It’s that time of year again. We’ve made it through February. Barring a couple of exceptional instances of winter fury, spring will be shortly on the way. That means it’s time to open up the windows, sweep out the dust, and make a fresh start.
But ‘that time of year’ doesn’t necessarily only mean the oncoming sunny days of spring. See, it’s time for another annual celebration of fresh starts:
14 March is No Smoking Day.
Now, hang on a minute. We can tell that No Smoking Day sort of sounds like one of those hodgepodge, made-up national holidays that busybodies like to drop into the calendar every now and again when they get bored. But No Smoking Day stands head and shoulders above such superfluities as ‘National Butchers Week’ and ‘International School Meals Day’ (no offense to butchers or dinner ladies).
To show you what we mean, we have to go back to the beginning.
In the beginning…
The year is 1984. 1 in 3 adults walking the streets does so with a carton of cigarettes in their pocket. Smoking is down from the 1940s, when it rose above 1 in 2 adults; but from our current perspective, these statistics are not exactly heartening.
The first No Smoking Day was inaugurated on Ash Wednesday, back in 1984, but in successive years it was moved to the second Wednesday in March. The general goal of the day was raise awareness of the dangers of smoking and the facilities available to those wanting to quit, but the day had a bit of secondary significance as well.
Let us explain.
The value of a single day
Every stop smoking guide you’ll come across—whether it’s at your GP’s, in an NHS pamphlet, the British Heart Foundation website, or at a vape store—will invariably start with three words. They’re always at the top of the list:
Pick a date.
You want to be at your strongest when you decide to quit, right? Then you want a date that you can see coming, that you can prepare for. It’s why bungee jumpers always count down before a jump, or rugby players face down their opponent before the tackle: you’re strongest when you can see it coming.
No Smoking Day gives you that foresight. You can smoke today; you can smoke tomorrow. But No Smoking Day is coming on 14 March, and you’re going to stop. Being able to see it coming gives you the time to prepare for the hit when it comes.
And since your quit day is a national day of observance, it means that you won’t be alone.
How not alone will you be?
Well, these statistics are a little bit out of date, but here are some rough numbers for you.
Remember back in the 1980s, when one in three adults smoked? Well, by 2009 that was down to only 1 in 5.
Still, that meant that a little over 8 million people smoked in the United Kingdom in 2009. And that’s not a number to turn your nose up at.
But so No Smoking Day comes around in 2009. There’s a theme to No Smoking Day every year, and 2009’s theme was ‘youth’—there was a concerted effort to employ kids and teens to help people focus on quitting.
And after No Smoking Day comes around, market research institute GfK took a survey to record the results of the day, and they found that 1 in 10 smokers threw out their cigarettes and quit on No Smoking Day.
That’s 800,000 people. That’s like the whole population of Leeds—men, women, children, old people, entrepreneurs and lollipop men—all waking up one morning deciding to do the same thing.
That’s how not alone you are.
So where are we now?
Granted, it’s likely that a few of those 800,000 who quit in 2009 picked up a cigarette again. If we were knocking 10% off of the smoking rate each year, we wouldn’t need a No Smoking Day for much longer.
And at any rate, it’s not the relapse that matters, but the fact that many of those who did go back to cigarettes made another attempt to quit the following year. And, if necessary, the following year. And the following.
And a good number of those who quit in 2009, or 2010, or 2011, haven’t touched a cigarette since. The number of adults who smoke today, in 2018? It’s less than 1 in 6.
No Smoking Day 2018
The theme of No Smoking Day 2018 is ‘quit your way’. Everyone’s quitting needs are going to be different. Maybe you’ll seek out nicotine replacement therapy, or maybe you’ll quit cold turkey.
Our choice would obviously be e-cigarettes. Look at what site you’re on.
But the important thing isn’t how you get there; the important thing is that you make the change in your life. As more and more people are choosing health over harm, it’s not unreasonable to believe that within our lifetime, we’ll see the number of adult smokers drop to 1 in 10 or more.