It’s hard to quit smoking. But it shouldn’t feel impossible.
And most smokers WANT to quit. In fact, 68.0% of adult smokers (22.7 million) have said they want to quit smoking. The problem?
What works for one person might not work for the next.
So we’ve created this list of simple & effective quit smoking tips to help you quit smoking once and for all! The really cool news?
A lot of the tips that will help you quit smoking are good advice for living well. So that even after you kick the habit, you’ll have laid the groundwork for a healthier, happier lifestyle.
And we’ve pulled a lot of these tips from other fantastic sources. So be sure to follow the links provided for an even deeper dive into the art of quitting.
Before You Quit Smoking
Smoking Cessation is all about having a plan. Most smokers who attempt to quit, do so without counseling, medications, or Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT). In short, without a plan. Unsurprisingly, only 3-5% of people quit smoking for longer than six months using this approach.
Making a plan to quit BEFORE you quit smoking will help you establish goals, build support, and be ready when cravings hit. And that’s a foundation for long term success!
1. Set a Date to Quit Smoking
Don’t take this step lightly. It’s more important than you might think. The CDC recommends setting your quit date sooner rather than later. Aim for a date that is about two weeks away. This will give you enough time to prepare a quit smoking plan (more on that below).
Circle the date on your calendar. Tell your family and friends. But be sure to pick a date on which you won’t be busy, stressed, or surrounded by smoking cues.
Whatever date you choose should be all about just one thing: quitting smoking.
2. Identify Your Triggers
This is all about self-awareness. Because no two people have the same set of triggers. And the more awareness you have about your own smoking cues, the better you can prepare—and the better your chance of success.
And while everyone’s triggers are different, here’s a list of common cues for smokers trying to quit [from Very Well Mind]:
- Alcohol, caffeine, and other drugs
- Bars, restaurants, or other public places where smoking is allowed
- Smoking paraphernalia (lighters, ashtrays)
- Stress, being overtired, and other emotional or physical triggers
- Other smokers
3. Let others know
It’s important to let others know about your plan to quit smoking. It helps provide support and accountability for your efforts.
Ever noticed how an idea or goal seems much more real once you say it aloud? That’s because as humans we feel let down when we let others down.
But this isn’t about guilt! It’s about reinforcing your desire to quit with accountability.
4. Seek (free) support
When your peer group knows you’re trying to quit they can offer support and encouragement while helping you avoid the triggers that may get in the way.
It’s especially helpful to connect with other people who are trying to quit (or stay smoke-free) in an online smoking cessation community. What you’ll find is an active, supportive, and judgment-free group of people who know exactly what you’re going through and can share their experiences and advice.
We recommend joining this Subreddit, Redditors helping Redditors to Quit Smoking, with over 100,000 active members. It’s easy and free to create a Reddit account and you can browse thousands of threads with good advice.
When you join, be sure to introduce yourself. Include a quick hello, your quit date, your reasons for quitting, and your biggest obstacles. The outpouring of support may surprise (and motivate) you.
5. Chat About It
Speaking of not doing it alone … finding help is a whole lot easier than you might think. Check out this helpful live chat tool from the National Cancer Institute to speak with a live representative about quitting. The LiveHelp chat app is available Monday-Friday, 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. ET. Best part? It’s free.
6. Find Your Reasons
It turns out that the word “because” can be a powerful motivator. And when we set an intention it acts as a guide with the primary objective of motivating meaningful action. It’s not a plan, but an idea. A feeling. A desire. Motivation.
You might frame your intention like this: “I am going to quit smoking because (your reasons here)”
Pro tip: Avoid using the word ‘want’. You do not WANT to quit smoking, you WILL (and DESERVE to) quit smoking. Whatever your reason, believe in it and state it clearly. This will be your biggest ally when cravings inevitably hit.
7. Write Those Reasons Down
Ready to supercharge your intention to quit smoking? Write it down!
Studies show that people who very vividly describe their goals are anywhere from 1.2 to 1.4 times more likely to successfully accomplish their goals. It works on two levels.
First, by writing down your goal, it is easy to review this goal at any time. Second, writing down your goals helps the encoding process which means that you are more likely to remember the reasons why you want to quit smoking when you write them down.
8. Read your reasons every day
Take those reasons you’ve written down and read them every day. Read them several times a day. Write them on Post-its and put one on your mirror. Put one on your desk. Put one in your car. Or set reminders on your phone to alert you throughout the day. Make your reason a mantra!
9. Start a Quit Smoking Journal
A quitting journal can be an indispensable aid in your fight to quit smoking. Keep one specific journal for this purpose alone. Then write your reasons for quitting on the very first page. On the next page, list out some ‘craving killers’ — activities you can do when the urge to smoke crops up.
