When Is the Best Time to Quit Smoking?

Quit date and cigarette butt on a calendar
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If you smoke, chances are that you've asked the question, "When is the best time to quit smoking?" If you have ever voiced the question, you've probably heard responses like "right now" or "you'll quit when you're ready," but neither of those responses are practical. You're more likely to be successful if you plan a bit ahead of time, and you don't want to wait until you are facing a serious smoking-related problem to be "ready."

Let's look at how you can choose a time and date to quit that will give you the greatest chances of success.

Reasons to Quit Smoking

When planning your quit date it's helpful to remind yourself of the reasons you want to do this in the first place. There are major reasons to quit, such as the many smoking-related diseases including smoking-related cancers.

But sometimes it's easier to think of reasons that will help you today. Some of these may include the cost. What could you buy with the money you will save? Not just the money for cigarettes, but the unnecessary purchases you make when you run to the store for a pack of cigarettes.

Or, how about wrinkling. The aging effect of smoking on a person's face and neck often appear before the scary diseases. Or, perhaps, how smoking affects you socially. Are there events you miss out on because you won't have a chance to smoke? Is it hard for you to travel by airplane? Do you get cold or hot outside smoking, while others are snuggled inside comfortably?

And even relationships. Do friends or family complain about your smoking, making it a point of contention? If so, are you finding it hard to stand up for yourself in other ways since they have your smoking on their list?

Picking a Quit Date

Life is busy and it can seem like there is never a good time to quit. Since this is one of the biggest hurdles, it's best to set the date right away. It's easy to get sidetracked and look back in six months realizing that you never followed through.

Go ahead and pick a date, but when making your choice, consider your schedule. A little thought and planning will help you get started on the right foot.

Dates to Avoid

There are times that are better and worse for quitting. Avoid beginning your quit program when you are under extraordinary stress. We all have stress in our daily lives, but if you're facing unusual pressure or have suffered a recent loss, consider giving yourself a little space between the event and your quit smoking date.

Smoking cessation takes a lot of focus early on, so it makes sense to shift your quit date slightly if you've recently experienced or anticipate one of the following situations:

  • A big event such as an upcoming marriage, graduation, or final exams
  • A loss or traumatic event such as a death in the family or a divorce
  • Other particularly stressful events in your life

Choose a Meaningful Date

Any date that you successfully quit will be meaningful. That said, you may want to consider choosing a day that has special meaning for you. This will also help you remember how long you have been a non-smoker when people ask. For most of us, quitting tobacco is an emotional event, and picking a date that has personal significance can make it more significant, and serve as motivation.

Popular quit dates include:

  • Birthdays, either yours or that of a loved one
  • New Year's Day
  • The Great American Smokeout
  • World No Tobacco Day
  • July 4th, Independence Day

The sooner you get started with smoking cessation, the better. Every time you use tobacco, it's causing harm to your internal organs, and there's no way to know when the toxins will trigger illness. Tobacco kills upwards of 480,000 people in the United States each year. And globally, that number rises to 6 to 8 million lives lost every year from tobacco use.

We know that 70 percent of smokers wish to quit and 40 percent have tried. The first step is setting your quit date. That said, please bear in mind that as smokers, it doesn't take much to talk ourselves out of getting started with cessation, so use care that you don't avoid quitting because you're just not ready to face it.

Preparing for Your Quit Date

Months and even years can easily slip by before we finally decide to put our cigarettes down and stop smoking. Once you've picked your quit date, stick to it. In order to be ready, a little preparation can go a long way in ensuring your success.

Preparing to quit smoking can include learning all you can about nicotine addiction. It's also helpful to write down all of your reasons to quit as discussed earlier. Before the day, you may want to think of rewards you can give yourself, as well as activities which you can turn to if the cravings get bad.

Don't forego this step if at all possible. Studies tell us that psychological preparation plays a large role in the likelihood of success with smoking cessation.

Quit Smoking Supplies

From hard candies to herbal teas and more, gather together the quit smoking supplies which will ease your nicotine addiction and get you past the difficult first days of quitting.

Bottom Line

Nicotine addiction is insidious, and the fear most of us feel when thinking about quitting can be paralyzing. Don't let that happen to you. Get serious, start planning, and set the date to make your quit program a reality. It's worth the work. Your precious and irreplaceable life is worth the momentary discomfort and challenges.

Verywell Mind 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.
  • Joly, B., Perriot, J., d’Athis, P. et al. Success Rates in Smoking Cessation: Psychological Preparation Plays a Critical Role and Interacts With Other Factors Such as Psychoactive Substances. PLoS One. 2017. 12(10:e0184800.

By Terry Martin
Terry Martin quit smoking after 26 years and is now an advocate for those seeking freedom from nicotine addiction.