How to quit smoking

It’s never too late to stop smoking, no matter how long you’ve been doing it for. In fact, you may be surprised to hear that your body will start to recover within the first few days of being smoke-free!

Here are some tips and tricks to help you give up smoking.

Understanding why you started smoking

Some people start smoking in their teens, maybe because their friends smoke, or because they want to look grown up. For others it could be during college or university, starting a job or being in a social circle where everyone smokes. Alternatively, you could have started for no clear reason at all.

As a smoker, your body is addicted to the nicotine in cigarettes, which you get hooked on. You may also smoke as part of a routine, so it becomes an automatic response when taking a break from work, eating a meal or spending time with friends.

This is why it’s important to understand why you started smoking and the reasons you still smoke. What introduced you to smoking then might not be a part of your life now. This can help you prepare for those moments when you might miss smoking, and have to deal with withdrawal symptoms and cravings.

Preparing to quit smoking

Before you quit it can be helpful to work out what challenges you will face:

  • Think about when you smoke – are you a chain-smoker? Or do you tend to smoke occasionally during your downtime?
  • Consider creating a smoking diary in the weeks before you quit. Make notes on:
    • What time of day you smoke at
    • Roughly how many cigarettes you smoke
    • How bad your cravings are
    • You’re more likely to be successful in your attempts to quit smoking if you plan ahead. This includes preparing and working towards a specific quit date.
  • Planning

    Some people find it easier to quit smoking when they’re away from their normal routine, whether it being on holiday or taking a break from social outings to prevent social smoking. Whatever the situation, it’s important to pick a day, mark it on the calendar and begin your quit campaign then for the best chances of success.

    If you stop smoking for just a month, you’re already on track to stopping smoking for good. Pick a time when you aren’t too stressed. Take one step at a time, give yourself small goals, and don’t think too far ahead.

    Tell your friends and family the day you’ve chosen to stop smoking. Letting them know your plans allows them to help you.

  • Think about what you’ll gain by stopping

    The desire to stop smoking for good can be a great source of motivation. Make sure you have access to the right support in order to help you stop successfully. Move from thinking about why you smoke, to focusing on becoming a non-smoker.

    Everyone has personal reasons for wanting to quit. Maybe you:

    • are trying to get pregnant
    • want to get in shape
    • are going into hospital

    Think of your top few reasons for quitting, write them down and put them in a place where you’ll see them every day – perhaps on your fridge, saved on your phone or in your wallet. This can be a great motivator, reminding you why you wanted to quit in the first place.

  • Keep motivated

    Resisting cravings is hard, but over time you’ll find this gets easier. There are a wide range of tricks you can use to help, including:

    • Think of your reason to quit. If it’s a person you care about, keep a photo to look at when you are tempted. If it’s something else, write this down on a bit of paper and keep it on you at all times
    • Find something to do with your hands:
      • If you’re drinking, hold your glass in the hand you smoke with, fiddle with a pencil, stress ball or elastic band. Cut a straw into cigarette-sized pieces and inhale through it
    • Or alternatively, distract yourself by:
      • Playing a game on your phone
      • Talking to someone
      • Listening to music
      • Going for a walk
    • Consider nicotine replacement therapy – such as patches, gum or vaping – as this has been shown to double your chances of quitting. You can chat to your GP, pharmacy or the NHS Stop Smoking Service to help decide which is right for you.

    If your friends smoke, find out if they can avoid smoking around you for a week or two. If anyone offers you a cigarette, just say “no, I don’t smoke”.

    It’s also good to give yourself little rewards for hitting certain milestones, such as cooking your favourite meal. After two days you’ll find that your ability to taste and smell will improve, so food will taste amazing!

    You can also work out exactly how much money you spend each week on smoking by using a handy calculator on the NHS website.