Then start with day one: list how you’re feeling. Track your cravings. Vent your frustrations. At the end of each day, review your entry. If you’ve relapsed, think about and record the reason why. This will help you make a plan for the next time urges strike.
Also, be sure to give yourself credit. Each day that you try to quit smoking is a personal victory. Be proud of yourself. Congratulate yourself. Brag. Gloat. And write it all down.
Then wake up the next morning, review the previous day’s entry, and do it all over again!
10. Track what’s happening as you quit
Bookmark this awesome resource from Healthline which shows you the positive changes your body undergoes after your last smoke. This can be killer motivation to keep yourself going.
When you see that every minute, hour, day, week, and month is positively contributing to your health, you’ll want to keep it up! You’ll be surprised to know that the health benefits of quitting begin only 20 minutes after your last cigarette (yes, really)!
11. Download a Quit Smoking App
A great way to track your progress (and keep yourself motivated) is to download a quit smoking app. These are usually free to download on your smartphone. Our favorites?
12. Educate Yourself
Knowledge is power! And the more you understand about nicotine addiction and how it impacts your body, the better your chance to succeed.
13. Choose How to Quit
No one knows your body (or mind) the way that you do. So ultimately how you decide to quit smoking is up to you. Will you quit cold turkey? Use a gradual approach? Use tobacco substitutes? Which of the tips from this (and other) lists will be most in line with your lifestyle? Be honest with yourself. Male a plan that works for you!
14. Avoid Comparisons
And while we’re on the subject of making a quit smoking plan that works for you, it’s important to talk about the human tendency to compare and then rank ourselves based on those comparisons. Just don’t do it.
Smoking cessation is a personal experience and it’s useless to try to compare your progress or success to others. There is no “right way” and there is no “right speed”. If quitting is harder for you than others, so what?! You’re quitting for you, your health, and the people you care about. Everything else is noise.
Prepare to Work (Hard)
Quitting is HARD WORK. Point blank. Not only does it require enduring some pretty uncomfortable physical sensations, even pain, but it also requires you to be mindful of urges and strong enough to keep yourself from relapsing.
Especially during the first week, this will be a constant battle. So dig yourself in, be stubborn, and use a good mix of the tips above to reinforce your efforts. Hard work? You bet. Uncomfortable? Without exception. Worth it? Without a doubt.
15. Change Your Mindset
According to our friends at Very Well Mind, Smokers are experts at mind games. We agree! But here’s the thing: self-doubt, insecurity, fear, that feeling of helplessness … they aren’t you … not really … they are temporary symptoms of your addiction. Because (and this is very important to your success), you are an addict. And that’s OK.
So when negative thoughts crop up, remind yourself that it’s OK, that’s just the addiction talking … it will fight (hard) to keep you from giving it up. The article linked above has a bunch of good ideas for telling your addiction to shut up. Here are a few of our favorites (click above to read even more):
- Always recognize the truth—you control your hands and your mouth. Nothing can make you smoke unless you decide to do it. Make that decision with your eyes wide open.
- Never allow yourself to think “I could have just one.” Change it to “I could become a smoker again.” They amount to the same thing.
- Often tell yourself how good you feel. It’s just as easy to say “I feel great” as it is to say “Oh, am I ever suffering”.
The First Week of Quitting Smoking
When you’re trying to quit smoking, the first week will be the toughest. Cravings usually last for 3-4 days after your last cigarettes. So this is when withdrawals will be the most pronounced and the urge to smoke will be the strongest.
And while it’s likely that you will experience strong physical and psychological symptoms. Here are some ways to resist the urge to relapse and increase your chances of success.
16. Prepare for Withdrawal Symptoms
Flu-like symptoms are common during the first week of smoking cessation. And you may also experience irritability, anxiousness, feelings of loneliness, helplessness, insomnia, and more. Symptoms may be more pronounced for longtime smokers, but anyone who tries to quit smoking will experience some level of nicotine withdrawal.
Being prepared for these symptoms can help you recognize when they appear and prevent you from becoming overwhelmed by the physical and mental discomfort that accompanies smoking cessation.
17. Rethink the Relationship
So you think cigarettes are helping you by reducing stress and providing you a few moments to relax? Think again. Smoking harms your body. And over time, the habit becomes very expensive.
Are you choosing to smoke? Or, more likely, does the cigarette have control over how you structure your day? What could you do with the money you would save by not smoking? What harm might your secondhand smoke be causing to loved ones and friends? By rethinking our relationship with cigarettes in a more adversarial light, we begin to understand that cigarettes are not our friends.
