Quitting smoking: After you quit

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Withdrawal symptoms

In the short term after you quit, you will likely continue to crave nicotine and most likely experience some symptoms of withdrawal. Symptoms of withdrawal appear within one to two days, peak in the first week and last about 2 to 4 weeks. 

Withdrawal symptoms may include:

The first 4 weeks are the toughest. After that, many of the withdrawal symptoms should end. 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.

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Managing cravings

Nicotine is a highly addictive chemical naturally found in tobacco. Over time, your brain gets used to it. Soon after smoking, the level of nicotine in your system starts to drop and your brain begins to crave it. You may feel uncomfortable without it and get the urge to smoke again: a craving. Consider nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) and prescription medication, which are especially effective in managing nicotine cravingsFootnote 1. Read-on for some additional strategies to help ease your cravings.

Coping during the craving

Long-term strategies to manage cravings

Regaining control after slips

A slip can be when you have a few puffs or even a whole cigarette. It can lead back to regular smoking if you let it. Having a plan in place in case you slip is helpful.

If you smoke again:

To regain control:

If you slip, don't get discouraged –it can be part of the process. Try to figure out why it happened and what you can do to prevent a slip from happening again in the future.

Dealing with potential weight gain

Most people who quit smoking gain about 4 to 6 kg or 8 to 13 lb over the long-termFootnote 8. This doesn't mean you will definitely gain weight or even gain that much.

You are less likely to gain weight if you:

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.

After you quit, health benefits such as improved lung function and heart rate could change how you experience exercise over time, helping you to be physically active.

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Footnote 1

Sinha, S. & Shah, A. (2017). Pharmacotherapy of Tobacco Use Disorder. The American Journal of Psychiatry Residents’ Journal, 11(9). https://doi.org/10.1176/appi.ajp-rj.2016.110903

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Footnote 2

Janse Van Rensburg, K., Taylor, A., Hodgson, T. et al. (2009). Acute exercise modulates cigarette cravings and brain activation in response to smoking-related images: an fMRI study. Psychopharmacology, 203, 589. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00213-008-1405-3

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Footnote 3

Tang, Y. Y., Tang, R., & Posner, M. I. (2013). Brief meditation training induces smoking reduction. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America110(34), 13971–13975. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1311887110

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Footnote 4

Sayette, M. A., Marchetti, M. A., Herz, R. S., Martin, L. M., & Bowdring, M. A. (2019). Pleasant olfactory cues can reduce cigarette craving. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 128(4), 327–340. https://doi.apa.org/doi/10.1037/abn0000431

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Footnote 5

Buczkowski, K., Marcinowicz, L., Czachowski, S., & Piszczek, E. (2014). Motivations toward smoking cessation, reasons for relapse, and modes of quitting: results from a qualitative study among former and current smokers. Patient preference and adherence8, 1353–1363. https://doi.org/10.2147/PPA.S67767

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Footnote 6

Lancaster, T., Stead, L.F. (2017). Individual behavioural counselling for smoking cessation. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2017, Issue 3. Art. No.: CD001292. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD001292.pub3

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Footnote 7

Huang, C.L.. Evaluating the program of a smoking cessation support group for adult smokers: a longitudinal pilot study. (2005). J Nurs Res., 13(3),197-205. doi:10.1097/01.jnr.0000387541.83630.71

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Footnote 8

Parsons, A.C., Shraim, M., Inglis, J., Aveyard, P., Hajek, P. (2009). Interventions for preventing weight gain after smoking cessation. Cochrane Database Syst Rev.,1,CD006219.. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD006219.pub2

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