On the road to quitting: Guide to becoming a non–smoker
Organization: Health Canada
Date published: 2021
Health Canada is the federal department responsible for helping the people of Canada maintain and improve their health.
Health Canada is committed to improving the lives of all of Canada’s people and to making this country’s population among the healthiest in the world as measured by longevity, lifestyle and effective use of the public health care system.
Également disponible en français sous le titre :
Sur la voie de la réussite : Guide pour devenir un non-fumeur
To obtain additional information, please contact:Health Canada
Address Locator 0900C2
Ottawa, ON K1A 0K9
Toll free: 1-866-225-0709
© Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada, as represented by the Minister of Health, 2021
Publication date: January 2021
This publication may be reproduced for personal or internal use only without permission provided the source is fully acknowledged.
PRINT Cat.: H149-3/2-2021E PDF Cat.: H149-3/2-2021E-PDF Pub.: 200339
ISBN: 978-0-660-37067-5 ISBN: 978-0-660-37066-8
This guide would not have been possible without the collaborative efforts of many individuals and organizations. Health Canada gratefully acknowledges the supportive efforts and contributions of Rosa Dragonetti, MSc, Manager, Nicotine Dependence Clinic and Tobacco Control Projects--Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, Toronto, Ont.; Janice Forsythe, BA (Hons)--Principal Consultant, Cypress Consulting, Ottawa, Ont.; Larisa Hausmanis, MD, BA (Hons)--Physician, Sherbourne Health Centre and Toronto Public Health, Toronto, Ont.; Kelli-an Lawrance, PhD--Associate Professor, Community Health Sciences Department, Brock University, St. Catharines, Ont.; Peter Selby, MBBS, CCFP Clinical Director, Addictions Program Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, Associate Professor, Departments of Family and Community Medicine, Psychiatry and Dalla Lana School of Public Health, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ont.; Patricia Smith, PhD--Associate Professor, Northern Ontario School of Medicine, Thunder Bay, Ont.; and Louise Walker, BA, BSc (Hons)--Retired Health Consultant, Waterloo, Ont.
Table of Contents
- You Have a Choice
- Improve Your Life
- After quitting
- Change Your Smoking Habits
- Break Your Nicotine Addiction
- Facing Your Roadblocks
- Are You Ready to Take the Next Step?
- Set a Date!
- Support is There to Help You Succeed
- Choosing the Right Quit Method
- Get Ready for Your Quit Day
- Create Your Own Action Plan
- Review and Prepare
- Your Quit Day--Your New Beginning!
- Dealing with Withdrawal
- Be Positive. Stay Focused.
- Learning to Live Without Cigarettes
- Regaining Control if You Slip
- Dealing with Weight Gain
- Did you know?
- Tips for staying quit
You Have a Choice
What do you really want?
If one of your goals is to become tobacco-free, then recognize that you have the power to make it happen. Prepare for a successful quit attempt by arming yourself with information.
* Are you a tobacco user, but do not smoke cigarettes?
If so, this guide can be beneficial to you as well. The quitting process for people who use smokeless tobacco is similar for people who smoke.Footnote 1 While many of the presented facts are tailored to smokers, most of this information still applies to you.Footnote 2
- What are the qualities you possess that will assist you in your quit attempt?
- How can quitting smoking change your life?
- What made you pick up this booklet today?
- What would motivate you to quit?
- What support would you need to get to where you want to be?
- How can you keep yourself focused?
- What resources are available to you?
- If you could give advice to a new smoker, what would you tell them?
- If you gained years of life from quitting, how would you spend them? Who would you spend them with?
Improve Your Life
What are your reasons for smoking?
Everyone who smokes has their reasons for smoking. It may be a result of habit or addiction, or both. You may like how it makes you look or feel. Or, maybe you feel like it helps you relax, boosts your energy, gives you time to yourself, or helps you control your weight. Smoking could also be something that you share with others.
Quitting will improve your life in ways you will see and feel, both now and later
You have better reasons to quit
Whatever you feel smoking gives you, it takes away much more. Every time you light up, it seriously harms your health. It can lead to diseases that drastically reduce your ability to breathe and digest food properly. These facts can be very troubling. If you no longer had to worry about the health risks associated with smoking, how do you think it would affect you?
