How to Quit Smoking

Medically Reviewed

Here's a simple step-by-step plan to help you stop smoking.

You decided to stop smoking? Great — it's one of the best things you can do for your health.

But quitting isn't easy. Nicotine — the addictive ingredient in tobacco — is as addictive as heroin or cocaine, according to the American Cancer Society.

In fact, the average person attempts to quit six times before succeeding.

Fortunately, there are steps you can take to set yourself up for success and kick the habit for good.

Set a date: Pick a day and time in the near future that you expect to be relatively stress-free so you can prepare to quit smoking.

Quitting when you have a big project due at work, or even when you have something happy on your calendar like a birthday party (if you tend to light up when you are drinking or socializing), can be more challenging.

Write down your reasons: Consider why you want to stop smoking and jot the reasons down. You can refer to them once you quit when you get a craving. A few universal benefits:

  • My risk of cancer, heart attacks, chronic lung disease, stroke, cataracts, and other diseases will drop.
  • My blood pressure will go down.
  • I'll look better. My skin will be more hydrated and less wrinkled, my teeth will look less yellow and my fingers won't be stained with nicotine.
  • I'll save money.
  • My hair, clothes, car, and home won't reek of smoke.
  • I'll have more energy.
  • I'll set a better example for my kids, friends, and family.
  • I'll live longer.

Get your friends and family on board: The more support you have, the more likely you are to quit smoking.

Ask your loved ones to help keep you distracted by taking walks or playing games, and bear with you if you become cranky or irritable as you experience nicotine withdrawal.

Tell any smokers not to smoke around you, or better yet, ask your smoking buddies to quit with you.

Identify your triggers: You'll be most tempted to smoke during the same times you do now. Knowing your habits and what situations may set off a craving will help you plan ahead for distractions.

For example, you may typically smoke while driving, drinking, or after dinner, or it may be that you reach for a cigarette when you're feeling stressed, lonely, or depressed.

Create healthy distractions to head off potential smoking triggers. If you smoke while you drive, keep a pack of gum on hand, or if you smoke after dinner, plan to take a walk or chat on the phone with a friend.

Anticipate cravings: It's expected that you'll experience nicotine cravings as your body begins to go through withdrawal.

The good news is that cravings aren't endless. They generally last for five minutes and no longer than 10.

When cravings strike, focus on something else: Drink a glass of water, review your list of reasons for quitting, take deep breaths, play with your cat or dog — do whatever it takes until the craving subsides.

Distract yourself: Keep celery stalks, carrot sticks, nuts, or gum handy to give your mouth something to do when cravings occur.

And finding some way to occupy your hands — knitting, woodworking, cooking, yoga, or yard work — will help keep your mind off smoking.

Expect to feel a little off: Nicotine withdrawal can make you feel anxious, cranky, sad, and even make it hard for you to fall asleep.

It helps to know that all these feelings are a normal and temporary part of the process.

Throw out all your cigarettes: Yes, even that emergency one you stashed away.

If you don't have cigarettes on hand, it will make it that much easier to stay the course when a craving hits.

Reward yourself: With all the money you'll save by not buying tobacco, you can buy new clothes, splurge on dinner, or start a new hobby.

Some people keep their cigarette money in a jar, then reward themselves with a treat each week.

Talk to your doctor about cessation medications: If you're not sure you can go cold turkey, don't.

Speak with your doctor about over-the-counter (OTC) and stop-smoking medications that can make quitting easier.

Learn More About Nicotine Withdrawal

Learn More About The Effects of Secondhand Smoke

Learn More About Quitting Cold Turkey

Learn More About E-Cigarettes

Learn More About Smoking Cessation Drugs

Learn More About The Benefits of Quitting Smoking

Editorial Sources and Fact-Checking

Show Less