Join our 'Commit to Quit' campaign and kick your habit for good

The arrival of the New Year offers us an opportunity to challenge ourselves to change for the better. Smokers know more than most what a challenge it can be to alter entrenched behaviour, but there are a number of smoker personality types that find it particularly tough to quit smoking for good.

To help these specific personality types to 'Commit to Quit' – and more importantly, to succeed – Dr Fox has produced this stopping smoking guide, which contains practical tips and expert advice from experienced GP, Doctor Tony Steele (Dr Fox), and Psychotherapist Dr Emma Mardlin (The Pinnacle Practice).

The guide contains useful tips for light smokers who are keen to kick those final few cigarettes and social smoker types who often want to quit completely, but just keep falling back into bad habits. There is also invaluable advice for long term heavy smokers and those who 'yo-yo' between periods of heavy and lighter smoking.

Simply decide which of the smoker personalities outlined below best describes you and read on for the most effective tips to help you 'Commit to Quit' and give up smoking for good.

Which smoker are you?


Illustration of a heavy smoker
  • Has smoked for a long time
  • Smoking is ingrained into their routine
  • Not sure how they would cope without it


Illustration of a yo-yo smoker
  • Has tried to give up many times
  • Finds that smoking happens in waves
  • Confident that they don't have a real problem


Illustration of a social smoker
  • Only smokes in social situations
  • Not a regular smoker so thinks the warnings don't apply
  • Think they can give up whenever they like


Illustration of a light smoker
  • Smokes under 5 a day
  • Believes addiction is under control
  • Tends to smoke at very specific times with little thought around 'wanting a cigarette'

Heavy Smoker

Has smoked for a long time – since childhood – and smoking is ingrained in their lifestyle and routine. Rely heavily on smoking and although it is affecting their health and they want to give up they are scared of how they will cope without it.

  • The Psychotherapist says...

    Anything we do for more than thirty days becomes habitual, a routine, even a 'comfort zone' and in many cases 'second nature', so for a heavy smoker it's essential to REALLY want to break out of this comfort zone and conditioned pattern of behaviour. Focus is imperative because this is about making some profound lifestyle changes.

    It's also important to take one step at a time so as to avoid physical withdrawal symptoms after the body has become so reliant on tobacco. Heavy smokers must recondition their thought processes, changing the physical need and emotional associations around smoking.

    The heavy smoker's entrenched behaviour requires a healthier substitute to help ease the transition; there are a wide variety of options available. (See below).

    Fear Of Quitting

    A chronic fear of stopping smoking shackles the heavy smoker, so it is vital to concentrate on the root cause of that fear. They should start the process of giving up smoking by asking themselves "for what purpose do I smoke?" and "what would happen if I didn't smoke?"

    Identifying the reasons for smoking and the core emotions attached to the need to smoke, then reconditioning those behaviours using therapy can assist greatly in breaking a long-standing pattern of behaviour. Identifying behavioural triggers and implementing coping strategies for these scenarios (stress, boredom, anxiety, discontent, apathy etc.) is crucial for success.

  • The Doctor says...

    Heavy smokers have very high levels of nicotine in their blood and experience the most discomfort when withdrawing from their habit. This discomfort comes in a range of symptoms: strong cravings to smoke, irritability, insomnia, depression and an inability to concentrate. As NHS statistics show that fewer than half of those who attempt to quit smoking 'cold turkey' succeed, heavy smokers in particular will benefit significantly from choosing from the range of assistive nicotine replacement therapies available, or prescription drugs which alter how the brain responds to nicotine, making smoking gradually less enjoyable.

    Click here to learn more about how you can stop smoking today

Yo-Yo Smoker

Has tried to give up many times. Finds that their smoking happens in waves and are confident that they don't have a real problem with smoking

  • The Psychotherapist says...

    The problem with stop-start smoking is that there is not enough of a compelling reason to completely stop for good and the direction of focus is often the wrong way round.

    'Yo-Yo' anything usually reflects being inconsistent with our intentions and outcomes, so a good question to ask is 'what has to happen for me to be able to quit smoking for good, and how will I know when it's time to completely stop?'

    The answer to this should then be the motivation for stopping.

    This motivation needs to be a compelling enough reason. It has to mean something and should be viewed in positive terms, focusing on what you 'do want' rather than 'don't want' to happen. Rather than concentrating on 'don't want' factors like ill health, premature death, lack of money and impact on loved ones, instead look to positive 'do want' factors such as good health, increased fitness and wealth.

    Positivity Pays Dividends

    The tactic of visualising positive outcomes pays dividends, as focusing on the negative tends to attract those occurrences; we reap what we sow and therefore must keep our intentions positive. People often pinpoint what they don't want or can't have, so of course it makes them want that even more as that is the focus of their attention.

    On that note, it's important to know your outcome, have a realistic and achievable goal and build a clear mental picture of how you will know when you have achieved that goal. Use all of your senses when building that mental picture, and keep it at the forefront of your mind. Resolving to run the local half marathon could be your goal, for example, and keeping that inspirational image of yourself crossing the finishing line at the front of your mind would work well.

