How To Quit Smoking: Tips To Overcoming The Addiction

Medically reviewed by Majesty Purvis, LCMHC
Updated December 1, 2023by BetterHelp Editorial Team

According to the World Health Organization, tobacco is generally considered to be the leading cause of preventable death. If you have a smoking habit, quitting can benefit your physical and mental health. You might start by making a plan, setting a date, listing your triggers, and avoiding them whenever possible. It can also be helpful to eliminate reminders, such as lighters and ashtrays, and take action to manage cravings. Nicotine substitutes can help many people who are trying to quit smoking, so you may wish to ask your doctor whether they may be a good choice for you. Therapy, whether in-person or online, can also be an excellent form of support as you let go of this habit.

It Can Be Possible To Quit Smoking

Potential Reasons To Quit Smoking

Finding a goal or source of motivation that you feel strongly about and sticking with it, especially through the physical withdrawal stage, may greatly assist you on the journey to quitting.

You might quit smoking to improve your health, lower your risk for disease, and extend your life. Smoking usually increases your risk for mortality from all causes of death, including cancer, lung disease, and cardiovascular disease. 

Smoking tobacco tends to be associated with lung cancer. However, it can be connected to many different cancers, such as throat, mouth, esophagus, stomach, and colon cancer, to name a few. Still, health concerns with smoking may not end with cancer. Smoking can also increase the risk of cardiovascular and lung diseases, such as emphysema, which is generally chronic and incurable.

Aside from disease prevention, quitting can also provide other health benefits, like improved breathing, distribution of oxygen and blood flow, reduced cholesterol and blood pressure, denser bones, stronger immune systems and wound healing, and better vision.

Additional Benefits Of Quitting Smoking

Positive health changes from quitting smoking can also lead to other benefits, such as healthier skin, a cleaner mouth, and an improved sense of taste and smell. Regarding smell, the scent of smoke lingering on you and your clothes may no longer be a concern, and you will likely smell better to those around you.

Financial reasons for quitting smoking can also be very common. By stopping, you can save a large amount of money and use it toward things that are enjoyable and healthy. 

It’s estimated that if you buy and smoke a pack of 20 cigarettes every day, you may spend approximately $188 each month on this habit. At this rate, in one year, you may spend $2,292, and in 10, it can add up to $34,318. Therefore, the financial benefits of quitting smoking shouldn’t be underestimated, especially since the cost of cigarettes can be much higher than this in many parts of the United States. You can use this tool to see how much quitting smoking may save you.

Think Of Others As Motivation

Many people who think about quitting smoking may be considering their friends, family, and significant others. Ultimately, stopping will likely benefit the person quitting the most, but knowing that the people they care for can support them through the process may be additional motivation that can help them follow through and quit smoking.

You might think about what is most important to you and use that as your foundation to quit. As you continue to read, you may learn some useful strategies to make the process easier and increase your chances of successfully quitting.


Make A Plan

Although many people may swear by the cold turkey method, which can still be a viable tactic for some people, you can improve your odds of successfully quitting by putting together a well-thought-out plan that you can commit to.

Going cold turkey usually means you drop the habit right then and there, even if it means throwing away an unfinished pack of cigarettes. This can work, but it tends to be harsher as far as withdrawal symptoms and cravings. On the other hand, if you go with a plan, you can minimize the negative (but temporary) effects of quitting smoking.

Set A Date

One of the first parts of creating a plan can be to set a date for yourself and stick with it. Many people like to use this time to gradually cut back on how many cigarettes they smoke, which can reduce the nicotine levels in their blood and make withdrawal and cravings more bearable.

Try not to set a date that is too far in the future. In general, the sooner you can start, the better. If you delay for too long, you may lose the drive and motivation to quit.

List Your Triggers And Avoid Them

Almost all people who smoke have triggers that compel them to light up a cigarette. There can be everyday triggers, like drinking coffee, having a large meal, going on work breaks, and driving, that can make people want to smoke. 

You may also need to be aware of your emotional and social triggers when you quit smoking. Emotional triggers can include boredom, stress, anger, sadness, and even happiness, satisfaction, and pleasure. 

Your social triggers may involve others around you and can be some of the hardest to overcome because it’s not always feasible to avoid everyone who smokes. Being near or seeing people who smoke, breathing in the scent, and going to social gatherings where there may be smokers, like bars and family gatherings, can trigger the desire to smoke. If you have friends and family who smoke, it can be a good idea to explain that you want to quit. They should generally try not to have cigarettes lying out in plain sight and avoid offering you one.

Eliminate Reminders

Expanding on the topic of triggers, you may want to go through your house and vehicle and throw away any extra packs of cigarettes, as well as all the lighters, matches, and ashtrays that you might have.

