Smoking and drinking

Will you quit this Stoptober?

You are twice as likely to have a stroke if you smoke.

Smoking causes your arteries to fur up and makes a blood clot more likely. Smokers are also more likely to develop high blood pressure, a major risk factor for stroke.

The more you smoke, the more this risk increases. So stopping smoking is one of the most important things you can do to reduce your risk of stroke.

Stoptober 2014

Public Health England’s Stoptober campaign is back for its third year – encouraging the nation’s 8 million smokers to stop smoking for 28 days. If you can stop smoking for 28 days, you are five times more likely to stay quit. You will begin to experience financial, physical and health benefits including a better sense of taste and smell and a reduced risk of stroke, lung cancer and heart disease.

Watch the Stoptober promotional film on YouTube.

For more information and to join the biggest stop smoking challenge of its kind this October, search “Stoptober” online or visit the Stoptober website.

There are many ways to get help with quitting

Stubbed out cigarette

  • Self-help books provide advice and useful techniques.
  • You can find free information leaflets at your local GP surgery or library.
  • Your GP may be able to refer you to a stop smoking group.
  • Nicotine replacement chewing gum, sprays and patches can help in the early stages of giving up (but they may not be suitable for people who have already had a stroke).

The NHS Smokefree Helpline can help you discuss the different ways you can give up. Their helpline opening hours are Monday-Friday 9am–8pm and Saturday-Sunday 11am-5pm. Call Smokefree on 0800 022 4 332.

The NHS helpline for Scotland is Smokeline, 0800 84 84 84, open seven days a week 8am-10pm. The website is

Drinking too much alcohol can also increase your blood pressure

Binge drinking (more than six units of alcohol within six hours) in particular can cause your blood pressure to increase rapidly which greatly increases the risk of a stroke. 

  • Don’t drink every day or exceed the recommended limits.
  • Women should not drink more than two to three units of alcohol a day (if you are pregnant, you should not drink at all).
  • Men should have no more than three to four units a day.

A unit of alcohol is a small glass of wine, a single measure of spirits or half a pint of weak beer or lager.

Read our factsheets on smoking and alcohol for more information tips to help you and other organisations that offer more specific support.

Read our publications:

Smoking and the risk of stroke

Alcohol and stroke

Useful organisations:

Smokefree campaign

Stop smoking Wales


Alcohol Concern

Alcohol Focus Scotland


UK Drug Rehab