It is not just about your health
Quitting can give you a real sense of self-control. You will look and feel healthier and you will have more energy.Footnote 3 You will not have to leave your house or workplace just to smoke. You will not have to worry about exposing others to second-hand smoke.
Chances are, you will live longer and have a better quality of life.Footnote 12
20 Minutes after quitting
Your blood pressure drops to a level similar to that before your last cigarette.Footnote 4
8 Hours after quitting
The level of carbon monoxide (a toxic gas) in your blood drops to normal.Footnote 5
24 hours after quitting
Your risk of having a heart attack starts to drop.Footnote 6
2 Weeks to 3 Months after quitting
The airways in your lungs relax and you can get more air into your lungs and breathe easier.
1 to 9 Months after quitting
You cough less and your lungs are even stronger.Footnote 7
1 Year after quitting
Your added risk of coronary heart disease is half than that of a smoker's.
5 Years after quitting
You have the same chance of having a stroke as a non-smoker.Footnote 8
10 Years after quitting
15 Years after quitting
Your risk of coronary heart disease is similar to that of a non-smoker.Footnote 11
Change Your Smoking Habits
You can change your smoking habits.
Is smoking something you do without thinking?
If you are like most smokers, you probably reach for a cigarette automatically when you do or feel certain things like when you are with other smokers, or as part of your daily routine.
What are your smoking triggers?
Learning to recognize your smoking triggers is an important part of quitting. When do you feel the urge to smoke? Common triggers include:
- drinking coffee or alcohol
- relaxing after work or after a meal
- talking on the phone or when driving
- feeling stressed or angry
Use the tracking card in this guide to record what you are doing and feeling each time you reach for a cigarette.
Note: If you're reading this guide online, you can order a paper copy to obtain your tracking card.
How can you break the association between smoking and your routines (at work, at home, with friends and family, etc.)?
Anticipate your triggers. Try to delay lighting up by keeping your hands and mouth busy with other things:
- drink a glass of cold water
- brush your teeth
- enjoy a low-calorie snack
You can also:
- take a walk
- talk with a friend
Before you smoke, ask yourself these questions
- Do I really need this cigarette?
- Do I even really want to smoke?
- Can I wait or do something else?
There are many ways to break the association. Find ways that work for you.
Break Your Nicotine Addiction
Nicotine is a highly addictive chemical contained in tobacco that can make you feel energized, alert or calm. Over time, your brain gets used to it. Soon after smoking, the level of nicotine in your system starts to decline and your brain begins to crave it. You may feel uncomfortable without it and get the urge to smoke again.Footnote 13
Imagine how good you would feel if you were no longer dependent on nicotine.
You can do this!
As you smoke less, your brain will get used to having less nicotine.Footnote 14 You may get cravings but if you resist smoking, the cravings will become fewer, shorter and weaker.
Facing Your Roadblocks
Do you have doubts whether you can or will quit?
Quitting smoking is about:
- making a big change in your life
- walking away from something that may have been a part of your life for a long time, something that you may enjoy and have come to depend on
- choosing a new healthier path in your life
As a result, you may be worried about:
- how hard it might be
- reactions from friends who still smoke
- giving up time for yourself
- gaining weight
- losing a part of who you are
What is important is to examine your doubts and plan to deal with them in a positive way. For example:
- Remember, quitting is not one big challenge--it is a series of small ones. Take it one minute, one hour and one day at a time.
Every step is a success
You are never too old to quit. Deciding to quit, taking the first step towards quitting and continuing to try are all things to be proud of. They are as much a part of your success as actually achieving a smoke-free life. In time, small changes can lead to big transformations--like quitting for good!
Smoking causes stress
Over time, your body will need more and more nicotine to get that short burst of energy.Footnote 15 Nicotine causes your heart rate and blood pressure to rise, adding more stress to your body.Footnote 16 Worrying about the impact smoking has on your health or that of your family and friends can be very stressful.
Trying to stop smoking can be stressful
The prospect of dealing with withdrawal symptoms, fear of failure and having to change your routine can also be sources of stress.
Positive ways to overcome stress
Learning what to expect when you quit smoking and how to deal with withdrawal symptoms will help increase your self-confidence and reduce your stress level. For example:
- Deal with stressful situations by finding someone who you can talk to and discuss solutions with.
