World No Tobacco Day: This is how to distract yourself from smoking

Louise Whitbread
iStock

World No Tobacco Day is celebrated annually on 31 May, and is organised by the World Health Organisation (WHO). Its 2020 campaign centres on raising awareness of the marketing tactics tobacco companies use to encourage young people to take up the habit.

The day began in 1987, and was created by the member states of the WHO to draw attention to the preventable death and diseases caused by tobacco.

It’s a pressing issue as according to WHO, currently, there are an estimated 1.1 billion smokers in the world, around 80 per cent of whom live in low- and middle-income countries.

You can find out more about how to get involved with the campaign here, which includes tool kits to create your own workshops and images to download that you can post on your own social media feeds to discourage the younger generations from smoking

Since the smoking ban was implemented in 2007 in the UK, the government has continued to make changes to smoking laws. Most recently, new legislation banning menthol cigarettes has been introduced.

As previously reported by The Independent, the new laws mean that menthol cigarettes, menthol filters and papers, and skinny cigarettes can no longer be produced and sold in stores in the UK.

The ban also means that the production of click dual cigarettes – such as Sterling Dual – that change from normal to menthol, has been halted.

While you can’t stop others from smoking, you can take your mind off it. According to Very Well Mind, when a craving hits, it's often best to redirect your attention and find something to do that will replace that cigarette.

Making the decision to stop smoking is half the battle but staying away from cigarettes can be equally as challenging. Distracting yourself is a valuable tool in ensuring you don’t go back, especially as there’s plenty of triggers that can be tempting.

Here are some activities that will keep you occupied.

You can trust our independent round-ups. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections. This revenue helps us to fund journalism across The Independent.

Do a workout

According to the NHS, incorporating exercise can help with nicotine cravings. "Physical activity may help reduce your nicotine cravings and relieve some withdrawal symptoms. It may also help you reduce stress and keep your weight down," it says.

As all gyms and fitness studios remain closed, there’s plenty of virtual classes to get involved with if you want to work out with an instructor.

If you want to get outdoors and take up running, here's our guide on how to start, the best gear to use and the apps to follow to help it become a routine.

Fitness app Fiit offers easy to follow, at-home workouts led by experienced trainers, and the yoga sessions are comprised of bodyweight moves and practising breathwork and mobility in 25 or 40-minute chunks for £10 a month.

There’s hundreds to pick from with a dedicated section for beginners so you don’t feel out your depth.

If you don't have a big TV to connect your yoga classes too, use your iPad or phone propped up on the mat instead (FIIT)

Live streams are another way to participate in a class from the comfort of your living room. London yoga studio, Dig Me Fitness is hosting live streams of HIIT and yoga sessions throughout the day that you can join before you sit down to work, on your lunch break, and once your workday is over with, accompanied remotely by hundreds of others tuning in too, while still going at your own pace.

We have also tried and tested the a whole hoard of online fitness classes to steam during lockdown, looking primarily for great instructors and inspiring workouts to help lift your spirits. We found the Camp Fit dance classes to be the best class. The 40-minute, retro dance aerobics classes got one of our reviewers through a fortnight in quarantine.

It is impossible not to feel better after – to quote gleeful instructor Carl Harrison (Joe Wicks meets Jane Fonda) – "a bunch of Janet Jackson hip isolations and Bananarama shoulder rolls".

The classes are perfect for anyone who misses dance fitness sessions or who needs a bit more sparkle in isolation. You can join in at 10am on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays, and 12pm on Saturdays.

For something at a slower pace that will leave you feeling calm, try an online yoga class such as Yoga With Adriene, one of the biggest yoga YouTube channels, fronted by instructor Adriene Mishler. She leads free, very straightforward sessions on her channel to her 6 million subscribers, creating challenges such as 30 Days Of Yoga or poses for specific needs like chronic pain or for cramps. You’ll also find simple poses to imitate posted on her Instagram too.

You may find it difficult to begin with, but according to the NHS website, within two-12 weeks of stopping smoking, your blood circulation improves. This makes all physical activity, including walking and running, much easier.