18. Avoid Your Triggers
During the first week of smoking cessation, avoiding your triggers, whenever possible, will greatly improve your chances of avoiding relapse. This is where listing out your triggers can really help. And even small changes can make a big difference:
- If you drink coffee, try switching to tea
- Reduce alcohol consumption
- Pass on meeting your friends at the bar
- If you’re accustomed to smoking on your car ride home, consider an alternate route
These steps may feel simple, but it’s all about rewiring your thought patterns. Small changes can make a big difference when you are trying to quit.
19. Trash Your Stash
When you’re trying to quit, you must remove any and all tobacco and smoking-related products from your home, car, and place of work. Removing your smoking paraphernalia entirely will make it more difficult to relapse.
It’s much more difficult to drive to the store and buy nicotine products than it is to pull them out of a drawer. In other words, make relapsing an inconvenience by putting time and space between an urge and using nicotine.
20. Tobacco Alternatives
If you’ve been a longtime smoker, or haven’t had luck resisting urges in the past, you might consider keeping nicotine- and tobacco-free alternatives on hand. This way, you can satisfy an urge without introducing more nicotine into your body.
Hemp cigarettes have become increasingly popular as an aid to smoking cessation because they look and feel exactly like traditional tobacco cigarettes but contain hemp and CBD rather than tobacco and nicotine.
Many users report that hemp cigarettes allow them to retain the ritual of smoking without consuming nicotine, while the natural benefits of CBD consumption help reduce their cravings and provide a nicotine-free and non-addictive way to relax.
21. Practice Patience
As we mentioned earlier, quitting smoking isn’t always easy. So be patient with yourself. Relapsing isn’t the end of the world. And it isn’t permanent. Practice makes perfect, and what matters most is sticking with your intention to quit smoking. So don’t beat yourself up if you relapse. Remind yourself that it’s all a part of the process. And don’t give up!
22. Drink More Water
Water is a great quit smoking aid. Staying hydrated will help you detox more quickly, works as an effective craving killer, and helps you feel better overall. Plus, being dehydrated increases feelings of anxiety which often leads to a more intense urge to smoke.
23. Make a Plan to Deal with Cravings
Cravings come and go, but can feel overwhelming and impossible to overcome. So it’s vital to have a plan in place whenever they crop up. This will empower you to meet your cravings head-on and give you the tools to help you persevere and avoid relapsing.
Conquering Cravings While You Quit Smoking
This section deals specifically with cravings and methods to help you overcome the urge to smoke. By having tools to conquer cravings close at hand, it is much less likely that you will relapse. These tools will be especially important during the first week of smoking cessation, but can also be helpful
24. Practice Mindfulness
Physiologically speaking, nicotine craving will last between 10-20 minutes. But because people tend to dwell on their cravings, they can feel like they are lasting much longer. This is where practicing mindfulness can be a huge help.
Mindfulness is the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us.
When you feel an urge, simply notice it, label it as a physiological response to the nicotine leaving your body, and move on. When cravings are at their worst try this:
- Close your eyes and take slow deep breaths
- Count each in-breath, working your way up to ten
- Once you reach a count of ten, begin counting backward back to zero
- Continue this exercise until your cravings subside
25. Log Your Cravings
Remember the quitting journal from section one? It’s time to pull it back out. When you experience a craving, log it into your journal. Log the intensity on a scale of 1-10, how long it lasts, and how your mind and body felt as a result. You should notice a decrease in the number of cravings over time. This can be a powerful motivation to keep going!
26. Smoke Free Texts
SmokefreeTXT is a GREAT free service from smokefree.gov. Once you sign up, you will receive 3-5 texts per day to remind you not to smoke. Best part? The texts will continue for 6-8 weeks, or until you request them to stop.
27. Chew Gum
Chewing gum is a great way to cope with the oral fixation of smoking cessation. Mint or cinnamon-flavored gum are often cited as the most effective flavors, but really any gum will do. When you have a craving, chem some gum instead.
28. Take Naps
Sleep disturbances are often cited as a side effect of nicotine withdrawal. And compounding the issue, a lack of sleep can often increase both the frequency and intensity of urges.
Self-care is a key component of smoking cessation, and by taking naps you will catch up on the rest your body needs to recover while allowing you to ‘sleep it off’ when cravings are at their worst.
29. Avoid Idle Hands
When you first quit smoking, you’ll probably notice yourself fidgeting more than usual. That’s because you’re used to holding a cigarette, and like oral fixation, your body has become accustomed to having something in your hands, which can become a powerful urge to smoke. So be sure to keep your hands busy while you quit smoking:
- Pick up a new hobby
- Try drawing or painting
- Do a crossword
- Use a fidget spinner
- Work on a puzzle
- Take up gardening
- Knit or sew
30.Switch It Up
When a craving hits, stop what you’re doing right away and switch to a new task or healthy distraction. This quick change of pace will cause your mind to refocus and avoid dwelling on your urge to smoke.