- Make some time for yourself every day to relax by listening to soft music, reading a good book, doing yoga or taking a walk.
- Give yourself regular rewards to celebrate your accomplishments.
- Maintain a healthy diet and eat proper meals at regular intervals.
- Become more physically active to help release the body's natural calming chemicals (beta-endorphin) and to promote better sleep.
Are You Ready to Take the Next Step?
In addition to this handbook, you can check out Health Canada's additional information and tools on smoking cessation at www.canada.ca/tobacco
If you are ready to quit, the next section will help you follow through!
If you aren't quite ready to quit, don't give up the idea of quitting. Use the tracking card provided in this guide to keep track of when you smoke and rate the enjoyment of each cigarette. This card fits right into your cigarette pack and takes only a second to fill out each time you light up. Think about which cigarettes you would be able to give up. Review this guide in a couple of weeks.
Set a Date!
If you're the type of person who prefers to plan how to do things, it may help you to set a quit date. Think about the activities you have planned for the next few weeks and give yourself enough time to prepare. For example, find a week when you have no (or fewer) major deadlines at work or at home. You may also want to begin on a weekend so you can plan some activities that will keep your mind off smoking.
Choose a day that is right for you
Instead of putting off your quit date, use expected (e.g., quitting on your birthday, New Year's or another event) and unexpected circumstances (e.g., quitting after a cold or flu when you may not have smoked due to illness) to your advantage.
Commit to your quit date and write it down
Choose a date no more than three weeks away from today. Mark it on your calendars, add it as a screensaver to your computer desktop, or create a reminder on your cell phone, etc. Each time you look at it, remind yourself that it is an opportunity. Think about all the reasons you have for quitting, and all the benefits of being smoke-free.
Having an action plan can improve your chances of quitting smoking for good. A solid plan should be written down because it requires you to think more carefully about what you need to do and how you will do it. You can find some tips about preparing your own action plan in the Create Your Own Action Plan section of this guide.
Support is There to Help You Succeed
Speak to a health care professional
Research shows that counselling and/or nicotine replacement therapies (NRT) can significantly increase the chances of quitting successfully.Footnote 17 NRT are available without a prescription. Nicotine replacements like gum, lozenges and inhalers can help you control cravings as they appear. Patches keep a controlled amount of nicotine in your system at all times, while gradually reducing the amount of nicotine as long as you keep the patch on. There are also stop smoking medications that contain no nicotine at all that can help you control cravings and withdrawal symptoms.Footnote 18 If you are considering this approach, talk to your health care professional.
We recommend that you speak to a health care professional when you are planning to quit. They can provide you with useful advice on nicotine replacement therapies, stop smoking medications, and can also refer you to other sources of support.
Tell others that you are going to quit
If you keep it to yourself, it may be easier to change your mind. Telling your family, friends and co-workers gives you another reason to stay focused. It will also encourage them to help you when you need support. Do not be afraid to tell your friends who smoke about your decision to quit and tell them how they can help you. Don't worry if they are less than enthusiastic. Remember, just because you are ready to quit, it doesn't mean they are. Let them know if or when they are ready to quit that you will be there to support them through it too!
Choose a quit buddy
You might want to talk to someone if you need extra help to resist the urge to smoke. Tell a close friend what you plan to do.
Call the pan-Canadian toll-free quitline
to talk to a trained cessation specialist. He/she can help you develop a plan and answer your questions about quitting. The specialist can also provide a choice of services tailored to your needs, including self-help materials, a referral list of programs in your community, as well as one-on-one counselling over the phone. For more information, visit the www.gosmokefree.gc.ca/quit or call the pan-Canadian toll-free quitline number 1-866-366-3667.
Choosing the Right Quit Method
The following are some suggested methods that can help you quit
Prior to setting a quit date, you will need to take the time to understand where and how you smoke, mentally prepare to break your smoking patterns and deal with possible withdrawal symptoms. Part of your preparation may include considering the NRT that's right for you. Your health care professional can provide you with valuable information about quit smoking aids. You may also decide to seek out counselling as a part of your quitting strategy. Planning also involves deciding on a quit method. For example, you may want to quit completely or slowly reduce how much you smoke.