Socialise with friends

As reported by The Independent, the easing of lockdown measures, from Monday 1 June, will allow groups of up to six people to meet in private gardens “provided those from different households continue to stick to social distancing rules” by staying two metres apart.

But if your loved ones or closest confidants don't live near enough for you to meet up, then apps are the next best thing.

Letting out your feelings, discussing the difficulties of remaining non-smoking or just to vent can make you feel better and help you focus on the bigger picture of better health without smoking.

Video conferencing app Zoom was the first choice for many early on, but questions have been raised about how secure it actually is, which The Independent has answered here in our guide to the best Zoom alternative video apps.

For a quick chat with multiple people, there’s the Houseparty app, which has seen a surge in popularity since lockdown began.

From the very moment you download and open the app you are on and live, and anyone can join you for a conversation. The app is built around this idea: opening the app is less like heading into a lobby and looking to call the person you want to meet, and more like wandering into a house party and waiting to see who might be hanging around and ready to talk.

Anyone who’s friends with someone else in a chat can join – meaning that you’re likely to run into strangers, so to stop being bombarded by messages by the app, these are the settings worth fixing.

If you want to watch a film virtually with friends, try Netflix Party.

Available through Chrome browsers, it’s an extension that allows you and your friends to simultaneously watch the same TV show or movie, by synchronising playback and adding a group chat for you to discuss it while you watch.

You can create your very own slumber party to catch up, just grab your popcorn and settle in. It's also ideal if you're celebrating a milestone virtually, whether it's a birthday or date night with people you can't see in person.

If you're looking for a shot of adrenalin to keep you focused on not giving into cravings, a virtual escape room can provide the escapism you need. Pick one to play in our guide to the best virtual escape rooms to lose yourself in.

We've also picked out the best interactive games to play online, solo or in groups, here, as even the WHO is urging everyone to stay at home and play games amid the pandemic.

Do some gardening

Have a go at growing your own vegetables, no matter how big or small your garden is. It’s also a way to get some much-needed vitamin D, improve your gardening skills and have a rewarding return in the form of the freshest food you’ll ever get.

Space is not an issue either, you don’t need a huge garden spanning acres to successfully grow your own produce. If you need any more inspiration to get growing and get out in whatever space you have, visit our gardening section here.

If you only have balcony space, Guy Barter, chief horticulturist from the Royal Horticultural Society told The Independent salads, chives, chard, mint and leafy beets can still grow well even if your space doesn’t see much sun.

Growing your own chillis means you can have a much wider range than what is usually available in supermarkets (Studio)

This chilli plants set, £12.99, is ideal if you’re a novice gardener looking to spice up your kitchen. It comes with tabasco, demon red, Hungarian hot wax, jalapeno and anaheim chilli seeds, growing pots and compost discs made from coconut husk and wooden plant markers.

Bake a cake

Set yourself small goals such as baking a cake that will give you a sense of satisfaction and stave off cravings for a cigarette.

Plus, if you haven’t already made banana bread or sourdough, then you’ll definitely know someone that has.

If you’re a baking novice, there’s no shortage of books to make your way through, from classic recipes to ones to suit every dietary requirement in your household.

Series three Great British Bake Off winner John Whaite remains a firm favourite with the IndyBest team, coming top in our review of the best baking books on the market.


Baking will help you reach achievable goals and take up a whole afternoon, plus there'll be cake as your reward (The Independent)

John Whaite Bakes at Home (Amazon, £11.83) is a hearty mix of homely food that will provide a little bit of comfort during trying times, with sweet and savoury recipes to enjoy. We’ve got our eye on the marmite and cheddar cheese loaf.

There are also online baking courses to join, if you want to follow along with an expert.

Every day on its Instagram page at 2pm, Bread Ahead, a bakery and baking school in London's Borough Market, shares live baking lessons with followers, so you can extend your lockdown baking skills beyond any loaf-shaped bake, and also learn how to whip up carrot cake, brioche, ham and cheese croissants, sourdough pizza and more.

