Smo­king during a breakFoto: Alex­an­der Meyer-Köring

Smo­kers don’t have it easy – and the con­di­ti­ons are get­ting more and more dif­fi­cult. Fewer and fewer pla­ces allow smo­king at all. Smo­king in aero­pla­nes and trains? In the past – thanks to sepa­ra­te smo­king car­ria­ges or rows – this was com­mon prac­ti­ce, but is now com­ple­te­ly unt­hin­ka­ble. Smo­king in shop­ping cen­tres, wai­t­ing rooms, and offices? For­get it! The same is true for restau­rants and (in most federal sta­tes) for bars. As a hob­by, smo­king is also beco­m­ing more and more expen­si­ve. While in the mid-90s, a pack of bran­ded ciga­ret­tes cost around 5 DM (‘Deut­sche Mark’ = Ger­man Mark), today, you won’t be spen­ding less than 7 euros, or 13.70 DM in the old cur­ren­cy, for a stan­dard pack of 20 ciga­ret­tes. And the next incre­a­ses in tob­ac­co tax have alrea­dy been deci­ded – 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 com­pa­ri­son, 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 – recent case law per­tai­ning to labour law has shifted towards the posi­ti­on that employ­ers no lon­ger have to pay employees for smo­king breaks, mea­ning that they are not coun­ted (like toi­let breaks – though the­re are also excep­ti­ons to this) as part of your working hours. Moreo­ver, stric­ter work health and safe­ty gui­de­li­nes and employees’ right to pro­tec­tion from smo­ke mean that the­re are fewer and fewer offices whe­re smo­king is per­mit­ted, though the­se were still com­mon in the 90s and 00s. Even in inpa­ti­ent nur­sing homes, resi­dents who smo­ke are some­ti­mes put on the defen­si­ve. It is almost not worth men­tio­ning the health risks, given that they are wide­ly known. Accord­ing to a stu­dy by sci­en­tists 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 unsur­pri­sing that the smo­king rate has gone down over the past few years. Accord­ing to a stu­dy by the Foun­da­ti­on for Health Know­ledge con­duc­ted in 2017, 28 % of adults cur­r­ent­ly smo­ke – 32 % of men and 25 % of women. It is par­ti­cu­lar­ly striking that fewer and fewer young peop­le and young adults smo­ke. Also par­ti­cu­lar­ly inte­res­ting: while, in the years of the eco­no­mic mira­cle, smo­king was still a kind of sta­tus sym­bol of the upper and midd­le clas­ses, this has now com­ple­te­ly rever­sed. Perhaps the so-cal­led ‘shock images’ on ciga­ret­te packs, which have been a requi­re­ment sin­ce May 2016, have also con­tri­bu­t­ed to this. This des­pi­te the fact that many of their motifs are not sho­cking, but are inad­vertent­ly fun­ny – like the mother blowing smo­ke in her baby’s face, which is gri­macing comi­c­al­ly, or the mis­jud­ged sym­bo­lic depic­tions of impo­tence as a pos­si­ble con­se­quence of smoking.

May­be you are also con­si­de­ring giving up smo­king? For this pur­po­se, we have crea­ted an over­view of the most com­mon methods – inclu­ding the cost, likeli­hood of suc­cess, as well as the advan­ta­ges and dis­ad­van­ta­ges of each approach.

Good bye!Foto: Alex­an­der Meyer-Köring

An overview of the most common methods

For terminators: the “cut-off point” method

“You only have to skip one ciga­ret­te – name­ly: the next one.” It sounds ama­zin­gly simp­le, but it is also the har­dest method, requi­ring an enor­mous amount of will­power. From 100 to zero, all of a sud­den. Though the plan is simp­le, the exe­cu­ti­on is dif­fi­cult: the rate of rel­ap­se wit­hin a year is at least 95 %. The first eight days after the “final ciga­ret­te” are con­si­de­red the har­dest. But may­be it’s pre­cise­ly this high bar that moti­va­tes the few peop­le who mana­ge it strai­ght away!

