How to Quit Smoking

There are more resources to help you quit smoking today than there have ever been before. As research continues to pile up on the severe and costly long- and short-term effects of smoking, government agencies, not-for-profit organizations, employers, insurance companies and others are coming together to connect smokers with the best tools, tips, tricks and resources to kick the habit once and for all.

Every smoker decides to quit for his or her own reasons, and there is no shortage of great motivations:

  • Smoking can damage your hearing, vision, skin, lungs and other organs.
  • Smoking causes heart disease, cancer, emphysema and a host of other serious and potentially fatal diseases and conditions.
  • Smoking increases your risk of diabetes and sexual dysfunction.
  • Smoking weakens your muscles, bones and immune system.
  • Smoking dampens your ability to taste and enjoy food and beverages.
  • Cigarettes are expensive and quitting can free up funds you can put toward big financial goals or other, more pleasurable pursuits like hobbies and vacations.
  • Smoking can cause social stress and alienation when you are around others who do not smoke or who are sensitive to smell of smoke which may linger on your person.

Whatever your reason to quit smoking, having the right tools and supports can play a key role in your success.

How to Create a Personal Quitting Plan

Whether you want to stop smoking cold turkey or take a more gradual approach, having a plan is essential. Quitting plans help you:

  • Anticipate problem areas.
  • Remove potential triggers.
  • Manage cravings and withdrawal symptoms.
  • Choose good alternatives when you run into triggering people or situations.
  • Get back on course if you slip.

To build a How to Quit Smoking Plan, take these steps:

  • A set quitting date. Decide when you will quit. Experts recommend selecting a day approximately one week out so that you have time to get ready, but not enough time to lose your current motivation.
  • Make sure you are clear on your reason for quitting. Know why quitting it important to you, and find something to remind yourself of your reason. This may be a photo of a loved one or a place you will visit with the money you save by not smoking, or perhaps an index card listing medical conditions like cancer and emphysema that you will reduce your risk for by quitting. Put your reminder somewhere you will see it every day, such as your desk at work or your bathroom mirror, as a constant reminder of why you are committed to breaking your smoking addiction.
  • List your smoking triggers and what you will do instead of smoking. Triggers can be any person, place or situation associated with smoking for you. For example, if you always have a cigarette with your morning coffee, that can be a trigger. If certain friends smoke, being around them can also be triggering.

    List all of the triggers you can think of throughout your daily schedule and then write down something you can do to avoid or alter the situation for each one. For example, instead of having a cigarette with your morning coffee, you can squeeze a stress ball or knit to keep your hands occupied, or instead of having a cigarette on your break at work, you can chew gum or suck on hard candy.
  • Remove cigarettes and related products from your environment. If you have cigarettes, lighters, ashtrays and other related products around your home, remove them. When you quit smoking products like these can be triggers. Not having them around creates a barrier to smoking. Even though it may seem like a small barrier, it is often enough to give you the time you need to make better choices or reach out for support rather than falling back into old habits.
  • Consider purchasing anti-smoking or quitting support products to assist you. Nicotine gum, patches and other products can make the transition to a non-smoking lifestyle easier for some smokers. Ask your health care provider for suggestions or talk to people you know who have successfully quit smoking to see what worked best for them.  
  • Join a support group or find an accountability buddy. Quitting can be easier with a friend. Look for a local group you can join or ask a friend to walk your quitting journey with you.

With a strong plan in place, you will be prepared and equipped to successfully quit smoking.

Tips for Avoiding Common Triggers

When you are looking for the best practices for how to stop smoking immediately, the number one thing to understand and prepare for is triggers. Triggers are common people, behaviors, feelings or times of day that currently prompt you to reach for a cigarette and can cause you to slip back into smoking while you are trying to quit. Triggers are a key cause of smoking relapse, and you must have a plan to successfully avoid them.

Common smoking triggers include, but are not limited to:

  • Eating or drinking.
  • Driving.
  • Watching television.
  • Breaks at work.
  • Having sex.
  • Waking up or going to bed.
  • Becoming stressed, anxious, angry or lonely.
  • Going to certain places, such as bars or social events where others are smoking.

Experts’ tips to quit smoking include planning for these situations and deciding what you will do instead. Top-rated alternatives include:

  • Chewing gum.
  • Eating candy.
  • Sucking on a straw.
  • Squeezing a stress ball.
  • Rubbing a “worry stone.”
  • Doing needlework or other hand-work projects.
  • Mild exercise such as walking, biking or swimming.
  • Going new or different places with friends.

Experts also recommend changing or replacing some of your routines. For example, if you typically have a cigarette before bed, start a new habit of drinking a cup of soothing tea or reading a book at that time instead. If you usually smoke with your morning coffee, consider getting coffee in a local coffee shop that does not allow you to smoke.

How to Cope with Nicotine Withdrawal Symptoms

Smoking is both a physical and mental addiction and quitting smoking may initially have some side-effects. These can include cravings, anxiety, irritability and insomnia.

While they can be stressful in the moment, quitting smoking side effects tend to disappear quickly, leaving you feeling better than ever. Having a plan to get through the first few days can make the difference between successfully quitting and relapsing.

You can prevent or manage the side effects of withdrawal by:

  • Using quitting support products, such as nicotine gum or patches.
  • Surrounding yourself with supportive people and environments.
  • Reach out regularly to your support group or accountability buddy for assistance.
  • Keeping yourself busy or distracted with healthy and enjoyable activities.