How to quit smoking

Welcome to your quit smoking guide – home to all the essential info you’ll need to ditch cigarettes for good.

You’ll learn about handling withdrawal symptoms, choosing the right quitting method, preparing well and overcoming temptations so you can stay smoke-free.  On the pages below there’s info to help you every step of the way.

There are so many fantastic reasons to go smoke free. Check out the benefits of quitting below and get motivated to stop smoking today.

You’ll look better

Quitting smoking will make you look younger and prettier. You’ll have fewer wrinkles, firmer skin, shinier, stronger hair and whiter teeth to name just some of the benefits. Studies show quitting can halt the ageing effects of smoking straight away.

You’ll be more confident

Give up the smokes and close encounters with colleagues, friends and new people will be pong free. No more bad breath or smoky smells. That’s got to be a confidence boost. You’ll also feel more confident because you’ll look better and have overcome a big challenge. You’ll be able to try new things and take on other challenges.

You’ll have more cash

What could you do with an extra $7,000 a year? How about a new wardrobe, car or overseas holiday? This is how much money you’ll save if you quit smoking that pack a day.

You’ll be fitter

Quit smoking and your workouts and sports sessions will be more fun and effective. You’ll have more energy and feel the health benefits sooner. Smoking lowers your lung capacity and endurance levels, meaning it actually reduces your fitness.

You’ll be healthier

Ditch the cigarettes and you greatly reduce the chances of suffering life-threatening diseases, including many types of cancer, heart disease and lung problems. Quit while you’re young and you can undo a lot of the damage already done. If you quit smoking in your 20s,your life expectancy will be around the same as someone who has never smoked.

Your kids will be healthier too

You’ll enjoy a better, healthier family life if you stay smoke free.  The nasty toxins in tobacco smoke can be passed to your baby when you’re pregnant and passive smoking can harm your kids. Smoking can also lower your chances of getting pregnant.

The sooner you quit, the greater the benefits

Get rid of cigarettes and you’ll soon start feeling better. Your health immediately improves and keeps on improving. After going smoke free, the following happens:

  • Within 20 minutes – your body begins a series of changes that continue for years. Your heart rate drops.
  • 12 hours – the carbon monoxide level in your blood drops dramatically.
  • 2-12 weeks – your heart attack risk begins to reduce, circulation and lung function improve and exercise is easier.
  • 1-9 months – you experience less coughing and shortness of breath.
  • 1 year – your risk of heart disease is halved compared to a continuing smoker.
  • 5 years – your risk of mouth, throat and oesophagus cancers drops and your risk of stroke drops dramatically.
  • 10 years – your risk of lung cancer falls to about half that of a smoker.
  • 15 years – your risk of coronary heart disease and risk of death fall to about the same as someone who has never smoked.

You can quit smoking for good – it’s all about staying motivated and planning ahead. The first step is to know why you’re quitting. Think about your own reasons for quitting and write them down.

There are so many fantastic reasons to choose from. Check out reasons to quit and how smoking affects you if you need some inspiration.

Once you know your reasons, keep reminding yourself of them. It’s a great way to stay motivated. Try to find easy ways of reminding yourself and you’ll be even more successful. Check out the ideas below:

Reminders made easy

Leave items around your house that remind you of why you’re quitting. You could try:

  • Pictures on the wall or fridge. Use the Future You Smoking Booth and print out the picture. Seeing how old you’ll look if you keep smoking is bound to help.
  • Write down your reasons for quitting on Post-it notes and stick them in places that make you want to smoke.

Carry reminders of why you’re quitting in your wallet or handbag. Some ideas include:

  • A picture that inspires you, such as your family or a gorgeous celeb.
  • A brochure from the shop where you will spend the money you saved from not smoking.

Tell your friends and family why you’re quitting and ask them to remind you. They could:

  • Send you text messages every so often.
  • Post helpful messages or pictures on your social media walls.
  • Come with you when you go out to places you’re likely to be tempted to smoke to keep you on track.

Before long you’ll be really looking forward to life without cigarettes.

Cigarettes are seriously tempting, right? That’s because they’re full of nicotine – a highly addictive chemical. When you first quit, you’re likely to have nicotine withdrawal symptoms, such as:

  • headaches or dizziness,
  • feeling depressed, angry, anxious or frustrated,
  • difficulty concentrating or sleeping,
  • increased coughing,
  • appetite changes,
  • an upset stomach such as constipation or diarrhoea.