Snacking is a powerful quit smoking aid because it helps you regulate blood sugar, satisfies oral fixations, and keeps your hands busy all at the same time.
Choose healthy snacks like nuts, fresh fruit, or vegetables and keep them on hand with you in your purse, backpack, and in your center console or glove box — especially if you commonly smoke a cigarette when you drive.
32. Take a Hike
A short hike or walk, even for as little as 15 minutes, can greatly reduce urges while improving your overall mood. Even low-impact exercise releases endorphins, so head out for a walk around the block whenever a craving hits. Afterward, you’ll feel relaxed and refreshed and your urge very likely will have passed.
Long Term Quit Smoking Success
Even once you make it through that critical first week, and urges and withdrawal symptoms begin to subside, the journey is far from over. In fact, it is estimated that between 60 and 90 percent of ex-smokers relapse within the first year of quitting. The good news?
The relapse rate for ex-smokers plummets to 2-4% annually when they are able to abstain for two years and falls even further, to less than 1%, if they quit smoking for ten years.
Below are ways to replace the habit of smoking with healthy lifestyle choices that will help ensure long term success while helping you live a happier, more well-balanced life.
33. Balance Your Diet
Cigarettes are an appetite suppressant. And when you quit smoking, not only does your appetite return but your sense of smell and taste improve, making food more enjoyable (and more desirable).
As a result, many ex-smokers experience weight gain once they quit smoking, which can lead to greater insecurity and anxiety, which in turn can increase the urge to smoke.
Balance your diet by eating healthy snacks throughout the day and cutting down on large meals. This will keep your blood sugar balanced, maintain a healthy metabolism, and greatly improve your mood.
34. Stay Active
Staying active will help you avoid the weight gain that often accompanies smoking cessation and will help you replace old unhealthy habits (like smoking) with new healthier habits which will improve your wellbeing and your mood while providing a distraction from urges and symptoms of nicotine withdrawal.
35. Find Nature
Spending at least 120 minutes a week in nature is associated with good health and mental wellbeing. Being in nature is also effective for clearing your mind, which reduces stress, which in turn reduces cravings. Make it a part of your daily routine as you begin to build a new schedule that doesn’t include cigarettes.
36. Be Social
“Dozens of studies have shown that people who have satisfying relationships with family, friends, and their community are happier, have fewer health problems, and live longer.”
Increased social interaction will also help you fill the space that is left by your addiction. Many people who quit smoking cigarettes report that it feels like losing a friend. So increasing social interaction can help get you over the hump.
37. Reward Yourself Often
When you smoke, the nicotine in tobacco enables brain chemicals to activate the ‘reward center’ in your brain, which means that smoking ‘feels’ rewarding even though it causes your harm.
So the trick is to find other, healthier ways to reward yourself to teach your brain to experience and remember rewards other than nicotine.
Build in daily rewards at the end of each successful day: time to yourself, writing affirmations, taking time to do something you love.
Then build in larger rewards for each successful week and month. Maybe a night out to dinner, or a pampering massage. Hey, you’ve earned it!
And think about this: assume you’re buying a pack a day at $10 a pack. Quitting will save you $3,650 a year! That’s nothing to sneeze at! Make it part of your reward system to transfer this money to savings. Do it weekly, or even daily. The simple act of making the transfer can give the reward center in your brain a positive boost!
38. Practice Gratitude
This dovetails nicely with writing down the reasons you want to quit. Each day, find a quiet space, close your eyes, and think of everything you’re grateful for. People, health, a roof over your head.
Everyone has something for which they can feel grateful. And reminding ourselves each day can reinforce our motivation to quit smoking while helping reduce stress which will, in turn, reduce your urge to smoke.
39. Embrace the process (not the end goal)
If you focus only on the goal of being smoke-free, it’s easy to become overwhelmed. It feels too hard, too far away, the struggles are too many.
Instead, forget about the goal, and focus on the process. Quitting is a daily battle, so take it one day, or better yet, one craving at a time.
This goes back to the idea of mindfulness. Don’t focus on the future, be here now, instead. This makes the process of quitting less daunting, more manageable, and even more rewarding. Why?
Because rather than focusing on a goal that seems impossibly far away, you’ll be celebrating all the small (but necessary) victories that help you reach that goal.
There is no one-size-fits-all approach to smoking cessation. This is why it can seem so daunting.
But by breaking your attempt to quit smoking into manageable steps, and preparing yourself with the tools and tips that will work for you, you’ll have a much better chance of success.
The most important thing about quitting is to have a plan in place. Don’t try to quit on a whim. Set a date, make a plan, and take it one day at a time!
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