Quitting smoking: How to quit
On this page
- Quitting methods
- How to quit when pregnant or nursing
- Setting a quit date
- Identifying your smoking triggers
- On your quit day
A common approach to quitting smoking includes finding support, picking a date, making a plan and sticking to it! That said, you are unique and your quit plan should be too. Choose from a number of different methods, or you can combine methods for even greater chances of successFootnote 1.
Free quit counselling, coaching and other services in your province or territory
Quit counsellors (or "quit coaches") give confidential one-on-one support to people interested in quitting smoking. Whether in-person, online, by text or by phone, they can help you develop a structured quit plan, answer your questions about quitting and refer you to services in your community.
Get free quit counselling by calling 1-866-366-3667
Nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) is a proven method that doubles the odds of quitting successFootnote 2. It can help ease the physical withdrawal symptoms when you quitFootnote 3, so you can focus on your goals without worrying about cravings.
Nicotine replacement therapy is available in multiple forms:
- nicotine patch delivers nicotine into your body through a small sticker on your skin. It's available in different strengths, so you can control your withdrawal symptoms and cravings by gradually reducing your body's dependence on nicotine.
- nicotine gum delivers nicotine to your body. It's not chewed like ordinary gum; the nicotine is absorbed through your gums and cheek, so you need to bite the gum a few times and then keep it against your cheek for it to work correctly.
- nicotine inhaler delivers nicotine through a plastic cylinder or cartridge held between your fingers. You puff on the inhaler and nicotine vapour is released and absorbed through the lining of your mouth and throat instead of your lungs. It may also help by mimicking the hand-to-mouth routine of smoking. Unlike vaping devices or e-cigarettes, inhalers do not use heat to generate aerosol.
- nicotine lozenges release nicotine as the tablet dissolves in your mouth, similar to a hard candy.
You can buy nicotine replacement therapy without a prescription from your local pharmacy. A quit coach or counselor can share the availability of programs that provide NRT in your area. Reach one by consulting provincial and territorial services or calling 1-866-366-3667
Prescription medications can help ease your withdrawal symptoms and reduce your urge to smoke. Some medications are taken before you actually quit smoking, and some can be taken with other methods like the patch or nicotine gum. It depends on which prescription your doctor recommends and what type of program you are set up with.
Prescription medications can have side effects associated with them, so it is important that you're honest and open with your doctor so they can recommend the right option.
Sudden attempt or "Cold turkey"
Quitting "cold turkey" means to immediately stop smoking without the help of medication or any form of NRT. It's a method that works differently for everyone. Some people manage their withdrawal symptoms better than others. If you're planning to quit cold turkey, make sure you know what to expect in terms of potential withdrawal symptoms and how to manage the cravings.
Self-help quitting guides can range from books, to audio recordings, to online and spiritually based programs. Health Canada offers free self-help guides for you to try. You can also check out mobile apps, to help you quit smoking.
Vaping and quitting smoking
Vaping products or e-cigarettes that contain nicotine deliver it in a less harmful way than smoking cigarettes. While vaping has risks, these products may reduce health risks for people who smoke who can't or don't want to quit using nicotine. While evidence is still emerging, some evidence suggests that using e-cigarettes is linked to improved rates of quitting successFootnote 4,Footnote 5.
Hypnosis, laser therapy and acupuncture
Though some people report successfully quitting smoking by using other alternative methods, there is limited scientific evidence that hypnosisFootnote 6, laser therapyFootnote 7 and acupunctureFootnote 8 help people quit smoking successfully. Talk to your doctor, pharmacist or other trained professional, like a quit coach, to obtain advice on quitting smoking methods for you.
How to quit when pregnant or nursing
Quitting during pregnancy or while nursing requires a tailored approach that is best planned with your healthcare provider, who may recommend counseling or other nicotine-free methods first. Though considered safer than continuing to smoke, select quitting methods that contain nicotine such as lozenges or gum are usually recommended only if other safer nicotine-free approaches are unsuccessful. Using self-help resources, quitting cold-turkey or cutting-back the number of cigarettes before quitting are other options you may try on your own.
