Smoking Cessation: How to Quit and What to Expect

Smoking cessation is also known as quitting smoking. Tobacco smoke contains nicotine, a highly addictive substance produced by the tobacco plant. Nicotine withdrawal effects often make quitting smoking difficult.

Despite the difficulties in stopping, most adult cigarette smokers want to quit. In 2015, 68% of adult smokers wanted to quit. More than 50% of adult smokers made an attempt to stop in the previous year. In 2018, 55.1% of adult smokers said they attempted to quit in the previous year, but fewer than 10% of adult smokers succeeded in quitting.

Quitting smoking can lead to symptoms of nicotine withdrawal like cravings to smoke, anxiety, depression, and weight gain. Counseling and medications have been shown to help smokers quit.

Lit cigarette in ashtray

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Reasons to Quit

Stopping smoking is the perfect gift for you to give yourself. It improves your overall well-being in ways you cannot imagine. 

Some reasons why you should consider quitting smoking include: 

  • You get to enjoy your food better because your sense of taste and smell may improve.
  • Working out to get fit becomes easier.
  • You will no longer have to run around to ensure you have enough cigarettes.
  • You will smell better and fresher.
  • No matter your sex, your fertility levels will improve, and if you are the person who will carry the pregnancy, you have a higher chance of a healthy pregnancy. 
  • You'll save money that normally would be spent on smoking for other things.
  • You will no longer endanger the lives and health of people around you through secondhand smoke.
  • Your children will have lower chances of having respiratory disorders like bronchitis, pneumonia, and asthma.
  • You will have reduced risks of heart attack, stroke, lung cancer, and cancers of the mouth, throat, esophagus, and bladder.

What to Expect

The substance that is responsible for addiction to smoking is nicotine. It is the reason why you may find it difficult to stop smoking, because your mind and body are affected. Some things to expect during withdrawal are:

  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Impaired memory
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Depressed mood
  • Increased desire to smoke
  • Dizziness
  • Desire to eat
  • Constipation
  • Coughing

Creating a Plan

Before attempting to quit smoking, you need to have a plan. For your plan to be successful, it should:

  • Include practical strategies that will help you to be focused and encouraged to quit
  • Note challenges you will face, including how to resolve them
  • Ensure you reach your end goal, which is to quit smoking

The following steps will help you to easily create your practical quit plan.

List Reasons to Quit

Your own reasons for quitting may be different from another person’s reasons. Making a list will help you to visualize why you want to quit. Make sure the list is in a place where you see it all the time. Anytime you feel a desire to smoke, check your list for motivation. 

Pick a Quit Day

Try not to prolong your targeted quit day. Some smokers choose a date within two weeks to quit smoking. This gives you enough room to prepare. Before choosing a date, make sure it’s a day you won’t be stressed out to the extent you would want to smoke. When you have chosen this day, write it down and paste it somewhere you will see it frequently.

Prepare for Quit Day

Let your close friends and family know about your decision to cease smoking. Tell them ways they can help you if you need it. Toss out things that remind you to smoke, like cigarettes, matches, ashtrays, and lighters. It could also help to keep your home, car, or office clean so you don’t perceive the smell of cigarettes. 

Stick With It

Sticking to the plan you created might be a bit tough considering the presence of nicotine. However, medicines and lifestyle changes can help you through this phase.

You can find many medications for quitting smoking over the counter. It’s better if you have them on hand before you begin your quitting journey. Nevertheless, trying out other strategies helps because you can’t rely solely on drugs.

Managing Withdrawal

Nicotine withdrawal symptoms are an ex-smoker's nightmare. But there are ways you can encourage yourself to stick with your plan:

  • Look at those reasons that made you consider quitting in the first place.
  • Keep yourself busy doing positive things.
  • Hang out with close friends and family to distract yourself from smoking.

And in cases where you feel an urge to smoke, try these short steps:

  • Don’t act on your craving for about five minutes, and it will pass.
  • Take deep breaths.
  • Drink water.

There are other ways to manage withdrawal, and one of the methods is nicotine replacement therapy. 

Nicotine Replacement Therapy

Nicotine replacement therapy is switching cigarettes for other nicotine substitutes, like nicotine gum, patches, or lozenges. What it does is reduce the withdrawal symptoms and release small and steady amounts of nicotine into your body without other toxins. This helps you decrease cravings and withdrawal symptoms.

Helping Someone Quit

If your family member or friend needs help quitting smoking, you might be able to assist them. You or a doctor can help them attempt stopping by trying the 5 R's: relevance, risks, rewards, roadblocks, and repetition.

The 5 R’s:

  1. Relevance: Help them understand how quitting will make a difference in their life.
  2. Risks: Ask them to talk about the possible bad consequences of tobacco smoking.
  3. Rewards: Ask them to talk about the good things about quitting.
  4. Roadblocks: Let them tell you any obstacles they may be facing.
  5. Repetition: This method should be constantly repeated every time they visit the doctor. Remind them that it’s OK to fail a few times before successfully quitting. 


Smoking cessation is the process of quitting smoking. Nicotine is a common substance found in tobacco products that causes addiction. Withdrawal symptoms arise when a smoker tries to quit smoking. 

Taking certain medications, creating a practical plan, and speaking to a doctor or family members are a few ways to handle withdrawal symptoms.  

A Word From Verywell

Stopping smoking is not an easy feat. It’s OK if you fail on your first attempt. Remember that many people who are successful ex-smokers may not have gotten it on a single try. Reach out to friends, family, and healthcare professionals to guide you on this journey. 

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What are the 5 R’s of smoking cessation?

    The 5 R’s of smoking cessation are relevance, risks, rewards, roadblocks, and repetition.

  • What are the stages of smoking cessation?

    Before you stop smoking, you will need a plan that is going to work. Start off by identifying the reason you want to stop. Then proceed to pick a quit date, prepare for the quit date, and stick with it till you finally quit.

  • How long does it take to quit smoking?

    After your body gets used to the nicotine, quitting can be difficult but not impossible. Cravings are worse the first week and get better over the course of the first month. Nevertheless, don’t be hard on yourself if it takes longer for you. Just try to stick to your plan.

  • How long do you feel sick when you quit smoking?

    Withdrawal symptoms begin within hours after you stop smoking and may last between one to three months after you quit. Generally, the symptoms fade away as time goes on.

9 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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