Don’t worry – withdrawal symptoms don’t last for long. The worst symptoms appear in about 24 hours and peak within the first 48 hours. The milder symptoms last around a month. If you can push through the first 48 hours, you’ll be well on the way to ditching cigarettes for good.

Making a plan before you start quitting is the key to success. Firstly, decide which quit smoking methods suit you best and add them to your plan. There are several different methods available and many people use a mixture of them.

Research shows that combining counselling/support with nicotine replacement therapy or quitting medication is the most effective way to quit. It can almost double your chances.

Coaching and support

Chat to Quitline 13 QUIT (13 7848), which offers free support and information when you need it. Trained counsellors can give you quitting advice and help you create a plan.

Ask your friends and family to help you quit too. Even consider getting a ‘quit buddy’ – someone who might do it with you or who has quit themselves and can offer you tips.

You can also get support online. Sign up to the QuitTracker app on this website. You can monitor your quitting progress, keep a smoking diary and receive messages to motivate you.

Check out the get support page for more info.

Nicotine replacement therapy (NRT)

NRT patches, gum, lozenges or inhalers can reduce the temptation to smoke. They provide you with a small amount of nicotine (without the harmful chemicals in cigarette smoke) to reduce withdrawal symptoms. NRT patches are available at a cheaper rate with a script from your doctor. You can also find NRT products in your supermarket or chemist.

Quitting medicine

Medicines Varenicline (Champix) and Bupropion (Zyban) help reduce your cravings and withdrawal symptoms, making it easier to quit. They are only available on prescription from your doctor and roughly double your chances of quitting. However, they are not a magic cure and work best when you combine them with counselling and support.

Having a good quit plan is crucial for quitting successfully. Once you’ve chosen your quitting methods, there some other key elements to consider. Check them out below and then make a simple plan to avoid smoking – it helps to write it down.

Know what makes you smoke

It’s crucial to know what leads to (triggers) your smoking. Is it a mood, a time of day or something like drinking alcohol that makes you crave a cigarette? When you know your triggers you can plan ways to avoid or deal with cravings.

When you understand what you’re using the cigarette for in a certain situation, you can find something else to use – and it will probably work better.

Write a list of your triggers and the ways you will avoid or deal with the cravings. There are some great tips in the how to quit smoking section.

Keep a record of your smoking

If you’re not sure what makes you smoke, keep a smoking diary to record what you’re doing and feeling next time you want a cigarette. The easiest way is to use the QuitTracker app on this website. It lets you keep a smoking diary and monitor your quitting progress.

Set a quit date

Some people find it helpful to set a concrete quit date. Ideally, set it to be no more than two weeks in advance. That’s enough time to prepare but not enough time to talk yourself out of it. Choose a good day to quit (not one that’s usually stressful, e.g. Monday).

Clear out smoking ‘stuff’

Throw out all lighters, ashtrays and leftover butts from your home, work and car. Ask any housemates, colleagues and friends who smoke to do it outside and to hide the evidence too.

You can get through the tough times and quit for good. Think of some strategies to avoid or beat cravings and add them to your quit plan. The more you beat your cravings, the weaker they will get. Try some of these cravings-busting tips:

Change your routines

Cravings are often triggered by certain habits or situations. For example, you might smoke after work. Do something different instead, such as going to gym. It’s really helpful to know your main smoking triggers for this strategy.

Distract yourself

The urge to smoke usually only lasts a few minutes. If you can resist during this time, you can avoid smoking. Try distracting yourself until the urge passes. Here are some ideas:

  • go for a walk, run or ride
  • watch something funny on YouTube
  • go shopping

Occupy your hands and mouth

Doing something else with your hands (and mouth) can help you beat cravings when you miss holding a cigarette. You could try the following:

  • send a text
  • play a game on your phone
  • grab a stick of gum

Think positive

Remind yourself why you want to quit smoking and think of the benefits. If your main aim is to improve your looks, think how much clearer you skin will be or how much younger you’ll look in a few years. Tell yourself you’ve already achieved so much by quitting for this long – you do have the willpower to succeed.

Reduce caffeine and alcohol

You’re more likely to have cravings when drinking at a pub or club and socialising. Caffeine drinks (such as tea, coffee and cola) are closely associated with smoking.

Learn to relax

Get into yoga or do some simple breathing exercises or stretches.

Exercise

Getting active can take your mind off cravings and make you feel healthier and more motived to quit.

Reward yourself

Use the money you’ve saved from not smoking to reward yourself for quitting. It could be some make-up or a new app for your phone. It will help keep you motived and, of course, you deserve a treat.

