YESTERDAY was National No Smoking Day when smokers were encouraged to put down their cigarettes and think a little about just what smoking really means, writes Carolyn Morris.

Almost a million smokers give quitting a go on No Smoking Day and 40,000 of them end up succeeding.

Giving up sounds easy to people unaware of how hard it is to combat what is said to be a more powerful addiction than heroin.

It's an addiction which makes people ignore the fact that smoking kills more people than road accidents (about one in five deaths in the UK are smoking related), that 9% of our 11 to 15-year-olds are regular smokers and that cigarettes contain a cocktail of thousands of chemicals, including carbon monoxide.

It can make men impotent, can decrease your chances of conception and can harm an unborn child.

And that's without even thinking about the extortionate cost of cigarettes, their effects on other people, their ponginess etc etc....

Thankfully, nowadays, at least there is plenty of help and support as well as handy products available for those who want to stub out their habit.

On the market now are patches, gum, plastic cigarette substitutes and more, all of which give you nicotine while helping you wean yourself off the smoking habit.

A former smoker myself, I found the gum did it for me. I could chew a piece whenever I felt a craving pang and get an instant nicotine "hit" which I found better for me than the constant effects of a patch.

Interestingly, when I wore a patch I would swear it was doing nothing - until it wore off and I would just swear - and then realise why! It took a while to come off the gum then, but I felt there was no hurry if I wasn't smoking.

All of these nicotine replacement treatments can be bought in varied doses so you can reduce the amount gradually for a more gentle quitting process. They are fairly expensive, but not nearly as costly as 20 or 30 fags a day.

For support in the shape of an encouraging human being, new NHS stop-smoking centres have been set up nationwide this year and many health centres have their own support groups, ask at your doctor's or hospital to join a local programme. There is also a No Smoking Day telephone hotline to guide you through the most difficult periods which can be reached on 0800 169 0 169.

If you're on-line, you could head for the No Smoking Day website - - where there are pointers for smokers, for friends of smokers and for anyone else interested. Or try the ASH website, the home page of the famous US anti-smoking charity where facts and figures and hundreds of smoking-related articles can be found from all over the world, all giving different reasons to kick the habit.

Also new this year is a little pocket book designed by former smoker Neil Casey who gave up after his friend died from lung cancer a few days before his 40th birthday. He still found it difficult to keep up with his pledge and needed constant reminders to keep him going.

His book, which costs £2.99, is designed to fit into your pocket like a cigarette packet and always be there to give you some inspiration - you'll see some of its pearls of wisdom on this page. For a copy, contact the Metro Publishing credit card hotline on 01476 541 080.

There's no doubt it's very hard to give up smoking. It takes a steely determination, but it certainly can be done - the secret is wanting to do it. It's also worth remembering that all that hardship you have to suffer giving up can certainly be one of the best incentives not to start the cycle all over again.

Chew on the furniture for just a few hours and the nicotine is out of your system. There will be some weirdness, but you'll start to feel the benefits sooner than you think.