Addiction Nicotine Use After You Quit Stop a Smoking Slip From Becoming a Relapse By Terry Martin Terry Martin Facebook Twitter Terry Martin quit smoking after 26 years and is now an advocate for those seeking freedom from nicotine addiction. Learn about our editorial process Updated on July 17, 2021 Medically reviewed Verywell Mind articles are reviewed by board-certified physicians and mental healthcare professionals. Medical Reviewers confirm the content is thorough and accurate, reflecting the latest evidence-based research. Content is reviewed before publication and upon substantial updates. Learn more. by Armeen Poor, MD Medically reviewed by Armeen Poor, MD Armeen Poor, MD, is a board-certified pulmonologist and intensivist. He specializes in pulmonary health, critical care, and sleep medicine. Learn about our Medical Review Board Print Howard Roberts / EyeEm / Getty Images As of Dec. 20, 2019, the new legal age limit is 21 years old for purchasing cigarettes, cigars, or any other tobacco products in the U.S. Smoking one cigarette after you quit doesn't erase all of your efforts to be smoke-free. However, for some, a single smoking slip means the difference between successfully quitting and returning to smoking full-time. How you choose to move forward is up to you. Do what you are comfortable with, but make sure you take some time to analyze and correct the underlying reasons why you picked up another cigarette in the first place. How to Prevent a Smoking Relapse A smoking "slip" means different things to different people. For instance, someone might view one puff of another's person's cigarette as a slip, whereas another person might smoke one or two cigarettes and call that a slip. Regardless, a slip can be thought of as the first time you have any amount of a cigarette after quitting. But don't let that discourage you. Quitting smoking is hard. The risk of relapsing is the highest a few weeks after initially quitting smoking, but some people relapse months or years after quitting. Having a go-to list of tips to follow after slipping up can help refresh your goal of quitting and clean the slate for more smoke-free days ahead. Remember the Risks Having one cigarette after quitting means you've reintroduced nicotine into your body. Nicotine addiction is powerful; one cigarette can be enough to trigger you to pick up your smoking habit again after quitting. A single puff from a cigarette releases a rush of adrenaline, which sends a signal to the brain to produce higher levels of the feel-good chemical dopamine. It's so easy to become addicted to smoking because people who smoke associate each puff with pleasure. However, smoking puts you at risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer, stroke, diabetes, and other life-threatening health conditions. Smoking is also linked with mental health conditions like anxiety and depression. Keeping the risks in mind can give you perspective and remind you how much better off your health is when you live smoke-free. Best Non-Medical Ways to Quit Smoking Think of the Reasons Why You Quit According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), cigarette smoking causes upwards of 480,000 deaths per year in the United States. Dive back into why you quit smoking in the first place. Think about how you felt on your quit day. Did you dislike that you couldn't stop smoking? Did you have a chronic cough or shortness of breath? Did you spend a lot of time wishing you could quit smoking, once and for all? Were you embarrassed by your smoking habit? Were you living in fear of contracting a smoking-related illness? Were you sick and tired of smoking? None of the reasons you had when you quit smoking are any less true today. It's easy to lose sight of the importance of what you're doing when you get a few months of smoke-free time under your belt. Maybe that chronic cough is gone, or you've convinced yourself that quitting isn't that hard and you can smoke for a day and get right back to your quit. But if you do light up, you might be tempted to start smoking regularly again. Revisit your list of reasons, or start a list if you haven't already. Read everything you can find about the effects of smoking, even if you've read it all before. A refresher will help rebuild your resolve. Learn From Your Mistakes Slipping up by having a cigarette gives you a chance to become stronger. Ask yourself why you slipped up. What were the circumstances? Were you around other people who were smoking? Were you trying to cope with tough emotions? After you quit smoking, triggers to smoke can be some of the most challenging obstacles between you and your goal. One study found that the most common reasons people relapsed after quitting smoking were: Experiencing stress A lack of pleasure Being in a smoking environment The factors that lead to your slip-up can help you figure out what most triggers you to smoke. What are the emotions you have trouble facing without a cigarette? Some common ones are anxiety, boredom, happiness, or loneliness. Maybe you have trouble resisting a craving after breakfast or when you're driving in your car. For many, staying smoke-free is especially difficult when around others who are smoking. Try New Coping Mechanisms If you know what caused you to slip up, you can learn healthy coping mechanisms to deal with it differently next time. For instance, when you're stressed, maybe you do some deep breathing or go for a walk to relieve your emotions instead of giving in to a craving. It's important to reward yourself when you quit. Since you're no longer smoking, you aren't getting that release of dopamine. But there are natural ways to increase your dopamine levels that can help you feel good. Make time to feel good throughout your day. It's normal if you don't want to be around others who are smoking. Make sure to tell your friends and family that you are serious about quitting and you'd appreciate it if they didn't smoke around you. You might need to set healthy boundaries, especially when you first quit, to prioritize a smoke-free environment over people and places that will trigger a craving. Show Yourself Compassion Slipping up after you quit smoking is common—you're not a bad person or a failure. Watch your self-talk. If you find you're talking down to yourself and being negative, try to correct the thought and replace it with a more positive statement. Focus on the times you were able to resist cravings and avoid smoking. Use these memories as proof that you can trust yourself to continue on the journey of quitting. Get Support Slipping up can be stressful, but you don't have to go through it by yourself. Talk to trusted friends and family members about it. Look into a quit smoking support group where you can share your story with others who are trying to quit. Listening to other people's stories of slip-ups and relapses can help give you the motivation to stay smoke-free as well. There are also quit smoking apps that can direct you toward other helpful resources and even text you words of encouragement as you are quitting. There are quit-lines to quit smoking as well, where you can speak to a counselor about your concerns and they can help get you back on track with advice on staying smoke-free. If you or a loved one are struggling with substance use or addiction, contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357 for information on support and treatment facilities in your area. For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database. 10 Tips for When You Quit Smoking A Word From Verywell Smoking after you quit can be stressful, but try not to be too hard on yourself. The journey to successfully quitting smoking isn't easy, but it's worth it. Be patient and give yourself the time you need to allow for healing, both physically and emotionally. 9 Sources 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. Kirchner TR, Shiffman S, Wileyto EP. 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Motivations toward smoking cessation, reasons for relapse, and modes of quitting: Results from a qualitative study among former and current smokers. Patient Prefer Adherence. 2014;8:1353-1363. doi:10.2147/PPA.S67767 Carim-Todd L, Mitchell SH, Oken BS. Mind-body practices: An alternative, drug-free treatment for smoking cessation? A systematic review of the literature. Drug Alcohol Depend. 2013;132(3):399-410. doi:10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2013.04.014 Moritz S, Gehlenborg J, Wirtz J, Ascone L, Kühn S. A dismantling study on imaginal retraining in smokers. Transl Psychiatry. 2021;11(1). doi:10.1038/s41398-020-01191-9 By Terry Martin Terry Martin quit smoking after 26 years and is now an advocate for those seeking freedom from nicotine addiction. See Our Editorial Process Meet Our Review Board Share Feedback Was this page helpful? Thanks for your feedback! What is your feedback? 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