Stopping smoking is not easy. Below are some tips which may help you to quit smoking. At the end of the leaflet there are details of further resources that may help.
This leaflet is part of our series on smoking
Write a list of the reasons why you want to stop, and keep them with you. Refer to them when tempted to light up.
Set a date for stopping, and stop completely. (Some people prefer the idea of cutting down gradually. However, research has shown that if you smoke fewer cigarettes than usual, you are likely to smoke more of each cigarette, and nicotine levels remain nearly the same. Therefore, it is usually best to stop once and for all from a set date.)
Tell everyone that you are giving up smoking. Friends and family often give support and may help you. Smoking by others in the household makes giving up harder. If appropriate, try to get other household members who smoke, or friends who smoke, to stop smoking at the same time. A team effort may be easier than going it alone.
Get rid of ashtrays, lighters, and all cigarettes.
Be prepared for some withdrawal symptoms. When you stop smoking, you are likely to get symptoms which may include: nausea (feeling sick), headaches, anxiety, irritability, craving, and just feeling awful. These symptoms are caused by the lack of nicotine that your body has been used to. They tend to peak after 12-24 hours, and then gradually ease over 2-4 weeks.
Anticipate a cough. It is normal for a smoker's cough to get worse when you stop smoking (as the airways "come back to life"). Many people say that this makes them feel worse for a while after stopping smoking and makes them tempted to restart smoking. Resist this temptation! The cough usually gradually eases.
Be aware of situations in which you are most likely to want to smoke. In particular, drinking alcohol is often associated with failing in an attempt to stop smoking. You should consider not drinking much alcohol in the first few weeks after stopping smoking. Try changing your routine for the first few weeks. For example, don't go to the pub for a while if that is a tempting place to smoke and drink alcohol. Also, if drinking tea and coffee are difficult times, try drinking mainly fruit juice and plenty of water instead.
Take one day at a time. Mark off each successful day on a calendar. Look at it when you feel tempted to smoke, and tell yourself that you don't want to start all over again.
Be positive. You can tell people that you don't smoke. You will smell better. After a few weeks you should feel better, taste your food more, and cough less. You will have more money. Perhaps put away the money, which you would have spent on cigarettes, for treats.
Food. Some people worry about gaining weight when they give up smoking, as the appetite may improve. Anticipate an increase in appetite, and try not to increase fatty or sugary foods as snacks. Try sugar-free gum and fruit instead.
Don't despair if you fail. Examine the reasons why you felt it was more difficult at that particular time. It will make you stronger next time. On average, people who eventually stop smoking have made 3 or 4 previous attempts.
Stop Smoking Clinics are available on the NHS. They have good success in helping people to stop smoking. Your doctor may refer you to one if you are keen to stop smoking but are finding it difficult to do so.
Various medicines can increase your chance of quitting. These include nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) which comes as gums, sprays, patches, tablets, lozenges, and inhalers. You can buy NRT without a prescription. Also, medicines called bupropion and varenicline can help. These are available on prescription. See also separate leaflets called Nicotine Replacement Therapy, Bupropion (Zyban®) and Varenicline (Champix®).
There are also electronic cigarettes (may be called e-cigarettes). They are designed to look and feel like normal cigarettes. They have a heating element inside that vapourises a solution - this looks like smoke. It may also contain nicotine. They are substituted for normal cigarettes or cigars. There is some uncertainty whether this is more effective than the other ways of stopping smoking. A recent research paper from The Lancet (see further reading below) showed that the e-cigarettes were as effective as nicotine patches. Further studies are needed to ensure they are safe to use over a length of time.
Further reading & references
- Brief interventions and referral for smoking cessation, NICE (2006)
- Various factsheets and guidelines on smoking and smoking cessation, Action on Smoking and Health (various dates)
- Smoking Cessation Services; NICE Public Health Guidance (Feb 2008)
- Tobacco: harm-reduction approaches to smoking, NICE public health guidance (Jun 2013)
- Beard E, McNeill A, Aveyard P, et al; Association between use of nicotine replacement therapy for harm reduction and Tob Control. 2011 Dec 1.
- Electronic cigarettes for smoking cessation: a randomised controlled trial; Lancet Online, Sept 2013
Disclaimer: This article is for information only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of medical conditions. EMIS has used all reasonable care in compiling the information but make no warranty as to its accuracy. Consult a doctor or other health care professional for diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions. For details see our conditions.
Dr Tim Kenny
Dr Laurence Knott
Dr John Cox