“Stoptober”: The Mass Attempt to Quit Smoking

This past October, the Public Health department of England ran a 28-day stop smoking campaign called Stoptober. This November a similar program, SmokeFree Month, is running in France.

Launched in 2012, Stoptober has driven over 1 million quit attempts to date and is the biggest mass quit attempt in England. The premise of this 28 day stop is based on research that shows that if you can stop smoking for 28 days, you are five times more likely to stay smoke-free for good.

There are many ways to quit and Stoptober helps people to choose what works for them.

Options to help quit smoking include:

1. Using medication

2. Nicotine replacement therapies such as patches and gum

3. E-cigarettes

4. Nontraditional cigarettes, such as heat-not-burn

Stoptober offers free support to help individuals on their quitting journey including an app, daily emails, Facebook Messenger and lots of encouragement from the Stoptober online community on Facebook.

In addition, people can get expert face-to-face advice from local stop smoking services. Those who use stop smoking aids and who receive face-to-face support from their local stop smoking service are up to four times more likely to quit successfully.

The campaign breaks down the quitting process presenting it as a more manageable 28 days and rallies people around a specific date to get started.

Throughout October the campaign continued to recruit smokers to take part, while also encouraging and supporting people to quit through the 28-day smoke-free journey.

The overarching objective is to trigger significant numbers of quit attempts, by increasing motivation to quit and providing products to make this quitting easier.

The philosophy behind Stoptober

The approach of Stoptober is based on the “harm reduction” philosophy. This means that one does not have to aim for the ideal endgame, but rather to aim for steps in the right direction.

Taking steps in the right direction can save millions of lives. In this Reuters article, research has found that reducing the harm by switching from regular cigarettes to an alternative like e-cigarettes can save the lives of 6.6 million US smokers. Shifting from traditional cigarettes to nontraditional ones may reduce harm by up to 95%!

Harm reduction has been gaining momentum in the US and in the EU. The history of tobacco harm reduction may be traced back to 1974, with the publication of a special article in the Lancet by British tobacco addiction research expert Michael A.H. Russell. Citing the “high dependence-producing potency and the universal appeal of the effects of nicotine” on smokers, Russell likened “harsher restrictive measures” and “intensification” of anti-smoking efforts to “flogging a dead horse harder.” Russell believed that “the goal of abstinence and the abolition of all smoking is unrealistic and doomed to fail.”

Although Stoptober does not officially run in the US, anyone who wants to participate is certainly welcome.

To learn more about Stoptober click here