Cut back gradually before quitting
You can slowly reduce the amount you smoke as you move closer to your quit date. Cutting back allows you to get a sense of what it will be like to quit for good. It gives you the chance to deal with challenges one at a time, instead of all at once.
There are many ways to cut back.
- Each time you reach for a cigarette, stop and think, "Can I skip this one?" Wait five or ten minutes before acting on your urge to smoke.
- Smoke less of each cigarette than you normally would.
- Carry only enough cigarettes to get you through the day and refuse to get more.
- Every day or two, reduce the amount you smoke. Cut down as much as you can.
- Try delaying your first cigarette of the day by at least two hours.
- You may find that using NRT will help you.
Get Ready for Your Quit Day
Start thinking positively
Instead of saying "I will not," try saying, "I will." For example, if you normally smoke after dinner, you could say, "Right after dinner tonight, I will go for a short walk instead of a smoke."
Plan to reward yourself
Every day, week and month without cigarettes is worth celebrating. Think of a few things you enjoy, to reward yourself for staying smoke-free. Rewards are important motivational tools.
- Rewards do not have to involve money or food. Plan to have a long phone conversation with an old friend or plan a get-together.
- The best rewards are often long-term. Write down why quitting is important to you and read this list during tough times. Take a moment to savour the success you've experienced so far. Remember, you deserve to be smoke-free!
Create Your Own Action Plan
If you are a planner, here are some suggestions on how to develop your action plan
1. Write a clear statement as to why you want to stop smoking
Try to imagine how you will feel about yourself. You may be concerned about your health and/or want to regain control of your life. Indicate who else will benefit from your decision to quit. You may wish to set a good example for your children. Perhaps you want to save more of your hard-earned money. You can use the Health Canada Cost Calculator to find out how much you spend on cigarettes: https://health.canada.ca/en/forms/cigarettes-cost-calculator
2. List your concerns about quitting
Next to each concern, write down one or more things you can do to overcome this challenge. For example, you may be concerned about failure. Many people try to quit smoking more than once. Each quit attempt is a positive step as you will learn skills you can apply to your next quit attempt until you succeed.
3. Prepare for withdrawal
Being able to recognize withdrawal symptoms will also help you to deal with them. Take a moment to write down one or two strategies you can use to deal with each withdrawal symptom. For example, if you're feeling irritable, one strategy could be going for a walk.
4. Recognize the skills and knowledge you already have
Think about the times in the past you have gone without smoking. What did you do to keep yourself from smoking? What worked and what didn't work? What other accomplishments have you achieved in the past? Have you become more physically active, changed your diet, lost weight or stopped putting things off? Think about how you did it. Could these skills help you quit smoking too?
5. Identify your social support
Most people underestimate the support they can get from their family and friends. List the people you can count on for help. Who can you call for encouragement? Who can help you when you crave a cigarette? Who can help you avoid tempting situations?
6. Identify your smoking patterns and triggers
Before you quit, use your tracking card to record how much you smoked, where and when you smoked, who you were with, as well as what you were thinking, feeling and doing immediately before, during and after you smoked. Review the notes after a week to see if you can find any smoking patterns.
7. Decide how to change the things that remind you of cigarettes
If coffee reminds you of smoking, switch to tea or water. If you tend to smoke in a certain chair, sit in another chair or go outside. Remove all ashtrays from your home. Changing your routine can help create new habits that are not associated with smoking and avoid triggers.
8. Set a quit date and commit to stop smoking
The final step of your quit plan should be to set a date to begin your life without cigarettes. Choose a specific date within the next three weeks. Put it in writing, it is just like signing a contract with yourself:
"I have committed to stop smoking
On that day, I'm starting my tobacco-free life."
Review and Prepare
Take some time to review what you have learned
Remember your smoking "triggers" and when they are likely to strike. Prepare yourself to face them by planning what you will do instead of smoking.
On the day before you quitt
You may be feeling stressed as your quit day approaches. You may feel that you are about to give up something big in your life. To help you deal with these feelings, remind yourself that you are prepared for this and have what it takes to succeed. Let your family, friends and co-workers know that tomorrow is your quit day. Ask them to be understanding if you appear tense or irritable. Let them know how they can support you and that you appreciate their help.
