Quit smoking: Strategies to help you quit
Being prepared can help you quit smoking and other tobacco use. Use these proven strategies to help end your dependence on tobacco.
By Mayo Clinic Staff
You know that when you quit smoking, it's one of the best things you can do for your health. But you also know that quitting smoking can be challenging and that it takes most smokers several tries before they succeed.
So how do you quit smoking, hopefully for good? These tried-and-true strategies can help you achieve your goal to quit smoking.
Write down your reasons for quitting
Make a list of all the reasons you want to quit smoking. They might include:
- Improving your health
- Lowering your risk of disease
- Not exposing family or friends to secondhand smoke
- Setting a good example for your children
- Saving money
- Getting rid of the lingering smell of tobacco smoke
Each time you pick up a cigarette or have the urge to do so, read your list and remind yourself why you want to quit smoking.
Make a plan
Make a plan to quit. Most people have the best success with quitting smoking by setting a quit-smoking date and then abruptly stopping on that date.
Online tools that can help you create and implement a quit plan are available from the National Cancer Institute (www.smokefree.gov/build-your-quit-plan) and the Truth Initiative (www.becomeanex.org). These programs also provide chat services, text messaging or apps for mobile devices to provide support and coping strategies — tools that have been found to help people quit.
Consider other ways to quit
If you've tried quitting abruptly a few times and it hasn't worked for you, you might want to start the quit-smoking process by gradually cutting back on your smoking. Recent evidence shows that using the prescription medication varenicline (Chantix) and sticking to a strict reduction schedule may improve quitting.
Ways that you can cut back gradually include delaying your first cigarette of the day, progressively lengthening the time between cigarettes, smoking only half of each cigarette, buying only one pack of cigarettes at a time and trading one smoking break a day for physical activity. Build on each success until you've quit smoking entirely.
Talk to your doctor about treatments
Treatments that can lessen cravings include nicotine replacement therapies, which can be administered with a skin patch, lozenges, gum, inhalers or nasal sprays. These treatments begin on your quit day. Other non-nicotine medication can help reduce nicotine withdrawal symptoms by mimicking how nicotine functions in your body. Treatment with these drugs, such as bupropion (Zyban) and varenicline (Chantix), should begin one to two weeks before your quit day.
April 25, 2017
See more In-depth
- Deciding to quit smoking and making a plan. American Cancer Society. https://www.cancer.org/healthy/stay-away-from-tobacco/guide-quitting-smoking/deciding-to-quit-smoking-and-making-a-plan.html. Accessed Feb. 14, 2017.
- Larzelere MM, et al. Promoting smoking cessation. American Family Physician. 2012;85:591.
- Prepare to quit. National Cancer Institute. https://www.smokefree.gov/quitting-smoking/prepare-quit. Accessed Feb. 14, 2017.
- Create my quit plan. National Cancer Institute. https://www.smokefree.gov/build-your-quit-plan. Accessed Feb. 14, 2017.
- Siu AL, et al. Behavioral and pharmacotherapy interventions for tobacco smoking cessation in adults, including pregnant women: U.S. Preventive Services Task Force Recommendation statement. Annals of Internal Medicine. 2015;163:622.
- Speak to an expert. National Cancer Institute. https://smokefree.gov/tools-tips/speak-expert. Accessed Feb. 15, 2017.
- Tools and tips. National Cancer Institute. https://smokefree.gov/tools-tips. Accessed Feb. 15, 2017.
- Clearing the air: Quit smoking today. National Cancer Institute. https://www.cancer.gov/publications/patient-education/clearing-the-air. Accessed Feb. 16, 2017.
- Staying tobacco-free after you quit smoking. American Cancer Society. https://www.cancer.org/healthy/stay-away-from-tobacco/guide-quitting-smoking/staying-tobacco-free-after-you-quit-smoking.html. Accessed Feb. 14, 2017.
- Patel MS, et al. In the clinic: Smoking cessation. Annals of Internal Medicine. 2016;164:ITC33.
- Lindson-Hawley N, et al. Gradual versus abrupt smoking cessation: A randomized, controlled noninferiority trial. Annals of Internal Medicine. 2016;164:585.
- Whittaker R, et al. Mobile phone-based interventions for smoking cessation. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/14651858.CD006611.pub4/full. Accessed Feb. 27, 2017.
- BecomeAnEx FAQ. Truth Initiative. https://www.becomeanex.org/quitting-smoking-faq.php. Accessed Feb. 27, 2017.
- Helping a smoker quit: Do's and Don'ts. American Cancer Society. https://www.cancer.org/healthy/stay-away-from-tobacco/helping-a-smoker-quit.html. Accessed Feb. 14, 2017.
- Other ways to quit smoking. American Cancer Society. https://www.cancer.org/healthy/stay-away-from-tobacco/guide-quitting-smoking/other-ways-to-quit-smoking.html. Accessed Feb. 14, 2017.
- Kotz D, et al. Prospective cohort study of the effectiveness of smoking cessation treatments used in the “real world.” Mayo Clinic Proceedings. 2014;89:1360.
- Ebbert JO, et al. Effect of varenicline on smoking cessation through smoking reduction: A randomized clinical trial. JAMA. 2015;313:687.