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7.4 million people in the UK still pulling the trigger for cigarettes

  • Exclusive survey (2) shows that stress (66%), food (63%) and alcohol (61%) are the most common triggers for UK smokers to light up a cigarette, with up to 64% claiming they smoke to help manage their stress levels and 54% because they find it too difficult to quit

  • Change Incorporated from VICE launches new film ‘Hacking Habits’, which explores psychological triggers and the different types of behavioural therapy that may help quit smoking – from climbing mountains and hypnotherapy through to taking hallucinogenic mushroom

  • Smokers are up to four times more likely to quit cigarettes for good (3) if using a combination of stop smoking treatments and support from a medical professional than by going ‘cold turkey’

  • Quit Cigarettes is the first mission from Change Incorporated, an editorially independent, purpose-driven online channel from VICE that will work with global businesses to tackle some of society’s biggest issues. This first mission is funded by Philip Morris International.

London, UK, 3rd May, 2019

Today, new documentary ‘Hacking Habits’ from Change Incorporated is launched that explores the deeply rooted cognitive triggers associated with smoking cigarettes and some of the behavioural therapies that may help to break them. Full film can be seen here.

Presenter and smoker Sapphire McIntosh dives into the world of psychology and behavioural change to discover how various therapies can help beat these triggers, from Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and Hypnotherapy through to climbing mountains and a radical approach of using psilocybin (1), the active hallucinogenic agent in “magic mushrooms’ that was trialled by John Hopkins University to help smokers quit cigarettes.

Speaking about the documentary, presenter Sapphire McIntosh comments:

“I am a smoker; I wake up, I smoke, I shower, I smoke, I work, I eat and drink, I smoke – in Hacking Habits I meet some of the leading experts in the field of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy to guide me on my journey – looking into why we have to smoke in all these cases and if it’s possible to reprogram our brain to become non-smokers.”

Change Incorporated also surveyed over 2,000 UK adults (2) to see what are the most common everyday triggers, which showed that stress is the most common trigger (66%) followed by finishing a meal (63%) and drinking alcohol (61%) are the most common reasons to light up a cigarette, closely followed by having an argument or disagreement (58%). Whilst the infamous post coital cigarette was actually only a trigger for under half of smokers (46%).

In the documentary Professor of Psychology from the University of Copenhagen, Singe Vangkilde, explains why smoking cigarettes causes psychological ‘triggers’:

“When you smoke you inhale nicotine that gets into your blood-stream and within a matter of seconds the nicotine hits your brain, and after it’s done that, the nicotine actually triggers the release of a host of different neurotransmitters, among others Dopamine which people might know as the reward neurotransmitter.”

Up to 64% of UK smokers claim they do so to help manage their stress levels and 54% because they just find it too difficult to quit (2). Smoking is the largest preventable cause of premature death in the world and costs the NHS around £2 billion every year, yet around 7.4 million people in the UK still smoke cigarettes.

Statistics from the NHS (3) show that smokers are up to four times more likely to quit cigarettes for good if using a combination of stop smoking treatments and support from a medical professional than by going ‘cold turkey’.

Full results for how often the following makes UK smokers reach for a cigarette:

o Feeling stressed or anxious - 66%
o After a meal - 63%
o Having an alcoholic drink - 61%
o An argument or disagreement - 58%
o Leaving a place where you can't smoke - 55%
o Drinking a cup of tea or coffee - 52%
o Waiting for a bus or a train - 52%
o Having a few minutes to spare - 50%
o After sex - 46%
o Completing a task - 42%
o Driving - 30%

To find more about Change Incorporated and the Quit Cigarettes mission, visit, where films and articles will explore the science and society aspects of smoking, to encourage debate and provide support for people wanting to quit the habit, from an up-close look at the tobacco industry to the science and why it’s so hard to give up.

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Change Incorporated Press Office
Russell Minahan or Liv Thomas  
Tel: +44 (0) 7557 438576

About Change Incorporated

Change Incorporated is a new editorially independent channel from global media brand VICE that aims to create measurable change on issues important to VICE’s global audience. The purpose-driven channel will have editorial control and independence and will take funding from a small number of businesses to undertake different ‘missions’. The funding is primarily to support the best journalism and most compelling content on the Internet.

About Quit Cigarettes mission

Quit Cigarettes mission will initially launch in the UK and will have one single measure of success; the number of people that seriously attempt to stop smoking cigarettes, which will be audited by an independent third party. The funder for the mission is Philip Morris International and all activity will be consistent with the UK Government’s Tobacco Control Plan. Quit Cigarettes is an initiative created by Change Incorporated (VICE) and funded by Philip Morris International. VICE maintains editorial control, so Philip Morris International may not share the views expressed.

About VICE Media

VICE is a global media brand. Launched in 1994, VICE now operates in nearly 40 territories worldwide across mobile, digital, and linear platforms. VICE operates an expanding international network of digital channels; a television and feature film production studio; an Emmy-winning international television network, VICELAND; an Emmy-winning weekly news magazine show on HBO; an Emmy-winning nightly news series on HBO; Virtue, a global, full-service creative agency with 26 offices around the world; a magazine; and a record label.

VICE's award-winning programming has been recognized by the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, Peabody Awards, Sundance Film Festival, PEN Center, Cannes Lions, Frontline Club, Knight Foundation, American Society of Magazine Editors, LA Press Club, James Beard awards and Webby Awards, among others.


1 Source: Exclusive survey conducted by Savanta, 2,375 UK residents aged 18+, March 2019
2 Source: VICE UK Media audience insights, January  2019
3 Source: VICE Media audience insights, September 2018.  Respondents aged 18+
4 Source: World Health Organization, 2011
WHO report on the global tobacco epidemic, 2011