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Help is at hand to quit smoking

GP-prescribed nicotine replacement therapies can be reimbursed up to €50 a year per person

GIVING up smoking is one of the hardest resolutions to keep but if you are serious about it, then there is plenty of help available.

Most pharmacies have advice leaflets as well as patches, nicotine chewing gum and herbal cigarettes. They also offer homeopathic and other herbal remedies designed to help you deal with increased appetite, irritability and nicotine cravings.

The most recent research throws doubt on the efficiency of nicotine patches and gum because they only delay the moment when you have to stop taking the drug.

On the other hand, many people find these therapies helpful and it is worth trying everything.

Herbal cigarettes do not contain nicotine, but do nothing to help you rid yourself of the habitual gestures associated with smoking (fiddling with cigarettes, lighters and ashtrays for example).

Some people report finding the homeopathic remedies useful, others do not, but as they are relatively cheap you may decide they are also worth a try.

Since February 1, 2007 nicotine replacement therapies from the pharmacy, if prescribed by your GP, are reimbursed up to a maximum of €50 a year per person. This year it is expected this will be increased to €150. These substituts nicotiniques could include les patchs, la gomme (gum), pastilles, or an inhalateur (inhaler).

If you have one, you should also contact your mutuelle (top-up health insurance provider) and ask if they reimburse anti-smoking treatment. They increasingly do.

French GPs have a range of help for people giving up smoking.

Apart from nicotine substitutes, they can also prescribe medication which will make you vomit if you smoke a cigarette, as well as the two anti-smoking drugs Zyban and Champix.

Both are heavy-duty medications belonging to the anti-depressant family, and need to be used with care, but both can help even long-term 40-a-day smokers to stop.

They are meant to work directly on the brain to decrease your dependence on tobacco. If you are serious about stopping, it is worth discussing them with your GP. They are not cheap however, and neither are reimbursed by the state. Some doctors prefer to prescribe a more mainstream anti-depressant and this is usually reimbursable.

If you speak reasonable French the Easyway method claims a spectacular success rate.

If Christmas has left your piggy bank empty, you could buy Allen Carr’s The Easy Way to Stop Smoking and work through the book by yourself, otherwise visit www.allencarr.fr and find a support group near you (they exist in most large French towns). You are allowed to smoke at the meetings and there are no photos of diseased lungs etc.

They even promise to refund your money if the programme does not work for you. Carr’s method is based on understanding the psychological reasons for your dependency.

The pan-European anti-smoking website www.help-eu.com is dedicated to helping you stop smoking and is available in all EU languages.

There is also advice - in French - on the official government site www.tabac-info-service.fr which also has a helpline on 3989 (€0.15 /min). This service can also provide email support.

Finally, never stop trying. The real secret of giving up is to keep making the attempt every day until you succeed. Bon courage!

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