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Do you have concerns about whether you can or will quit? This is completely normal. Quitting smoking is a big change in your life. You may feel that you are walking away from something that has been a part of your life for a long time, something that you may enjoy or have come to depend on.
It is important to reflect on your concerns and plan to deal with them in a positive way.
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. Small changes can lead to big transformations - like quitting for good!
Use the space below to write down your concerns about quitting and how you plan to manage them. ‘If-then’ statements can help you do this. Repeat these statements to yourself and imagine acting them out.
Review the examples above and use this template to write your own statements:
Every cigarette contains tobacco, and tobacco includes a variety of different chemicals and tar. Cigarettes also contain nicotine; an addictive chemical found naturally in tobacco. On its own, nicotine does not cause cancer, heart disease, or respiratory disease – it is the other chemicals in tobacco smoke that do this.
Nicotine can cause physical dependence and addiction. Nicotine enters your bloodstream, and quickly goes to your brain, causing a release of chemicals that can make you feel temporarily energized, happy, alert, or calm. Endnote 1 Soon after smoking, the level of nicotine in your system starts to decrease and your brain and body begin to crave it. You may begin to feel uncomfortable or irritable if you try to resist smoking.Endnote 2 Endnote 3 Endnote 4 This is nicotine withdrawal. When you smoke your next cigarette, your nicotine levels increase again temporarily relieving the cravings and withdrawal symptoms you are feeling.
While you may feel like smoking helps to relieve your stress, it is simply relieving the physical and mental stress associated with your nicotine addiction (i.e., cravings and discomfort from withdrawal), which gives a powerful illusion of stress relief. Over time, your body will need more and more nicotine to get that short burst of energy and calming feeling. Endnote 1 This creates a cycle of use.
Helpful hints: Is smoking your go-to stress management technique? While you are certainly not alone if you use cigarettes to cope with stress, smoking is not an effective way to deal with stress. See After you quit for more information on quitting smoking and mental health.
When you reduce the number of cigarettes that you smoke each day, your brain will get used to having less nicotine in your body. Endnote 2 You may get cravings to smoke, but if you resist and delay smoking the craving will only last a few minutes. Over time, the cravings will become fewer, shorter, and weaker. Before you smoke, ask yourself these questions:
Cutting back or quitting smoking can be hard and may cause some symptoms of nicotine withdrawal. You may begin to feel restless, angry, or sad, and have difficulty concentrating or sleeping. Endnote 2 Endnote 3 Endnote 4 This is common. It's your body responding to the low levels of nicotine, which may give you a strong urge to smoke. Nicotine withdrawal is not dangerous and symptoms will improve over time, as long as you remain smoke-free.
To help you cope or manage your withdrawal symptoms when you feel a strong need to smoke, try the 5Ds.
Helpful hint: Lowering your risk while using nicotine
It is recommended that you quit all tobacco products, combustible tobacco like cigarettes and cigars, and smokeless tobacco like chewing tobacco or waterpipes to reduce health risks. Endnote 5 Here are some tips to help you lower your risk when using nicotine:
Talk to your healthcare provider about ways you can lower your risk when using nicotine.
Smoking is often tied to your daily routines. These routines can trigger the urge to smoke. Triggers are anything that you associate with smoking or something that would lead you to want to smoke. For some people, triggers may be associated with certain activities or feelings. For others, they can be associated with people or places. Common triggers include:
Learning to recognize your smoking triggers is an important part of quitting. Some people find it helpful to track their smoking by writing down what they were doing when they smoked. This can provide insight into your smoking patterns and routines.
Now that you have identified your triggers, you can start to develop strategies to help you cope with triggers and cravings. Remember, cravings are caused by your physical dependence and/or addiction to nicotine and are a normal part of the quitting process. The more you resist your cravings and refrain from smoking, the weaker the dependence or addiction will become.
Here are examples of coping strategies that you could use when cravings hit.
Try practicing urge surfing. Picture your urges like waves of an ocean – they start small, grow in intensity, break, and then subside. Urges, like waves, will pass if we do not fight them.
