money you will save

A new piece of furni¬≠ture, the next big summer holiday, a piece of art ‚Äď or whate¬≠ver makes you happy: focus on how much closer to your goal you are thanks to the money you‚Äôre saving on cigaret¬≠tes. So that your savings don‚Äôt get overloo¬≠ked in your daily spending, why not put the money you would normally have spent on cigaret¬≠tes into a jar or a piggy bank? This way, you will become aware of the incre¬≠asing finan¬≠cial benefits of giving up smoking.

Exercise and improve your physi­cal fitness

Parti¬≠cu¬≠larly very heavy (former) smokers will notice that things like the previously impos¬≠si¬≠ble walk to the seventh floor, the five kilometre trek through the forest, the cycling tour through town ‚Äď or to the next village ‚Äď become much easier after some time spent without smoking. Cheer yours¬≠elf on, enjoy the progress that you‚Äôve made! Exercise (maybe even as part of a team?) is also a great way of counter¬≠ac¬≠ting the poten¬≠tial weight-gain after quitting smoking. This includes ‚Äėevery¬≠day exercise‚Äô ‚Äď such as lightly jogging to the bus stop or train station, taking the stairs instead of the lift, or choosing to go for a walk rather than driving every¬≠where.

Avoid poten¬≠tial ‚Äėtrigger situa¬≠tions‚Äô

A tip especi¬≠ally for ‚Äėsitua¬≠tio¬≠nal‚Äô smokers who tend to smoke, for example, while having a beer with friends in the evening: if it helps, avoid these situa¬≠tions for a while! We all know how ‚Äėsocial distancing‚Äô works reason¬≠ably well by now. Commu¬≠ni¬≠ca¬≠ting with friends, acquain¬≠tances, or family members can also help you to reach your goal ‚Äď they can be conside¬≠rate during this short, criti¬≠cal period and under¬≠stand if you‚Äôre going through mood swings.

Don’t carry cigaret­tes with you

This tip is parti¬≠cu¬≠larly for people begin¬≠ning the ‚Äěgradual reduc¬≠tion‚ÄĚ method: make smoking as diffi¬≠cult for yours¬≠elf as possi¬≠ble. Do not carry the cigarette pack within easy reach in your trouser or shirt pocket, but put them in the loft or in the cellar instead. Every trip needed for a new cigarette will make you ask yours¬≠elf if you really need to smoke right now. After all, people like comfort!

Write down the situa­tions in which you smoke, analyse them and ensure you have alter­na­ti­ves

Retur¬≠ning to the topic of ‚Äěsitua¬≠tio¬≠nal consump¬≠tion‚ÄĚ: often it‚Äôs precis¬≠ely these day-to-day situa¬≠tions that cause people to automa¬≠ti¬≠cally reach for a cigarette. Waiting for the bus, the phone ringing, lunch breaks, handing over or finis¬≠hing work, etc. If you do have a cigarette, make a note of it. This will help you to identify these situa¬≠tions and to find alter¬≠na¬≠ti¬≠ves. For example, why not use an exciting game or language app to pass the time while waiting for the bus, instead of smoking?

Find a self-help group

Having like-minded people around you, who are also in the process of giving up smoking, is a huge advan­tage. Find a self-help group where you can discuss your experi­en­ces of quitting smoking and lend each other moral support during the more diffi­cult moments.

If you slip up, don’t lose hope

When giving up smoking it‚Äôs important to remem¬≠ber that, at least in the short-term, it‚Äôs not life or death! Slipping up makes you wiser, more experi¬≠en¬≠ced, and gives you the oppor¬≠tu¬≠nity to do better next time. Remem¬≠ber: every cigarette you have skipped during your efforts to quit smoking has already helped, and saved you money. You only slip up if you‚Äôre trying ‚Äď if you‚Äôre not fight¬≠ing for it, you‚Äôve already lost!