Some people like to throw away old clothes that smell like tobacco smoke and have fresh, brand-new clothes prepared instead. If this is not feasible, you can do your best to clean them, either by yourself or via dry cleaning. You can also consider cleaning all the furniture in your house if you smoke indoors.

Take Action To Manage Your Cravings

When you quit smoking, the urge to smoke can be quite powerful and pop up frequently, but there can be many things you can do to help cravings pass. You can find ways to distract yourself during this challenging time, such as hobbies and activities that you like. You can also chat with others, especially if you know people who have quit smoking in the past.

Try practicing deep breathing techniques and incorporating various forms of physical activity into your daily routine to reduce tension, stress, and anxiety, as well as drinking water and juice to stay hydrated and ease the effects of nicotine withdrawal.

You can also find ways to keep your hands busy and manage the oral fixation that often comes with smoking. Some options you can try for either of these can be to write, do crossword puzzles, chew on gum or carrot sticks, or place a toothpick or straw in your mouth to stimulate the same hand-to-mouth sensation as smoking.

Consider Nicotine Substitutes

The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) reports that the following symptoms tend to be common during the first few days after quitting tobacco.

  • Cravings for smoking or tobacco products
  • Moodiness, irritability, and general upset feelings
  • Restlessness
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Sleeping difficulties
  • Hunger and weight gain
  • Increased anxiousness, sadness, or depression

Millions of successful quitters have used nicotine substitutes or nicotine replacement therapy to get through the toughest part of the quitting phase, which is usually the withdrawal that tends to happen in the first few days after you stop smoking. 

Although nicotine is generally responsible for the addiction to cigarettes, smoking cessation products that utilize gum, patches, lozenges, inhalers, and nasal sprays typically deliver a small, controlled dose of nicotine that can be just enough to ward off withdrawal symptoms and cravings. These can be safe when taken as directed, and medical experts often highly recommend this route

Nicotine replacement therapy products can typically be found over the counter at your local drugstore or pharmacy, but if you need additional help, certain medications can also be prescribed by a doctor. Always consult a medical professional beforehand if you are exploring the option of using a nicotine substitute.

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It Can Be Possible To Quit Smoking

Find A Support System

Even though you are the one who is quitting, you do not necessarily have to go through this challenging process alone. There can be many ways to find the help and support you deserve during this time, especially during the first week or so, when your urge to smoke will likely be at its highest. 

You may experience many different emotions and uncomfortable physical symptoms. Nonetheless, it can be vital to remember that these feelings are usually temporary, and they will likely pass. 

Aside from your friends and family, there are hotlines you can call to connect to a coach who can help you create a solid plan to quit smoking. Support groups where you can interact with others who are quitting smoking may also be available online or in your local area.

How Therapy Can Help

Therapy can be extremely helpful, not only in the early quitting phase but also in keeping you smoke-free after the nicotine has completely left your system. You may continue to experience many different emotions, such as missing the habit, but these may be the psychological effects of withdrawal. Many people who successfully quit have reported that they experienced mental cravings for months after their last cigarette. Quitting smoking can be a challenge because it usually requires that you overcome both your physical and psychological dependence on nicotine.

Most people who currently smoke have a desire to quit. For example, one study reported that approximately two-thirds of people who smoke want to quit, but only 20% may be interested in quitting in the next 30 days. Furthermore, 55% of all smokers have typically tried to quit in the past year, but only 7.5% may have sustained smoking cessation for at least a year. 

One reason for this low success rate may be that only a small percentage (about 31%) have sought evidence-based treatment to assist them in quitting. Another study reported that cognitive behavioral therapy combined with basic health education often helped patients quit their smoking habits

In cognitive behavioral therapy, your therapist can guide you through behavioral cessation and relapse prevention strategies that help you understand what is keeping you from quitting. Your therapist can also give you encouragement while teaching you coping skills that help you manage your emotions, so you may not give in to the urge to light up a cigarette after a stressful event. 

Benefits Of Online Therapy

It’s often hard to find the time to seek professional help, even if you know you would benefit from it. Online therapy can make it quicker and more convenient to connect with a licensed therapist who can offer insight and support. In addition, you can complete a brief questionnaire to match with a therapist who has experience helping others eliminate unhealthy habits like smoking.

A 2019 study investigated the potential efficacy of online treatment for smoking cessation and found that it was generally as effective as face-to-face treatment. If you’d like to quit smoking, online therapy may offer the support and guidance you deserve.


Although it can be difficult to quit smoking, it can be possible with the right strategy and support. Making a plan and setting a date to quit can be the first steps in releasing this habit. It can be helpful to list potential triggers so that you can avoid them and eliminate any reminders of smoking in your home and vehicle. You can also speak to your doctor regarding the use of nicotine substitutes to manage cravings and withdrawal symptoms. Online or in-person therapy can provide you with professional support throughout the process.

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