Learn what works for you.
When it comes to
quitting smoking, some people find it helpful to plan ahead. Others don't. Do
what works for you. If you are ready to quit right now,
see the section
Ready to Quit Today?
If you prefer to
plan ahead, start by asking yourself some questions. Are you a goal-setter? How
confident do you feel that you will succeed at giving up smoking? Asking
yourself these questions is one way to prepare yourself for quitting.
Know your reasons
Your reason for wanting to
quit is important. Maybe you want to protect your heart and your health and
live longer. Or maybe you want to spend your money on something besides
cigarettes. If your reason comes from you—and not someone else—it will be
easier for you to try to quit for good.
After you know
your reasons for wanting to quit, use the U.S. Surgeon General's five keys to
quitting: get ready, get support, learn new skills and behaviors, get and use
medicine, and be prepared for relapse.
1. Get ready
Contact your doctor or local health
department to learn about medicines and to find out what kinds of help are
available in your area for people who want to quit smoking. Telephone helplines operated by your state can also help you find information and support for
Check with your insurance provider to find out
if medicines and counseling are covered under your health plan. Your employer
may also help pay the cost of a quit-smoking program or provide help to pay for
Here are some
other ways to get ready to quit smoking:
- Set your goals. To achieve a long-term goal like
quitting smoking, you may find it helpful to break the task into smaller goals.
Every time you reach a goal, you feel a sense of pride along the path to
becoming tobacco-free. A
personal action plan (What is a PDF document?) can help you reach your goals.
- Set your goals clearly. Write down your goals, or tell
someone what you are trying to do. Goals should include "by when" or "how long"
as well as "what." For example: "I will keep a smoking journal for 1 week,
- Set a quit date, and stick to it. This is an
important step. Choosing a good time to quit can greatly improve your chances of success. Avoid setting your
quit date on high-stress days, such as holidays.
- Reward yourself
for meeting your goals. Quitting smoking is a difficult process, and each small
success deserves credit. If you don't meet a goal, don't punish yourself.
Instead, hold back on a reward until you achieve your goal. For example, give
yourself something special if you succeed at stopping for longer than you have
- Pace yourself. You may want or need to quit slowly by reducing the number of cigarettes you smoke each day over
the course of several weeks. Set a comfortable pace. Certain
activities won't be temptation-free for many months after you
- Be realistic. You may feel very excited and positive about
your plan for change. Be sure to set realistic goals—including a timeline for
quitting—that you can meet. For example, your goal could be to cut back from 20
cigarettes a day to 10.
- Make some changes. Get rid of all cigarettes, ashtrays, and
lighters after your last cigarette. Throw away pipes or cans of snuff. Also,
get rid of the smell of smoke and other reminders of smoking by cleaning your
clothes and your house, including curtains, upholstery, and walls. Don't let
people smoke in your home. Take the lighter out of your car. Try some
methods to reduce smoking, such as gradually increasing the time between cigarettes, before your official quit
date. A smoking journal can help you keep track of what
triggers urge you to use tobacco. This gives you
important information on when it's toughest for you to resist.
- If you have tried to quit in the past, review those past attempts. Think of the things that helped in those attempts, and
plan to use those strategies again this time. Think of things that hindered
your success, and plan ways to deal with or avoid them.
2. Get support
You will have a better chance of quitting successfully
if you have help and support from your family, friends, and coworkers.
Others sources of support include:
- Your doctor. He or she can help you put together a plan of medicines and nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) that works for you. This could be Chantix and the nicotine patch, or maybe the nicotine patch with gum for those times you need something more.
- Phone support (1-800-QUIT NOW). Telephone counselors can help you with practical ideas. Often they are people who have quit smoking themselves.
You can also find online support along with
quit-smoking programs that you can attend. People who use telephone, group, or one-on-one
counseling are much more likely to stop smoking than people who try to quit on their own.
- Quitting Smoking: Getting Support
If a partner or friend is quitting, you can help.
- Quitting Smoking: Helping Someone Quit
3. Learn new skills and behaviors
Since you won't
be smoking, decide what you are going to do instead. Make a plan to:
- Identify and think about ways you can avoid
those things that make you reach for a cigarette (smoking triggers),
at least at first. Try to change your
smoking habits and rituals.
Think about situations in which you will be at greatest risk for smoking. Make
a plan for how you will deal with each situation.
- Change your daily
routine. Take a different route to work, or eat a meal in a different place.
Every day, do something that you enjoy.
- Cut down on stress. Calm
yourself or release tension by reading a book, taking a hot bath, or digging in
your garden. See the topic
Stress Management for ways to reduce stress in your
- Spend time with nonsmokers and people who have stopped
- Start seeing yourself as a person who is making healthy choices.
4. Get and use medicine
The U.S. Food and Drug
Administration (FDA) has approved several medicines to help people quit
smoking. You will double your chances of quitting even
if medicine is the only treatment you use to quit. Your odds get even better
when you combine medicine and other quit strategies, such as
You won't have to take
medicines forever—just for as long as it takes to help you quit. Your employer
or health plan may help pay the cost of a quit-smoking program or provide help
to pay for medicines. And remember that no matter how much it costs to buy
medicines to help you stop smoking, it's still less than the
cost of smoking.
- Nicotine replacement therapy. This
includes nicotine gum, patches , lozenges, and inhalers. You can buy gum,
patches, and lozenges without a prescription.
- Bupropion SR (Zyban). This is a non-nicotine
prescription medicine that you can use by itself or along with nicotine
- Varenicline (Chantix). This prescription medicine
helps withdrawal symptoms and reduces the pleasure you feel from
- Quitting Smoking: Should I Use Medicine?
medicines and using telephone or in-person counseling or a quit-smoking program
at the same time greatly increases your chances of success.
5. Be prepared for relapse
Most people are not
successful the first few times they try to quit smoking. If you start smoking
again, don't feel bad about yourself. A slip or relapse is just a sign that you
need to change your approach to quitting. Make a list of things you learned. And think about when you want to try again, such as next week, next month, or
next spring. Or you don't have to wait. If you're still motivated to quit, you
can try again as soon as you want.
You might get some ideas for
things you can do differently by looking at "Prepare for roadblocks"
in the section
Thinking About Quitting? Maybe you can try something
new next time, such as a new medicine or program. You might try combining
tools, such as counseling and medicine. Keep trying, and don't be fooled into
thinking that smoking "light" cigarettes will help. They do not make smoking
If you slip
If you slip or smoke a little, don't give up. Talk to someone who has quit smoking, or to a counselor, to get ideas of what to do. If you are taking medicine or using nicotine replacement, keep doing so unless you go back to regular smoking.
Quitting smoking is hard, but it
can be done. To stay motivated, keep reminding yourself why you want to quit
smoking. Make a list of your reasons to quit and the benefits you expect from
quitting. Put your list of reasons on your bedroom dresser, in your wallet, or
on the refrigerator. Review it whenever you are struggling with the quitting
process. Add to your list whenever another reason or benefit occurs to you.
See the topic
Quick Tips: What to Do When You Crave Nicotine.
If you have tried to quit smoking before, remember that most people try
to quit many times before they are successful. Don't give up.
One Woman's Story:
Nancy hit upon a key that
helped her quit for good. "Finally what woke me up—after 3 years of failure—was
the realization of what happened when I relapsed. ... I quit drinking not
because alcohol scares me, but because when I drink, I want to smoke."-Nancy, 54
Read more about Nancy and how she quit smoking.