Scan your calendar for events or situations you think might
cause you to slip.
Are there any periods of high stress? Will you be going out or spending time with a friend or family member who smokes? Think of at least three things you can do in each situation to cope with temptation, such as avoiding the situation or doing something that is incompatible with smoking.
Your Quit Day--Your New Beginning!
Your New Beginning!
Today is the first day of your healthier, smoke-free life. Celebrate and be proud as it is one of the best gifts you can give yourself! You are now ready to enjoy all the health benefits of being a non-smoker.
Take it easy
Quitting could seem stressful over the next few days. Make it easier by taking some time for yourself. After all, you deserve it! Avoid or walk away from situations that give you the urge to smoke. Among other things, avoid places where you might see and/or smell cigarettes.
In the days ahead
Continue to think positively about the change you have made. Remind yourself that you can do this. Each day without a cigarette is a big success that makes you healthier!
Dealing with Withdrawal
Smoking is mostly maintained by the rewarding effects of nicotine.Footnote 19 In the short term after you quit, you will continue to crave nicotine and most likely experience some symptoms of withdrawal. They could be thoughts about having "just one", but do your best to resist. Withdrawal symptoms may include feeling restless, irritable, angry or sad, or having difficulty concentrating. You may also experience bouts of coughing, or have trouble sleeping for a while.Footnote 20
Accept the fact that withdrawal symptoms will happen
Symptoms of withdrawal appear within one to two days, peak in the first week and last about 2-4 weeks.Footnote 21 Learn to recognize and work through them. Remember that they are temporary, while the benefits of quitting will be with you for life. Remind yourself that you have worked hard to prepare yourself for this and that you will succeed!
The first four weeks are the toughest, after that many of the withdrawal symptoms should end.Footnote 22,Footnote 23 The physical withdrawal is a huge part of the quitting battle and for some, it is the main one.
Remember, cigarettes have been a big part of your life and it is normal to miss them. Recognize your feelings and then move on. This stage will pass too; just keep reminding yourself how important quitting is to you. However, if you feel sad or mildly depressed and those feelings don't go away within three weeks of your quit date, see a health care professional right away.
The key to staying quit is to develop new behaviours instead of simply trying not to smoke. Right from the start, you will need to find ways to feel satisfied without cigarettes. If you work at it, staying smoke-free gets easier because you develop the skills and confidence you need to succeed.
Be Positive. Stay Focused.
Living without cigarettes will get easier. Every day without cigarettes is a step towards being smoke-free and is worth celebrating. So, every day for the next month:
- Remember you are now a non-smoker. You do not smoke. Make this your first and last conscious thought of the day. Remind yourself of this every time you see someone with a cigarette.
- Review your reasons for quitting, solutions to your concerns and strategies for coping with urges and other withdrawal symptoms. Avoid doing any of the things you strongly associate with smoking.
- Go for walks. Focus on breathing clean, smoke-free air.
- Reward yourself. Every day, take time to do things that are just for you. If you put money away as one of your rewards, add to it every day and watch these savings grow!
- Doodle, knit, email or text a friend, or snack on celery and carrot sticks to keep your hands and mouth busy.
Be proud of yourself
Continue to think positively about the change you have made. Do not worry if you feel a little down and/or tired for a few days--these are signs of nicotine withdrawal.Footnote 24 Remind yourself that:
- you can do this
- it takes some time to heal
- and you are getting healthier and stronger every day
Learning to Live Without Cigarettes
Dealing with temptations
The best way to cope with temptations is to avoid them. Stay away from situations, people and things that make you want to smoke. The key is to learn to recognize potentially tempting situations and then develop two or three strategies you can use if a situation comes up.
Change your thinking
Think about the benefits of being smoke-free. For example, some people keep the money they have saved in a jar and often look at it. Others keep a picture of their loved one(s) close-by. Consider the positive effects of quitting on your health and the health of those around you. Do what works for you.
Distract yourself quickly
Write down all the reasons why you want to quit smoking.
Carry this list with you and review it often.
- If you are tempted to smoke, try to distract yourself by doing something that requires concentration. For example, play a game, browse the Internet, text and/or write an email to a friend or get started on a project.
