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    Top tips on how to stop smoking

    On this page
    1. Understand why it is so difficult to stop smoking
    2. Stop smoking ‘cold turkey’
    3. Stop smoking with nicotine replacement therapy
    4. Stop smoking with prescription medicines
    5. Change your lifestyle
    6. Start thinking positively
    7. Recognise when you're having withdrawal cravings
    8. Remind yourself of your reasons for quitting
    9. Stop smoking by getting support

    Smoking greatly increases your risk of lung cancer, heart attacks, strokes, and many other diseases. It is not surprising, therefore, that two thirds of smokers want to quit. However, studies have shown that as little as 6% of smokers who try to quit actually succeed, and it can take 30 or more attempts to quit before a smoker is actually successful. Following some of the methods outlined below can significantly improve your chances of resisting temptation and quitting permanently.

    How to stop smoking

    Understand why it is so difficult to stop smoking

    The main reason smokers find it difficult to quit is that nicotine is extremely addictive. It gives you a temporary high, making you feel more alert and even happier, and this can quickly become a necessary fix to feel normal. The feeling of having nicotine in your body becomes the norm and when you try to quit you may experience intense cravings and unpleasant withdrawal symptoms. For more information, see why is it difficult to quit smoking?

    Understanding that smoking is both physically and psychologically addictive can help you begin to truly tackle it.

    Stop smoking ‘cold turkey’

    Stopping smoking ‘cold turkey’ means doing so without any help from medicines or nicotine replacement therapy. This is the most popular method, but arguably the most difficult and uncomfortable, as cravings and withdrawal symptoms can make the temptation to light up very strong indeed. Smokers who use nicotine replacement therapy or medicines to help them stop smoking tend to have a much higher success rate - in some cases they will be 50-70% more likely to quit.

    Stop smoking with nicotine replacement therapy

    Patches, gums, lozenges, tablets, inhalers and even nasal sprays can all be a big help in stopping smoking. They give your body the nicotine it craves, but without the toxic chemicals in cigarettes (such as tar and carbon monoxide). This protects you from the harmful effects of smoking while at the same time reducing the unpleasant withdrawal symptoms smokers often experience when trying to quit.

    The different treatments work in different ways. Nicotine patches slowly release nicotine into the bloodstream to reduce withdrawal symptoms, while inhalers give you an intense hit to combat cravings.

    Stop smoking with prescription medicines

    Prescription-only medicines such as Champix, Varenicline, Cytisine and Zyban can be extremely effective in helping you stop smoking. They don’t contain nicotine, but rather dampen cravings and reduce your addiction to cigarettes.

    • Cytisine is a prescription-only treatment that can help you stop smoking. It mimics the effect of nicotine while reducing cravings and withdrawal symptoms.

    • Varenicline reduces the rewarding effects of smoking in the brain. Helping to reduce cravings and withdrawal symptoms.  

    • Zyban was originally designed to treat depression, but it has also been shown to help smokers quit. Doctors are not yet entirely clear on the mechanism behind this effect.
    • Champix works in the same way as varenicline and is taken in tablet form. It stimulates the nicotine receptors in the brain, mimicking the effect of the chemical. It also prevents nicotine from attaching to the receptors, meaning that if you do succumb to temptation and have a cigarette, the nicotine you inhale will have a less pleasing effect.

    The available evidence suggests that smokers who take Champix are more likely to quit successfully than those who try to quit without treatment. Champix is currently unavailable in the UK as the product has been recalled. Varenicline works in the same way as Champix. 

    Change your lifestyle

    Making some small changes to your lifestyle and daily routine can significantly improve your chances of successfully quitting smoking:

    1. Consider what you eat and your diet

    Many people enjoy a cigarette after a meal, and studies have found that this may be because certain foods, such as meat, make cigarettes more satisfying. Other foods such as cheese, fruit and vegetables make cigarettes taste bad. So if you are trying to quit smoking, you could try cutting back on meat, and eating more fruit and veg instead; or you could simply try ending a meal with cheese and fruit.

    The same goes for drinks. Fizzy drinks, alcohol, tea and coffee can all make cigarettes taste better, so opting for water or juice instead could help to reduce your cravings.

    2. Exercise

    Physical activity can help relieve your withdrawal symptoms and reduce your cravings for nicotine. Exercise also reduces stress and releases endorphins (pleasure hormones) that will make you feel better about what you’re doing.

    When the cravings become too much, try doing something active instead of smoking. Just a walk around the block or even a stretch can be enough to release endorphins and give you the willpower to resist.

    Start thinking positively

    It’s important to stay positive when you take the decision to quit smoking. Negative thoughts won’t help you to quit smoking, in fact it might put you off. Creating a plan and making other positive changes to your lifestyle will help support you in quitting smoking for good. 

    Recognise when you're having withdrawal cravings

    It’s good to come up with some ideas for what to do when you get a craving. This allows you to do something straight away to take your mind off any cravings that occur. For example if you’re at work or home, you could go and make a cup of tea or take a 5 minute walk in the fresh air. 

    Remind yourself of your reasons for quitting

    Keep a list on your phone or in your purse of all your reasons to quit and read this whenever you feel like reaching for a cigarette. This will help keep your decisions to quit at the front of your mind, reminding you why you wouldn’t want to go back to smoking.

    Stop smoking by getting support

    Stopping smoking together with other people can provide great moral support, so if friends or family members also want to quit, suggest doing so together.

    Your local NHS stop smoking service can also give you expert support at home, on the go or face to face. They can provide you with a free quit kit and professional advice over the phone, by email or by online chat.


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