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.
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.
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.
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!