To start, find a comfortable position, close your eyes, and focus on breathing.
Practice this strategy often to help you cope with your cravings. Remember to be kind to yourself - mindfulness takes practice.
Take some time to think about what coping strategies you will use to help you resist the urge to smoke. Don't forget about the 5Ds - they also provide helpful actions for coping with cravings.
If you live, work, or interact with someone who smokes cigarettes, it can be challenging to remain smoke-free. Don't let this stop you! Here are some tips to help you stay focused on your goal:
Part of planning to quit smoking includes choosing a quit approach that's right for you. Here are some common approaches to help you quit smoking.
Helpful hints: A great way to get ready for your quit date is to create a quit plan. A quit plan is a set of steps you can use to prepare and help you quit smoking. Making a quit plan and putting it into action can make quitting easier and help you succeed.
Quit plans can take many forms. Check out this 7-step quit plan tool to help you keep track of your reasons to quit smoking, concerns and strategies, triggers, coping strategies, overall approach to quitting, tools and supports, and your quit date. As you read through this resource, you can continue to add to your quit plan.
Quit aids can help you deal with triggers and reduce your cravings for nicotine. A variety of quit aids are available to that can be used in combination with other supports. Ask your healthcare provider about choosing a quit aid that is right for you to increase your chances of quitting successfully.
Nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) is an over-the-counter medication that delivers nicotine to your body in small amounts and can help you control cravings. There are different forms of NRT products available. Using a single form of any NRT can double your chance of successfully quitting and combining a long-acting form of NRT with a short-acting form of NRT nearly triples your chance of successfully quitting. Endnote 9
Nicotine patches are the only available form of long-acting NRT. Long-acting means that patches deliver a steady dose of nicotine as long as you keep it on for up to 24 hours. Typically, you would apply a patch in the morning when you wake up, wear it all day and night, and replace it with a new one the next morning.
There are different forms of short-acting NRT including nicotine gum, spray, inhaler, and lozenge. While patches deliver a steady amount of nicotine to your body throughout the day, these short-acting forms of NRT are intended to help you control your cravings as they appear. For example, if you feel like smoking, you could use nicotine gum to help the craving pass. These short-acting NRT products can be used alone or in combination with nicotine patches.
Health Canada has recently authorized a new short-acting NRT called nicotine buccal pouches. A nicotine buccal pouch is a tobacco-free product that is placed between your gum and your cheek. It delivers nicotine to your body temporarily relieving cravings and symptoms of nicotine withdrawal. Only some nicotine pouches have been authorized by Health Canada as natural health products for smoking cessation. Do not use unauthorized nicotine buccal pouches, as they can pose risks to your health.
Helpful hints: To help you remember to take your NRT, try building it into your regular activities such as with other medications or with meals. Talking with a trained quit coach (e.g., doctor, pharmacist, nurse, or with a quit line) can also help you consider other practical tips.
There are also smoking cessation medications available that contain no nicotine but can help you control cravings and withdrawal symptoms. Endnote 10 The two available in Canada are varenicline and bupropion.
Using bupropion alone can almost double your chances of quitting successfully; combining varenicline with counselling can nearly triple your chance of successfully quitting. Endnote 9
These medications require a prescription. If you are considering this approach, speak with your healthcare provider who can provide you with additional information about the benefits and potential side effects of taking prescription medications.
Cytisine is a natural health product that mimics the effects of nicotine, and has been shown to be effective for smoking cessationEndnote 11. As a natural health product, it can be purchased without a prescription in Canada. There is a specific dosing schedule to follow when taking cytisine, so it's important to read and follow product instructions. Endnote 11 If you are considering this approach, speak with your healthcare provider or a pharmacist for advice.
Helpful hints: Are you looking to quit smoking and feel like you have tried everything? Don't get discouraged! Did you know that combining certain quit aids can significantly improve your chances of quitting? This video shows how combining the right tools and support can greatly improve your chances of success.
If you want to cut back gradually, 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 also gives you the chance to deal with challenges one at a time, instead of all at once.
There are many ways to cut back. When choosing this approach, try a few different strategies from the list below to see what works best for you.