For strategists: gradual reduction

Day by day – or may­be week by week – 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 con­sump­ti­on and begin by eli­mi­na­ting the ciga­ret­tes 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 ciga­ret­tes asso­cia­ted with strong “ritua­li­sa­ti­on”. Of cour­se, this method can be com­bi­ned with other ces­sa­ti­on aids (see nico­ti­ne gum).

For patchwork fans: the nicotine patch

A con­sis­tent level of nico­ti­ne throughout the day, without nee­ding a ciga­ret­te: this is the pro­mi­se of the nico­ti­ne patch (‘Nicoret­te’ 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’s cra­ving for nico­ti­ne. At around 20 euros for a set of seven for one week, or around 35 euros for two weeks, this ces­sa­ti­on aid is afford­a­ble and is, for this amount of nico­ti­ne, signi­fi­cant­ly che­a­per than cigarettes.

For a quick fix: nicotine gum

For peop­le who pre­vious­ly didn’t smo­ke regu­lar­ly throughout the day, but ins­tead only nee­ded a ciga­ret­te in par­ti­cu­lar situa­tions – such as during times of stress – nico­ti­ne gum could be use­ful. The nico­ti­ne in the gum goes direct­ly into the bloo­d­stream, and quick­ly relie­ves the cra­ving for ciga­ret­tes. With unit pri­ces of around 20 cents, the gum is slight­ly che­a­per than a (bran­ded) cigarette.

For dreaming: giving up smoking via hypnosis

Hyp­no­the­ra­py offers a com­ple­te­ly dif­fe­rent approach to quit­ting smo­king: a hyp­no­the­ra­pist puts the per­son wan­ting to quit into a tran­ce. While they are in this half-asleep sta­te, the hyp­no­tist attempts to rever­se the sub­con­scious posi­ti­ve asso­cia­ti­ons with smo­king. Befo­re the ses­si­on, the the­ra­pist will assess the participant’s moti­va­tions and rea­sons for smo­king. At pri­ces of several hund­red euros – typi­cal­ly, several ses­si­ons are necessa­ry – this method is not cheap. Howe­ver, you should inqui­re whe­ther your health insuran­ce pro­vi­der 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 ‘stopping smoking’: e‑cigarettes and tobacco heaters

E‑cigarettes and tob­ac­co hea­ters could also be an inte­res­ting alter­na­ti­ve to ‘tra­di­tio­nal’ ciga­ret­tes. Both pro­ducts have in com­mon the fact that they do not burn tob­ac­co. Pure­ly for health rea­sons, swit­ching to the­se pro­ducts could be worth con­si­de­ring – in addi­ti­on to the inter­me­dia­te sta­ge on the way to giving up completely.

With e‑cigarettes, typi­cal­ly a liquid con­tai­ning nico­ti­ne is vapo­ri­sed over a hea­ting coil. Dif­fe­rent levels of nico­ti­ne con­cen­tra­ti­on are avail­ab­le, and the­re are even liquids which are nico­ti­ne-free. The inte­res­ting thing about the liquids, from a sen­so­ry per­spec­ti­ve, 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 alter­na­ti­ves; for tho­se who enjoy expe­ri­men­ting, the sky’s the limit, and new crea­ti­ons are arri­ving in shops all the time. Fur­ther­mo­re, the inha­ling and exha­ling of vapours hel­ps to retain that “smo­king fee­ling”. Unli­ke ciga­ret­tes, howe­ver, they con­tain neit­her car­bon mon­oxi­de, ben­zol, form­alde­hyde, nor any of the other 70 poi­son­ous or harm­ful sub­s­tan­ces. A 10ml bot­t­le of vaping liquid cos­ts, depen­ding on the brand, bet­ween 4.50 and 6 euros – and the amount of nico­ti­ne is equi­va­lent to several packs of ciga­ret­tes. Howe­ver, some­what illo­gi­cal­ly, the tob­ac­co tax will also app­ly to vaping liquids from 2022, mea­ning the pri­ce is expec­ted to incre­a­se by around 3 euros per 10ml bot­t­le. E‑cigarettes are avail­ab­le in all kinds of designs and com­fort levels – from the star­ter model for ten euros to the high-end models at ever incre­a­sing pri­ces. Alt­hough not all of the long-term side effects have been ful­ly rese­ar­ched, sci­en­tists assu­me that, if the nico­ti­ne inta­ke is the same, e‑cigarettes are up to 95 % less harm­ful for the body than tra­di­tio­nal ciga­ret­tes.

