How to successfully quit smoking

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Get help to quit smoking

There are a few simple ways to make it easier to quit smoking. The first is social support. Important sources of support often include people close to you and others who are also trying to quit – who you can meet through peer-support groups, for example.

You can also get expert help from healthcare professionals via

  • health centres
  • occupational health care
  • school and student health care
  • child health clinics
  • pharmacies.

Health care professionals also help with assessing the need for medicines for smoking cessation and ensuring their correct use.
Read more about medication for smoking cessation

The guidance on this page focuses on quitting smoking, but the same can help with getting off other tobacco or nicotine products. 

Prepare for the change

Lifestyle changes are not easy, especially when you are trying to quit habits that are linked to everyday routines. Physical dependence increases the challenge.

Some people manage to easily stop smoking when the motivation and opportunity coincide. However, many benefit from making preparations and taking one small step at a time. Learning new routines takes time, and it often takes a few attempts before you succeed.

There is no right way to quit. This page offers information on different methods which have proven to be effective and the materials and programmes offered by different organisations. For example, there are various forms and diary templates that can help you assess your level of dependence and smoking habits. 

Whichever method you choose, research shows that it is important to pay particular attention to three areas: commitment, reinforcing progress and identity change.


Commit to permanent change that involves taking one small or large step at a time. Tell at least one person that you are trying to quit and you want to succeed. 

You can also write down why and when you will stop and remind yourself of this, first even every day. This will strengthen your motivation. The first days are often the most difficult due to the withdrawal symptoms. 

Setting goals and milestones for them is often useful. You can keep track of the progress by, for example, setting calendar reminders for three days, a week, two weeks and a month without smoking. 

Reinforcing your progress with social rewards

It is particularly helpful to discuss with someone the progress you have made to get support and encouragement from others.

When you achieve one of your milestones, for example, you can tell someone close to you or share it on social media. If you are part of a peer support group or get help from a healthcare professional, it is common to track your progress regularly together with them.

There are also various tools for monitoring and reinforcing your progress, such as calculators which show you the number of cigarettes you have cut out and the amount of money you have saved by doing so.

Identity change

If you have smoked for a long time, the change from being a smoker to ex-smoker and then a non-smoker can feel big and strange. Think of yourself as a non-smoker. What does that mean to you? What about those close to you? Why don't you want to be a smoker any more? 

You can also assess your daily life from this perspective. Try changing your routes so that you no longer go past the places where you used to smoke. Think about the situations and feelings that led you to smoke and plan how you will deal with those situations as a non-smoker. Throw away your cigarettes and other smoking accessories.

If you relapse, stop smoking again as soon as possible. Consider the relapse as a learning experience rather than a failure. Think of yourself as an ex-smoker who just took a single step backwards. 

If you have tried quitting before, remember how long you managed not to smoke and what you learned that you could make use of on your next attempt. Every attempt will take you closer to success.

Use multiple methods to ensure success

Below are methods that are often used in individual and group counselling for quitting smoking. You have a good chance of successfully quitting if you simultaneously make use of both social support and different quitting methods.

  • Decide when to stop and get ready beforehand. If necessary, discuss the need for medication with a health care professional.
  • Think about how you reward yourself when you reach your milestones and your main goal.
  • Practise what you will say and what you will do if you are offered tobacco or asked to join someone for a smoke.
  • Learn about stress management and relaxation methods and practice them regularly.
  • Find a support person who can encourage you in the process and agree with them on how you will track your progress together. 
  • Tell those close to you what kind of support would be most important to you and what practical things they can do to help you.
  • Arrange meaningful and relaxing activities for yourself, especially for the situations when you would have smoked or wanted to smoke. 
  • Do physical exercise. Your appetite may improve after quitting, so make sure you have some vegetables and fruit, for example, for snacking on.
  • Remember that the worst cravings for cigarettes only last a moment. You can remain firm in your decision by ignoring one craving at a time.
  • Think about situations where you already manage without tobacco. Do you use in these situations some methods that you could also use at other times?
  • If you drink alcohol, avoid this at least to begin with. When drinking, it may be difficult to remain firm in your decision not to smoke.
  • Be kind to yourself. Learn to think or say positive things out loud about yourself as a non-smoker, such as "I can do this". Find a phrase that resonates with you and calms you down – something you can keep coming back to in difficult situations.

Support services for quitting smoking 

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Black, N., Johnston, M., Michie, S., Hartmann‐Boyce, J., West, R., Viechtbauer, W., Eisma, M. C., Scott, C., and de Bruin, M. (2020) Behaviour change techniques associated with smoking cessation in intervention and comparator groups of randomized controlled trials: a systematic review and meta‐regression. Addiction, 115: 2008– 2020.