This means deciding to quit abruptly, without using any quit aids like prescription medications or NRT. This method works for some people, but it doesn't work for everyone and that's okay! If you choose this approach, review Coping with cravings and find coping strategies that can work for you.
E-cigarettes, also referred to as electronic cigarettes, vaping devices, or vape pens, are available as a less harmful alternative than continuing to smoke. These are battery-powered devices that, by heating up liquid (generally containing nicotine), create an aerosol that is inhaled. When using e-cigarettes for smoking cessation, it is recommended to switch completely from smoking to vaping nicotine to reduce your exposure to toxins and chemicals found in cigarette smoke. Endnote 5 Early research indicates that vaping nicotine helps a greater proportion of people to quit smoking than NRT or counseling alone. Endnote 13 To date, vaping products have not been approved as a smoking cessation aid in Canada under the Food and Drugs Act. They are available legally to adults as a consumer product.
While vaping nicotine is a less harmful alternative than continuing to smoking, it is not harm-free. Endnote 5 The long-term health effects continue to be researched. Endnote 5 If you are using e-cigarettes to quit smoking, use e-liquid cartridges with less nicotine and do not use modified vaping devices. Remember, no matter how you get there, quitting smoking will significantly improve your health.
Helpful hints: Switching completely from smoking to vaping is a less harmful option than continuing to smoke. To learn more about vaping nicotine visit Vaping and Quitting Smoking.
There are a number of resources that can help you become smoke-free. A sample of the options available across Canada is listed below. Combining different types of support will give you the best chance of success.Endnote 14 Endnote 15 You can also find local support and services available near you at Gosmokefree.gc.ca/quit.
Testimonial: "I have to say what ultimately worked for me was surrounding myself with non-smokers (including my parents) on Facebook. Every time I had a craving, no matter how early in the morning it was, I would post that I was craving on Facebook on my phone. I got a lot of support that way -- but the big thing was, even if nobody replied right away, I felt that I was being accountable to someone other than myself. So that's what got me through." - Anonymous
Helpful hints: Tell your family, friends, and co-workers that you are quitting smoking. Tell them what you plan to do and explain that you might need to rely on them to help you resist your cravings. Do not be afraid to tell your friends who smoke about your decision to quit and tell them how they can help you. Ask them not to offer you a cigarette and not to smoke around you.
Many healthcare providers understand the quit process and can support you along your path to quitting. We recommend talking to your healthcare provider when you are planning to quit. You can connect with supports at many places, including pharmacies, health units, or cessation clinics. Healthcare providers can:
Smoking cessation programs or quit programs are designed to help people who smoke cope with the challenges that arise while quitting. These programs provide you with non-judgmental support and encouragement to reach your goals. Endnote 16
To learn more about the quit-smoking services provided in your province or territory, visit Gosmokefree.gc.ca/quit.
Counselling provides one-on-one, confidential, and non-judgmental support to people interested in quitting smoking and can almost double your chances of quitting successfully. Endnote 17 Combining varenicline with counselling can nearly triple your chances of quitting successfully. Endnote 17 Quit counsellors can help you develop a tailored quit plan, answer your questions, and support your journey through in-person, phone, text or online services. Services can include one-on-one counselling or support group. If you already see a counsellor, share with them that you are going to quit smoking. They will be able to support you through the quit process or refer you to other supports as needed.
Talking to a trained quit coach can increase your chance of quitting smoking. Endnote 18 They can help you develop a plan and answer your questions about quitting. The coach can also provide a choice of services tailored to your needs, including self-help materials, a referral list of programs in your community, and one-on-one counselling over the phone.
For more information or to talk with a trained quit coach for free, connect with your local quit smoking line at Gosmokefree.gc.ca/quit or toll-free at 1-866-366-3667.
Apps and text messaging services can provide you advice and useful tips and can help maintain your motivation throughout the quit process. Signing up for an app or text messaging service along with other stop-smoking supports may help you stop smoking. Endnote 19
Consider exploring some options on the Apple App Store or Google Play Store to find an app that could work for you.