Tob­ac­co hea­ters, like the sys­tems made by ‘Iqos’ or ‘Glo’, work in a simi­lar way. Unli­ke e‑cigarettes, the­se use real tob­ac­co, howe­ver it is only hea­ted ins­tead of being burnt – this means they also pro­du­ce vapours ins­tead of smo­ke, without the harm­ful sub­s­tan­ces con­tai­ned in nor­mal ciga­ret­te smo­ke, such as form­alde­hyde, ben­zol, car­bon mon­oxi­de, etc. 20 “Heets” – the tob­ac­co sticks for ‘Iqos’ – cost 6 euros, for examp­le, and are the­re­fo­re slight­ly che­a­per than ciga­ret­tes from an estab­lis­hed brand. Howe­ver, they will also be affec­ted by drastic tob­ac­co tax incre­a­ses from 2022.

This is yummy.…ahes to ashesFoto: 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 fur­ni­tu­re, the next big sum­mer holi­day, a pie­ce of art – or wha­te­ver makes you hap­py: focus on how much clo­ser to your goal you are thanks to the money you’re saving on ciga­ret­tes. So that your savings don’t get over­loo­ked in your dai­ly spen­ding, why not put the money you would nor­mal­ly have spent on ciga­ret­tes into a jar or a pig­gy bank? This way, you will beco­me awa­re of the incre­a­sing finan­cial bene­fits of giving up smoking.

Exercise and improve your physical fitness

Par­ti­cu­lar­ly very hea­vy (for­mer) smo­kers will noti­ce that things like the pre­vious­ly impos­si­ble walk to the seventh floor, the five kilo­met­re trek through the forest, the cycling tour through town – or to the next vil­la­ge – beco­me much easier after some time spent without smo­king. Cheer yourself on, enjoy the pro­gress that you’ve made! Exer­cise (may­be even as part of a team?) is also a gre­at way of coun­ter­ac­ting the poten­ti­al weight-gain after quit­ting smo­king. This inclu­des ‘ever­y­day exer­cise’ – 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 everywhere.

Avoid potential ‘trigger situations’

A tip espe­cial­ly for ‘situa­tio­nal’ smo­kers who tend to smo­ke, for examp­le, while having a beer with friends in the evening: if it hel­ps, avoid the­se situa­tions for a while! We all know how ‘social distancing’ works rea­son­ab­ly well by now. Com­mu­ni­ca­ting with friends, acquain­tan­ces, or fami­ly mem­bers can also help you to reach your goal – they can be con­si­de­ra­te during this short, cri­ti­cal peri­od and under­stand if you’re going through mood swings.

Don’t carry cigarettes with you

This tip is par­ti­cu­lar­ly for peop­le begin­ning the “gra­du­al reduc­tion” method: make smo­king as dif­fi­cult for yourself as pos­si­ble. 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 yourself 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

Retur­ning to the topic of “situa­tio­nal con­sump­ti­on”: often it’s pre­cise­ly the­se day-to-day situa­tions that cau­se peop­le to auto­ma­ti­cal­ly reach for a ciga­ret­te. Wai­t­ing for the bus, the pho­ne rin­ging, lunch breaks, han­ding over or finis­hing work, etc. If you do have a ciga­ret­te, make a note of it. This will help you to iden­ti­fy the­se situa­tions and to find alter­na­ti­ves. 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’s important to remem­ber that, at least in the short-term, it’s not life or death! Slip­ping up makes you wiser, more expe­ri­en­ced, and gives you the oppor­tu­ni­ty to do bet­ter next time. Remem­ber: every ciga­ret­te you have skip­ped during your efforts to quit smo­king has alrea­dy hel­ped, and saved you money. You only slip up if you’­re try­ing – if you’re not figh­t­ing for it, you’ve alrea­dy lost!