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How to stop smoking

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Stopping smoking can be difficult and many people take a few tries before they succeed.

Whether you're thinking about quitting or have recently quit, keeping the following tips in mind could help you stay quit for life. 

Tips if you have not quit yet

Choose the best way to quit for you

If you're planning to quit smoking, there are two recommended ways you can become completely smoke free. But for both of these approaches, you should set a quit date:

  • 'Stopping smoking completely', as the name suggests, is where you smoke normally until your quit date and then totally stop.
  • 'Cut down to quit'. This is where you reduce the amount you smoke over a few weeks up until a quit date, at which point you stop completely.

Scientific studies have shown that stopping completely is the most effective method.

However, it doesn't matter which of these options you choose. What's important is choosing the one that feels right for you.

Stop smoking completely

The only safe and reliable way to reduce the harm of smoking is to quit smoking completely. This is unlike cutting down on alcohol, where you can lower the risk to your health by drinking less.

Choosing to smoke less isn't a reliable way to reduce the harmful effects of smoking on your health.

What to do if you want to cut down to quit

If you're thinking of cutting down to quit, a good option is to plan to reduce by a certain amount each week for 2 or 3 weeks before your quit date.

For example, if you smoke 20 a day, you could plan to cut down by 50% for the first week (down to 10 per day). Then for the second week cut down by a further 50% (so to 5 per day). And if you were planning on doing a third week, you could reduce down to 2 per day.

You don't have to have a fixed plan, but it can make things easier. You can also use Nicotine Replacement Therapies (NRTs) as you cut down. This can help make up for your reduced nicotine intake from smoking less. Learn more about NRTs.

You may also find it helpful to set some smaller goals to build up to quitting smoking completely.

Set a quit date

This is a date by which you plan to be completely smoke free. You can either:

  • Reduce the amount you smoke so you're completely smoke free by that date
  • Plan to quit all smoking on that quit date

Whatever way you choose to stop, you should make sure that you have any medication or support you require in place before your quit date.

It's also a good idea to choose a date when you have some clear days afterwards. Avoid a date when you've any events shortly after that where it's likely to be hard to avoid smoking. For example, a night out at the pub with friends who smoke.

Set yourself a quit date

Learn about what to expect when you quit

To help prepare yourself for when you do quit smoking, it can help to know what to expect when you do quit. Find out more about common withdrawal symptoms as well as the benefits from quitting smoking.

Tips for current and ex-smokers

Manage your cravings

Smoking cessation medications like Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT) can help reduce your cravings.

There are also some effective non medicine-based techniques you can try. It's worth remembering that cravings only last for three minutes or so. Find out more about .

Think about using a smoking cessation medication

These medications include Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT). Scientific studies have shown these medicines help reduce cravings and withdrawal symptoms.

It's especially true if you have a medium or high dependence to tobacco. To find out what level of tobacco dependence you have, see our quiz

There are a range of NRT products out there. It's important to make sure you find the right one for you and use it at the right time, in the right way.

Learn more about how NRT might be able to help you. Find out more about stop smoking medications from Smokefree Norfolk.

Consider using e-cigarettes (vapes)

Many people find using an e-cigarette (vape) is a helpful way of quitting smoking and scientific evidence supports this.

E-cigarettes are not considered to be risk-free. But it's thought they're at least 95% less harmful than smoking tobacco.

Find out more about vapes and e-cigarettes from Smokefree Norfolk.

Plan some rewards for yourself

Research has shown people who use rewards are more likely to be successful in quitting smoking.

Find out how to set yourself smart rewards. Learn how to set smart goals to help you succeed in quitting smoking.

Get others to support you 

It can be a real challenge to successfully stop smoking on your own. The people around you, known as your 'social support', can often be of help.

Learn more about how to make good use of your social support.

The NHS also has a list of links to local stop smoking services. You may also want to look at services from Smokefree Norfolk.

Next steps

Discover how to manage your emotions so they don't get in the way of achieving your smoking goals.

You could also learn more about setting goals to help you become smoke free.

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