A well-chosen quit date should give you enough time to prepare, but not too much time to lose motivation. Think about the activities that you have planned for the next few weeks to get an idea of when to set your quit date for. You may want to find a week when you have fewer deadlines, or plan to begin on a weekend so you can plan some activities that will keep your mind off smoking.
Helpful hints: 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.
Just like signing a contract with yourself, put your quit date down in writing. Choose a specific date that is no more than three weeks away. Mark it on your calendars, add it as a screensaver to your computer desktop, or create a reminder on your cell phone, etc.
Helpful hints: Make your commitment sentence relevant to you. Depending on the quit approach you have chosen, include more details about how you are going to quit using SMART goals discussed on Deciding to quit. For example, "I will quit smoking on June 2nd by reducing my daily number of cigarettes by 3 per day for the next 14 days because I want to improve my health."
In advance of your quit date, change your thinking around smoking. 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 smoking."
This way, you are able to look forward to another activity, instead of thinking that you are missing out on smoking. Even small changes like this can go a long way in quitting successfully.
Think about the times in the past that you have gone without smoking, either intentionally or unintentionally. This can be anything from a quit attempt to not being able to smoke due to smoking restrictions (e.g., being on a long flight). Are there things that you did to keep yourself from smoking? Think about what worked for you and what didn't.
You can also think about other things that you have changed in your life besides smoking. For example, have you recently become more physically active, or have you started a new self-care routine? Think about how you have made other changes in your life and whether you can use these skills to help you quit.
Congratulations! You're almost there. As your quit day approaches, you may be experiencing a number of different feelings.
You may be feeling stressed, or you may feel that you are about to give up something in your life. This is completely normal. To help you deal with these feelings, remind yourself that you are prepared for this and have the tools and knowledge 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.
Potts, D. A., & Daniels, J. S. (2014). Where there's smoke there must be ire! Nicotine addiction treatment: a review. Missouri medicine, 111(1), 80–84.
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CAMH. (2021). Lower-Risk Nicotine Use Guidelines: Quick Tips. Toronto, ON: Centre for Addiction and Mental Health. https://www.nicotinedependenceclinic.com/en/Documents/Quick%20Tips.pdf
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CAMH. (2018). My Change Plan. Toronto, ON: Centre for Addiction and Mental Health. www.nicotinedependenceclinic.com/en/teach/Documents/My%20Change%20Plan%20Edition%208.pdf
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Cahill, K., Stevens, S., Perera, R., Lancaster, T. (2013). Pharmacological interventions for smoking cessation: an overview and network meta-analysis. The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews,(5), CD009329. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD009329.pub2
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Karnieg, T., & Wang, X. (2018). Cytisine for smoking cessation. Canadian Medical Association Journal, 190(19), E596. https://doi.org/10.1503/cmaj.171371
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CAN-ADAPTT. (2011). Canadian Smoking Cessation Clinical Practice Guideline - Specific populations: pregnant and breastfeeding women. Toronto, Canada: Canadian Action Network for the Advancement, Dissemination and Adoption of Practice-informed Tobacco Treatment, Centre for Addiction and Mental Health.
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Hartmann-Boyce J, Lindson N, Butler AR, McRobbie H, Bullen C, Begh R, Theodoulou A, Notley C, Rigotti NA, Turner T, Fanshawe TR, Hajek P. (2022). Electronic cigarettes for smoking cessation. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, 11(CD010216). DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD010216.pub7.
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Hartmann-Boyce, J., Hong, B., Livingstone-Banks, J., Wheat, H., & Fanshawe, T. R. (2019). Additional behavioural support as an adjunct to pharmacotherapy for smoking cessation. The Cochrane database of systematic reviews, 6(6), CD009670. https://doi.org/10.1002/14651858.CD009670.pub4
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Stead, L. F., Koilpillai, P., Fanshawe, T. R., & Lancaster, T. (2016). Combined pharmacotherapy and behavioural interventions for smoking cessation. The Cochrane database of systematic reviews, 3, CD008286. https://doi.org/10.1002/14651858.CD008286.pub3
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