- If you are bored or irritable, you can try chewing gum, listening to relaxing music, taking a shower or bath, or practice relaxation breathing--breathing in through your nose expanding your stomach (rather than your chest) and then exhaling slowly through your mouth.
Regaining Control if You Slip
A slip can be when you have a few puffs or even a whole cigarette. It can lead back to regular smoking. A slip is like a fire alarm. When the alarm rings, you need to know exactly what to do, what to say, where to go and whom to ask for help. You do not want to lose control of a situation. Plan ahead in the same way as you would for a fire drill.
Change the situation
- Stop smoking immediately.
- Leave the room or situation.
- If you bought cigarettes, throw them out.
Talk positively to yourself
- Remind yourself how far you have come, not how far you have to go.
- Encourage yourself not to give up.
- Do something that makes it impossible to smoke (like taking a shower).
- Find something else to focus on, other than cigarettes or the craving--focus on gardening, work, the news, etc.
- Don't criticize yourself.
- Make your mouth and throat feel different--chew gum, drink water or brush your teeth.
- Do a physical activity--go for a brisk walk outside. Fresh air clears your head.
- If you are having a major craving, sit down and do relaxation breathing until the feeling has passed or go for a brisk walk.
Ask for help
- Talk to someone to distract or encourage you. Call the pan-Canadian toll-free quitline number at 1-866-366-3667 or your quit buddy.
If you slip, do not get discouraged. It does not mean you have to give up. Just keep working on it! Try to figure out why it happened and what you can do to prevent a slip from happening again in the future.
Dealing with Weight Gain
What can you do to reduce the chances of weight gain?
You may think smoking helps to control your weight, but there are much healthier ways to maintain your weight. You will most likely gain some weight while you quit.Footnote 25 Most people gain about 4-6 kg or 8-13 lb in total.Footnote 26 But this doesn't mean you will definitely gain weight or even gain that much--not everyone does.
What about your eating habits?
Some people are able to make several lifestyle changes at the same time. Others find it easier to tackle one challenge at a time. If you plan on adopting a healthier diet, it may be easier for you to do so a few weeks before your quit date. It also helps to drink lots of water and to snack on healthy foods. For more information, visit www.canada.ca/food-guide for Canada's food guide.
Try becoming more physically active. Some people who quit say that walking every day helps them keep their weight under control and helps with food and nicotine cravings. For more information, visit www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/being-active for Canada's Physical Activity Guide.
Did you know?
No matter how long you have smoked, your health will improve by quitting smoking.Footnote 29
Cutting down gradually on the number of cigarettes you smoke every day helps lessen your nicotine dependence.
Someone who smokes a pack-a-day can spend more than $5,000 a year on cigarettes!
A big part of quitting is changing your thinking
Whenever you catch yourself craving a cigarette try to refocus your thoughts.
This feeling will pass in a few minutes.
I am well prepared and I can handle anything that comes my way.
Prepare for your quit day by:
- avoiding triggers
- planning for difficult situations
- practicing how you will work through cravings in the first few days after you quit
- using your tracking card to analyze your triggers and smoking routines
- making a list of all the things you normally do when you smoke
- trying to change just one or two of these routines
- Cravings don't last long.
- Avoiding the sight and smell of cigarettes will make it easier to deal with cravings and urges.
- For urges and cravings, distract yourself with other thoughts and activities, such as doing relaxation breathing and drinking water.
- Be understanding with yourself during this time. For example, take time off or get busy with a new project.
- Let people know what you are going through, and ask for their support and understanding. It may help to talk to someone about the challenges you are facing.
- Incorporate physical activity into your daily life. The more you move, the better you will feel.
- Eating well does not mean giving up the foods you love. It means choosing wisely from a variety of foods such as fruit, veggies and lean meats.
Tips for staying quit
- Never test yourself with "just one" cigarette.
- Keep your home, car and workplace smoke-free.
- Remind yourself of the positive things you have experienced since you quit.
- Ask others to remind you of your goal to remain smoke-free.
You will be glad you quit smoking
- You will feel much more in control of your decisions, actions and health.
- Your overall health will improve and you will have more energy.
- You will not have to worry about the health risks of tobacco use.
- You will look and feel younger. Smoking causes premature aging and wrinkling of the skin.Footnote 30,Footnote 31
You will join the majority of Canadians who are living smoke-free.
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