Setting a quit date
It will help you to set a quit date especially if you prefer to plan how to do things. When setting a quit date:
- think about the activities you have planned for the next few weeks and give yourself enough time to prepare
- instead of putting off your quit date, use expected and unexpected events to your advantage (for example quitting on New Year's or quitting after a cold or flu when you may not have smoked due to illness)
- choose a date no more than 3 weeks away from today. Create a reminder on your cell phone, etc.
Having a quit plan will 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.
Identifying your smoking triggers
Common triggers that bring-on cravings include:
- drinking coffee or alcohol
- relaxing after work or after a meal
- talking on the phone
- feeling stressed or angry
Everyone is different so try to anticipate your own, unique triggers. Try to delay lighting up by keeping your hands and mouth busy with other things, such as:
- drinking a glass of cold water
- brushing your teeth
- enjoying a healthy snack
- going for a walk
- talking with a friend
Before you smoke, ask yourself:
- do I really need this cigarette?
- do I even really want to smoke?
- can I wait or do something else?
On your quit day
Celebrate and be proud as it is one of the best gifts you can give yourself. Learn to recognize your cravings and work through them. Remember that the more you cope with cravings and refrain from smoking, the stronger you will become at resisting cravings and the weaker the addiction will become. Your urges will become shorter and less frequent with time.
Quitting may seem stressful over the first few days. Avoid or walk away from situations that give you the urge to smoke. Among other things, avoid places where you might see or smell cigarettes.
- Footnote 1
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2020). Smoking Cessation. A Report of the Surgeon General. Atlanta, GA: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease.
- Footnote 2
Rigotti N. A. (2012). Strategies to help a smoker who is struggling to quit. JAMA, 308(15), 1573–1580. https://doi.org/10.1001/jama.2012.13043
- Footnote 3
Wadgave, U., Nagesh, L. (2016). Nicotine Replacement Therapy: An Overview. International journal of health sciences, 10(3), 425–435, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5003586
- Footnote 4
Hartmann-Boyce, J., McRobbie, H., Lindson, N., Bullen, C., Begh, R., Theodoulou, A., Notley, C., Rigotti, N.A., Turner, T., Butler, A.R., Hajek, P. (2020). Electronic cigarettes for smoking cessation. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, 10. Art. No.: CD010216. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD010216.pub4
- Footnote 5
McNeill, A., Brose, L.S., Calder, R., Bauld, L., Robson, D. (2018). Evidence review of e-cigarettes and heated tobacco products 2018. A report commissioned by Public Health England. London: Public Health England. https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/684963/Evidence_review_of_e-cigarettes_and_heated_tobacco_products_2018.pdf
- Footnote 6
Dickson-Spillmann, M., Haug, S., Schaub, M. P. (2013). Group hypnosis vs. relaxation for smoking cessation in adults: a cluster-randomised controlled trial. BMC public health, 13, 1227. https://doi.org/10.1186/1471-2458-13-1227
- Footnote 7
Yiming C, Changxin Z, Ung WS, Lei Z, Kean LS. (2000). Laser acupuncture for adolescent smokers--a randomized double-blind controlled trial. Am J Chin Med., 28(3-4), 443-449. doi:10.1142/S0192415X00000520
- Footnote 8
Wang, J. H., van Haselen, R., Wang, M., Yang, G. L., Zhang, Z., Friedrich, M. E., Wang, L. Q., Zhou, Y. Q., Yin, M., Xiao, C. Y., Duan, A. L., Liu, S. C., Chen, B., & Liu, J. P. (2019). Acupuncture for smoking cessation: A systematic review and meta-analysis of 24 randomized controlled trials. Tobacco induced diseases, 17, 48. https://doi.org/10.18332/tid/109195
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