Below are some of the main causes of cravings and some winning tips to help you beat them:

Stress

You may think that cigarettes help you manage stress, but they can actually make it worse. You only feel relaxed because the smoking has temporarily taken away your nicotine withdrawal symptoms. The cycle of withdrawal and then smoking again can increase stress. There are many better ways to handle stress:

  • Learn to relax via deep breathing, meditation, massage or yoga.
  • Take regular breaks from stressful situations by going for a quick walk or having a big drink of water.
  • Ask for help from friends, family or working colleagues.
  • Reward yourself for handling stress well with the money you’ve saved from quitting – go to a movie, get a makeover or go shopping.
  • Burn stress with exercise – running or kickboxing are great for letting off steam.

Drinking alcohol

There’s a strong link between boozing and smoking – especially in social situations. One drink in and suddenly the good intentions go out the door. Plan ahead and stay on track!

  • Have nicotine replacement gum or lozenges with you.
  • Get a good friend to support you and keep you in check on nights out.
  • Reduce or cut out alcohol if you can for the first couple of weeks.
  • When you feel like a cigarette, do something else, such as hitting the dance floor.
  • Remind yourself of your motivations. Carry a copy of your Future You Smoking Booth photo or someone whose looks you admire.
  • Think positive – “if I smoke now I’ll have to go outside and miss all the fun”.

Being around other smokers

This is a tough one, particularly if you live with or work with smokers, but there are tactics you can adopt to avoid joining them:

  • Avoid smokers where possible – if you’re out and about, stay away from the beer gardens or smoking areas.
  • Invite a non-smoking friend to social situations to be your guaranteed wingman.
  • Let your smoker friends know you’re trying to quit and ask them not to offer you cigarettes or leave them lying around.
  • Use nicotine replacement gum or lozenges to beat temptations.

Caffeine

Coffee, tea and cola are closely associated with smoking, too. If you previously had a cigarette with a coffee, just drinking coffee can make you want to smoke.

  • Switch to a non-caffeinated drink like herbal tea or a smoothie, particularly for the first few weeks.
  • Try not to drink tea or coffee, or halve the amount you had when you smoked.
  • Do something else on your breaks, such as reading, going for a walk or eating carrot sticks or nuts.
  • Take your break with a non-smoking colleague or friend.

Once you’ve quit smoking, you might be worried about putting on weight. Don’t stress. You might not put on any weight, and if you do, it’s likely to only be small amount (2-4kg on average).

There are also loads of ways to keep your weight down once you’ve quit. The best tactics are:

  • Eat a balanced diet with lots of fruit and vegetables, and limit sugary or fatty stuff.
  • Avoid snacking when dealing with cravings. Drink water or do another fun activity. If you have to eat something, make it healthy, like a vegetable stick or cereal bar.
  • Do more exercise. Giving up smoking means your heart and lungs work better, so you’ll have more energy and exercising will be more fun and effective.

The longer you quit, the better. Provided you eat fairly healthily and stay active, weight gain often reduces in a few months. In the long term you are likely to have the same average weight as someone who has never smoked.

Also keep focusing on the many benefits of quitting smoking. Remind yourself how much better your skin looks or how much healthier and energetic you feel. These benefits far outweigh a little weight gain.

So you had a bad day and lit up? It’s not the end of the world. Make a promise not to smoke tomorrow and push on with your quitting. Slip ups (having the occasional cigarette while quitting) aren’t stuff ups – they’re part of the normal quitting process.

Identify what made you feel like smoking and record it in a diary so you can avoid the situation or make a plan to deal with it next time. Use the free QuitTracker app to create your smoking diary. It’s also a good time to:

  • Remind yourself of your reasons for quitting.
  • Get one-on-one support from a friend, family member, Quitline 13 QUIT (13 7848) or your doctor.
  • Join online forums or groups and chat to others who are quitting.

If you return to smoking

If you relapse (start smoking regularly again), stay positive and start planning for your next quit attempt as soon as you can. Most people try to quit five to seven times before they get there. It gets easier with every attempt you make.

Learn from your previous quitting attempts, remind yourself of which strategies work and improve your quit plan.

  • If you quit smoking in your 20s, your life expectancy could be the same as someone who has never smoked
  • When you quit, the worst withdrawal symptoms only last 48 hours (on average) and health benefits can be felt within 72 hours
  • Across Australia there are more ex-smokers (4.1 million) than smokers (around 3.5 million)
  • The majority of smokers want to quit – research shows that 75 per cent of smokers have tried to quit at least once