Details of the dishes the team will be baking and when can be found on its website, so you can get ingredients prepared and schedule in what you want to join in individually, with friends or even for a lunch date with a partner you’re not living with them.

If you need more cooking inspiration, head to our food and drink section for more cookbooks and our recipe section here.

Read a book

Use your time at home to tackle your reading list, which will also keep your mind stimulated from the urge to smoke.

If you prefer non-fiction, then this book, Remember This When You’re Sad by Maggy van Eijk (Amazon, £7.37) came out on top of our best self-care books.

Funny, irreverent and unflinchingly honest, 'Remember This When You're Sad' is both a memoir and a vital self-care manual (The Independent)

It’s divided into 15 digestible chapters with to-the-point heads, such as “remember this when you’re scared of your own brain” and “remember this when you can’t stand your own body”. What follows is great prose that reads like advice and anecdotes from a trusted friend.

Or, for a much-needed bit of escapism from cravings, try The Light Years by Elizabeth Jane Howard (Waterstones, £8.99) to boost your spirits.

If you're tired of reading the news, turn to a novel like this one instead (The Independent)

It’s the first book in the author’s classic series, The Cazalet Chronicles. The story starts in the summer of 1937, when three generations of the Cazalet family gather at the family home in the heart of the Sussex countryside.

Despite the idyllic setting, siblings Hugh, Edward, Rupert and Rachel have each experienced heartache. Hugh is haunted by the ravages of the First World War, Edward is trying to hide his latest infidelity, Rupert seems unable to please his demanding wife and Rachel risks losing her only chance at happiness because of her unflinching loyalty to the rest of the family.

For more fiction and non-fiction reading ideas, visit our books section here.

Do a jigsaw

Jigsaws can provide hours of fun without being on a screen and can replace a cigarette break while working from home.

It’s also proved to be a popular pastime during lockdown. It was reported that sales of traditional games including jigsaws increased by 240 per cent in the first week of official lockdown, with some retailers seeing demand increasing by as much as 1,000 per cent.

Puzzling promotes relaxation and mindfulness – the focus required means your brain has no capacity to allow intrusive, stressful thoughts in. Jigsaws also hone memory skills (there is plenty of research to suggest that puzzles help prevent dementia) and aid spatial skills.

It will also require your concentration and distract you from wanting to smoke and if you’ve not done a jigsaw in years should pick up one with 250-pieces and upwards.

In our guide to the best jigsaw puzzles for kids and adults, we loved this Hokusai: The great wave puzzle (Flame tree Publishing, £12.99) which allows you to create the masterpiece right from scratch in the form of this jigsaw.

Puzzling promotes relaxation and mindfulness – the focus required means your brain has no capacity to allow intrusive, stressful thoughts in (Flame Tree Publishing)

It’s beautifully made: each piece is sturdy – no peeling or frayed edges here – and extremely tricky to do on account of the colours and patterns being infuriatingly similar throughout.

Be prepared to feel totally overwhelmed when you first pour out all 1,000 seemingly identical pieces. This is one to tackle over a long weekend – with plenty of helpers. It measures 73.5 x 51cm when complete, so clear the decks

However if you're looking to up the difficulty level and really challenge your skills, try this Yell Design the accident jigsaw (Yell Design, £52.41). The clear acrylic pieces emulate the look of shattered glass and the design makes it impossible to know whether your piece is facing the right way up and eliminates any of the usual clues you get with traditional puzzles.

Keep yourself busy while being stuck at home with a jigsaw that'll challenge your concentration, problem-solving skills and test your patience (Yell Design)

Dubbed “the accident”, the puzzle may look like a disaster, but its design is extremely calculated. According to the brand “each line, angle and connection were designed by hand, resulting in 215 unique pieces.” It comes in at 588 x 555mm when completed and apparently gets harder the longer you spend on it. Good luck.

Read more

What the new rules on menthol cigarettes really mean

The best online baking courses to try at home

The hardest jigsaw puzzles to complete during lockdown

How to start cycling: A beginner's guide