    Whatever you focus your energy and attention on will gravitate back to you. Where focus goes, energy follows, and every time you take action there is always a reaction, so make it positive and the right one.

  • The Doctor says...

    The yo-yo smoker's periods of heavy and lighter smoking will have a detrimental effect on vital organs, not least of all your lungs through recurring chest infections brought on by heavier binges of smoking interspersed with less heavy smoking periods.

    Doctors have shown this kind of 'binge' smoking causes the same amount of damage to the body – if not more – as consistent heavy smoking, as it floods the bloodstream with nicotine, the huge hit giving a big shock to the heart and lungs. The added impact of fluctuating stress levels induced by nicotine cravings during lighter periods of smoking, alongside increased heart rate and stress during heavier smoking periods, places great strain on the heart.

    More Stress, Not Less

    Contrary to popular belief, smoking DOESN'T relieve stress. It actually puts MORE stress on the body. Exercise can provide a perfect distraction and outlet for any stress, not to mention helping to bring down blood pressure and boost immunity to illness. Lowering stress levels is key to removing the yo-yo smoker's temptation to reach for a cigarette.

    There are a number of nicotine replacement options that can be reached for at times when the yo-yo smoker experiences an increased desire to smoke. There are also prescribed options which alter the body's response to nicotine, making it gradually less enjoyable.

    Click here to learn more about how you can stop smoking today

Social Smoker

Only smokes in social situations, usually accompanied by alcohol, which means they find it easy to convince themselves that they smoke much less than they do. As they aren't regular smokers, they don't think the smoking warnings apply to them. They think they can give up whenever they like.

  • The Psychotherapist says...

    Social smoking is certainly an easy habit to acquire and perhaps one of the toughest to kick. Social smokers are the most dismissive of their habit but it has the same cumulative damaging effects on the body as any other kind of smoking.

    The first step they need to take if they are to break their 'social' habit is to develop a greater understanding of the damage it is doing to them, and identify the catalysts that make them smoke, which may include peer pressure, social anxiety or insecurity.

    Address Why You Smoke

    If social smokers don't feel physically addicted, they must address the root causes for their repeated (albeit occasional) smoking, and also avoid social groups and situations where temptation may arise to lapse from tobacco abstinence. Nicotine replacement therapies suitable for intermittent smokers (inhalators or nicotine gum), may also prove extremely useful here.

  • The Doctor says...

    As with yo-yo smoking, social smoking throws the body into shock when high levels of nicotine flood the body during the smoking binges.

    Social smokers are least likely to need any kind of pharmaceutical intervention or nicotine replacement therapy due to the inconsistency of their habit, but should instead employ willpower when faced with trigger situations, such as that craving after a few drinks in the pub or a chance meeting with some smoker friends. Mental strength is needed to turn the other cheek to cigarettes and quite simply say 'no' to temptation.

    Enjoy The Benefits

    Even this 'social' smoker type, who has more of a psychological than physical addiction to nicotine due to the small irregular quantities of nicotine they absorb, will see myriad health benefits from quitting. Improved concentration, greater lung capacity and resistance to infection will be enjoyed, alongside the more serious and long-term benefits of heart health and reduced stroke and cancer risk.

    Click here to learn more about how you can stop smoking today

Light Smoker

Smokes under 5 a day and think that they have their addiction under control. Tend to smoke at very specific times with a hard and fast routine that is almost unconscious and so light up with very little thought process around 'wanting a cigarette.'

  • The Psychotherapist says...

    The light smoker is under the illusion that they have their addiction under control, but of course this is a fallacy; the 'I can stop anytime I want' mind-set. The dependency on tobacco has become so entrenched in the light smoker's behaviour they have no awareness of it.

    Just like a heavy smoker, quitting requires a conscious awareness of smoking triggers, identifying what makes the light smoker reach for a cigarette, and finding replacement activities to fill the gap and provide a therapeutic distraction from smoking when these triggers (such as stress, boredom, anxiety, discontent or apathy) arise.

    Identify The Triggers

    Keeping a simple diary of when you smoke is a good way to identify these triggers. The 'light smoker' also needs to ensure they are truly ready to give up with conviction and are not simply doing it because they feel they should because 'it's January and that's the month when you give up smoking'.

  • The Doctor says...

    Technically the light smoker is doing less damage to themselves than a heavy smoker, but there is no such thing as a 'safe' level of smoking. Light smokers are still inflicting damage on their major organs and are at risk of cancer, heart disease and stroke. Although cutting down and smoking less is always a step in the right direction, nothing removes the risk of smoking-related illness and death like stopping altogether.

    Replace The Habit

    The light smoker may be able to replace their habit by having small snacks of fruit or vegetables on standby, or by holding something in their hand or mouth (for example a stress toy or pen) to replace the habit of reaching for a cigarette.

    Avoiding triggers and routines which perpetuate the smoking habit (like not walking past the smoking shelter at work) will drastically increase the light smoker's chances of successfully quitting for good. Nicotine replacement therapies and prescribed treatments can also work well to help light smokers quit, but it's vital that they are choosing the appropriate levels of nicotine or dosage correctly.

    Click here to learn more about how you can stop smoking today