An Overview of Quitting Smoking

Most seasoned smokers spend part of each and every day hating the fact that they smoke. On the flip side, they relish lighting up with that first cup of coffee or after every meal, as well. The mental tug-of-war this causes creates a state of anxiety for many smokers.

Does your mind bounce back and forth on the issue of smoking cessation? Or do you quit only to find yourself smoking again within days, or at most, a few weeks? Does smoking make you feel weak and powerless? Do you wonder if you'll ever find a way to quit smoking for good?

Statistics tell us that approximately 70 percent of America's 40 million smokers want to quit. We also know that 40 percent of ex-smokers have more than one quit attempt under their belts before stopping permanently.

Nicotine addiction is powerful and smoking cessation involves a lot of work for most people—it's not handed to us on a silver platter. You can, however, quit smoking successfully. And the good news is that thousands of people do just that every year. They've found their way out and enjoy a comfortable life free of thoughts of smoking.

Most of them believed at one time, just as you probably do, that they couldn't quit. How did they do it? While there is no magic bullet that makes smoking cessation easy and pain-free, there are steps you can take to develop the commitment necessary to quit smoking in a way that will bring you lasting success.

Top 5 Things to Know When Quitting Smoking

Remembering these facts during your quit journey will help you understand that the difficulties you are facing are completely normal.

You Are Addicted to a Drug

Nicotine is a powerfully addictive drug that affects brain chemistry. Smokers sometimes think of smoking as a bad habit that they can stop whenever they choose and are surprised to find that this is not the case when they try to quit.

It's Never Too Late to Quit

Years of smoking and the health problems that come with it can lead us to believe that smoking cessation won't be of any benefit—that the harm is already done. This is not true. Once you stop smoking, your body begins to heal itself. While not all smoking damage can be undone, much of it can be improved or arrested.

"Junkie Thinking" is Normal and to Be Expected

Thoughts of smoking and feelings of loss and sadness are normal when you stop smoking. Every nicotine addict will experience these symptoms of nicotine withdrawal to some extent, and they will pass eventually, as long as you don't smoke and start the whole cycle over.

Your Quit Program Should Include Online Support

You might not be the kind of person who enjoys chatting in an online forum atmosphere, but you should still think of online support as a mandatory tool in your quit smoking toolbox. You do not have to actively participate to benefit from the experience and support of ex-smokers who are working together.

Stop in at our support forum and do some reading. An added bonus is that the light is on 24/7 with people visiting from around the world. So if you're craving a cigarette at 1 am, chances are you'll be able to connect with someone right away.

You Won't Miss Smoking Forever

Nicotine addiction has a way of holding us hostage. And when we try to quit, it can be overwhelming to imagine not smoking ever again let alone living a life that is free of thoughts of smoking. With education and the willingness to change the relationship you have with cigarettes, however, true release from the desire to smoke is possible...and well worth the work it takes to achieve.

If you or a loved one are struggling with nicotine 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.

Quit Aids vs. Cold Turkey

Cold turkey is a term used to describe quitting smoking without the help of a quit aid. It is the most difficult quit method, initially, in terms of nicotine withdrawal. And the rate of success for cold turkey quitters is low. However, for some people, it works.

If you think you fall into that category, use the tips in the section below to prepare for the ups and downs that will come during the first few weeks of cessation.

That said, there are a variety of quit aids available today that allow new ex-smokers to minimize the symptoms of nicotine withdrawal or avoid them altogether. There is no shame in using an aid to help you stop smoking and, in fact, doctors today often recommend a combination of quit aids and counseling as the best approach to stop smoking.

Choosing the quit aid you'd like to use is largely a matter of choice, barring a medical condition that might make one or another a better fit for you. Have a discussion with your doctor or other healthcare professional about quit aids before you make a decision.

Preparing to Quit

If you haven't done it yet, pick your quit date. Don't make it too far in the future because chances are you'll lose motivation before the date arrives. A good rule of thumb is to pick a date within two weeks of deciding to quit. Once you have your date, start gathering supplies to have on hand for your quit and remove all smoking paraphernalia from around the house and car.

Lastly, start a quit journal and make your first entry the reasons why you want to quit smoking. Copy this list onto a single sheet of paper that you can fold and tuck into your purse or wallet to review when craving a cigarette. Add to your list as time goes by—think of it as a way to keep your memory green about how much smoking negatively impacted your life before you quit.

What to Expect After You Quit

Nicotine withdrawal will be your first challenge. Learn what to expect from it and how to manage the discomforts. Knowledge is key to overcoming this short but intense phase of smoking cessation.

Junkie thinking comes with nicotine withdrawal and can (and usually does) extend beyond it. It is a product of addiction that is common to all recovering addicts. Develop a conscious attention to what your mind is saying and the ability to change negative, self-defeating thoughts to ones that help you. Junkie thoughts will fade to nothing in time if you do this.

Learn the art of distraction. Recovery from nicotine addiction is in large part an exercise in reprogramming our minds to expect something other than a cigarette to fill a gap. This takes work initially, but the mind listens and adapts quickly. You'll be surprised at how natural it becomes to not smoke once you get some practice at it.

Be patient and let time help you. Healing from nicotine addiction takes the better part of a year to achieve. This doesn't mean you'll be uncomfortable for a year, but it does take that long to reprogram the majority of associations we have with smoking. Relax and let time help you. Every smoke-free day you complete is a step closer to the long-term success you're looking for.


8 Tips For Quitting Smoking

Change Your Mind, Change Your Life

True freedom is a state of mind. We all know people who quit smoking years ago and still lament that they miss cigarettes. This is a scary concept for any smoker trying to quit, but you needn't worry. The key to truly breaking the ties to smoking in a permanent way lies in changing our relationship with smoking—something that these people didn't do.

Over the course of our years of smoking, we turned to cigarettes for comfort, companionship, stress relief, and more, learning to relate all of the events in our lives to smoking. We thought of it as a solution rather than a problem and unconsciously adopted unhealthy and inaccurate beliefs as facts of life, instead of seeing smoking for what it really was—a need to feed an addiction.

Unraveling all of those false associations and replacing them with healthy ways of dealing with our lives will start the ball rolling on changing the relationship you have with smoking.

Facing the Health Risks

Another step in changing your mind about smoking involves removing the blinders we put up as smokers and seeking out information on the damage tobacco causes. We all know about the health risks, but avoid reading about them whenever possible.

Taking a close look at research, news, and statistics will help you make that shift away from being a comfortable smoker to someone who can't wait to be clear of cigarettes for good.

A Word From Verywell

Most smokers are afraid to quit, but don't let fear paralyze you. Remember that this is junkie thinking caused by nicotine addiction and you've got the tools to deal with that now. Think about what you're really giving up when you quit smoking.

Smoking cessation will reward you with benefits far beyond what you can probably imagine, so be patient and do the work to heal your body and mind from the years of smoking. Make a pact with yourself to stick with it until smoking no longer registers on the radar. It may seem like a winding path at times, but you'll get there as long as you don't smoke. Believe in yourself. You've got this.

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2 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.
  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. CDC Fact Sheet: Quitting Smoking. Updated: May 21, 2015.

  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Health Effects of Cigarette Smoking. Updated: Oct. 1, 2015.

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