Why should I quit smoking?

You have heard about the bad aspects of smoking. It increases your risk of lung cancer, throat cancer, emphysema, heart disease, high blood pressure, ulcers, gum disease, and other conditions. If you quit smoking, you can prolong your life, feel more healthy, and save money, among other things.

How can I quit smoking?

There's no one way to quit that works for everyone. Before you quit all at once ("cold turkey"), making a plan will help. Try the following tips:

  • Pick a date to stop smoking and then get ready for it.
  • Record when and why you smoke. You will come to know what triggers your urge to smoke.
  • Record what you do when you smoke. As you plan to stop, try smoking at different times and different places to break the connections between smoking and certain activities.
  • List your reasons for quitting. Read over the list before and after you quit.
  • Find activities to replace smoking. Be ready to do something else when you want to smoke.
  • Ask your health care provider about using nicotine gum and patches. Some people find these aids are very helpful. Also ask your doctor about a nicotine-free prescription medication (for example, Chantix® or Zyban®) that can help you quit smoking.

What should I do when I quit smoking?

On the day you pick to quit, start that morning without a cigarette. Don't focus on what you are missing, but think about what you are gaining.

The following tips about what to do may be helpful:

  • Take a deep breath when you feel like smoking. Hold it for ten seconds, then release it slowly.
  • Keep your hands busy. Doodle, write, create art, knit or crochet, or work on a computer.
  • Change activities that were connected to smoking. Take a walk or read a book instead of taking a cigarette break.
  • Don't carry a lighter, matches, or cigarettes.
  • Go to places that don't allow smoking, such as museums and libraries.
  • When you feel the urge to smoke, eat low-calorie, healthy foods such as carrots and celery sticks, fresh fruits, and fat-free snacks.
  • Drink a lot of fluids.
  • Cut down on alcohol and caffeine. They can trigger urges to smoke. Choose water, herbal teas, caffeine-free soft drinks, and juices.
  • Exercise--this will help you relax.
  • Spend time with non-smokers.
  • Get support for quitting.

How will I feel when I quit?

You may: crave cigarettes, feel very hungry, cough often, get headaches, have difficulty concentrating, have constipation, feel very tired, have a sore throat, or have trouble sleeping. Withdrawal symptoms will be the strongest when you first quit. The good news is that they should go away within a few weeks.

I've tried quitting before, but it didn't work. What can I do?

To quit smoking, you must be ready emotionally and mentally. Most smokers have tried more than once before successfully quitting. Don't give up!

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 02/17/2015.


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