How to quit smoking: a guide to kicking the habit for good

One of the best things you can do to help yourself quit is to identify the things that make you want to smoke, including specific situations, activities, feelings, and people.

Keep a craving journal

A craving journal can help you zero in on your patterns and triggers. For a week or so leading up to your quit date, keep a log of your smoking. Note the moments in each day when you crave a cigarette

  • What time was it?
  • How intense was the craving (on a scale of 1 10)?
  • What were you doing?
  • Who were you with?
  • How were you feeling?
  • How did you feel after smoking?

Do you smoke to relieve unpleasant or overwhelming feelings?

Managing unpleasant feelings such as stress, depression, loneliness, fear, and anxiety are some of the most common reasons why adults smoke. When you have a bad day, it can seem like cigarettes are your only friend. As much comfort as cigarettes provide, though, it’s important to remember that there are healthier (and more effective) ways to keep unpleasant feelings in check. These may include exercising, meditating, using sensory relaxation strategies, and practicing simple breathing exercises.

For many people, an important aspect of quitting smoking is to find alternate ways to handle these difficult feelings without smoking. Even when cigarettes are no longer a part of your life, the painful and unpleasant feelings that may have prompted you to smoke in the past will still remain. So, it’s worth spending some time thinking about the different ways you intend to deal with stressful situations and the daily irritations that would normally have you reaching for a cigarette.

Tips for avoiding common smoking triggers

  • Alcohol. Many people have a habit of smoking when they drink. TIP switch to non alcoholic drinks or drink only in places where smoking inside is prohibited. Alternatively, try snacking on nuts and chips, or chewing on a straw or cocktail stick.
  • Other smokers. When friends, family, and co workers smoke around you, it is doubly difficult to quit or avoid relapse. TIP Your social circles need to know that you are changing your habits so talk about your decision to quit. Let them know they won’t be able to smoke when you’re in the car with them or taking a coffee break together. In your workplace, don’t take all your coffee breaks with smokers only, do something else instead, or find non smokers to have your breaks with.
  • End of a meal. For some smokers, ending a meal means lighting up, and the prospect of giving that up may appear daunting. TIP replace that moment after a meal with something such as a piece of fruit, a (healthy) dessert, a square of chocolate, or a stick of gum.

How to quit smoking Coping with nicotine withdrawal symptoms

Once you stop smoking, you will experience a number of physical symptoms as your body withdraws from nicotine. Nicotine withdrawal begins quickly, usually starting within thirty minutes to an hour of the last cigarette and peaking about 2 to 3 days later. Withdrawal symptoms can last for a few days to several weeks and differ from person to person.

Common nicotine withdrawal symptoms include

  • Cigarette cravings
  • Irritability, frustration, or anger
  • Anxiety or nervousness
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Restlessness
  • Increased appetite
  • Headaches
  • Insomnia
  • Tremors
  • Increased coughing
  • Fatigue
  • Constipation or upset stomach
  • Depression
  • Decreased heart rate

Unpleasant as these withdrawal symptoms may be, they are only temporary. They will get better in a few weeks as the toxins are flushed from your body. In the meantime, let your friends and family know that you won’t be your usual self and ask for their understanding.

Coping with Nicotine Withdrawal Symptoms




Craving for cigarette

Most intense during first week but can linger for months

Wait out the urge distract yourself take a brisk walk.

Irritability, impatience

Two to four weeks

Exercise take hot baths use relaxation techniques avoid caffeine.


Two to four weeks

Avoid caffeine after 6 p.m. use relaxation techniques exercise plan activities (such as reading) when sleep is difficult.


Two to four weeks

Take naps do not push yourself.

Lack of concentration

A few weeks

Reduce workload avoid stress.


Several weeks or longer

Drink water or low calorie drinks eat low calorie snacks.

Coughing, dry throat, nasal drip

Several weeks

Drink plenty of fluids use cough drops.

Constipation, gas

One to two weeks

Drink plenty of fluids add fiber to diet exercise.

Adapted with permission from Overcoming Addiction Paths Toward Recovery, a special health report from Harvard Health Publications.

How to quit smoking Manage cigarette cravings

Avoiding smoking triggers will help reduce the urge to smoke, but you can’t avoid cravings entirely. But cigarette cravings don’t last long, so if you’re tempted to light up, remember that the craving will pass and try to wait it out. It also helps to be prepared in advance. Having a plan to cope with cravings will help keep you from giving in.

  • Distract yourself. Do the dishes, turn on the TV, take a shower, or call a friend. The activity doesn’t matter as long as it gets your mind off of smoking.
  • Remind yourself why you quit. Focus on your reasons for quitting, including the health benefits, improved appearance, money you’re saving, and enhanced self esteem.
  • Get out of a tempting situation. Where you are or what you’re doing may be triggering the craving. If so, a change of scenery can make all the difference.
  • Reward yourself. Reinforce your victories. Whenever you triumph over a craving, give yourself a reward to keep yourself motivated.

Coping with Cigarette Cravings in the Moment

Find an oral substitute

Keep other things around to pop in your mouth when cravings hit. Good choices include mints, hard candy, carrot or celery sticks, gum, and sunflower seeds.

Keep your mind busy

Read a book or magazine, listen to some music you love, do a crossword or Sudoku puzzle, or play an online game.

Keep your hands busy

Squeeze balls, pencils, or paper clips are good substitutes to satisfy that need for tactile stimulation.

Brush your teeth

The just brushed, clean feeling can help get rid of cigarette cravings.

Drink water

Slowly drink a large, cold glass of water. Not only will it help the craving pass, but staying hydrated helps minimize the symptoms of nicotine withdrawal.

Light something else

Instead of lighting a cigarette, light a candle or some incense.

Get active

Go for a walk, do some jumping jacks or pushups, try some yoga stretches, or run around the block.

Try to relax

Do something that calms you down, such as taking a warm bath, meditating, reading a book, or practicing deep breathing exercises.

Preventing weight gain after you ve stopped smoking

Weight gain is a common concern when quitting smoking. Some people even use it as a reason not to quit. While it’s true that many smokers put on weight within six months of stopping smoking, the gain is usually small about 5 pounds on average and that initial gain decreases over time. It s also important to remember that carrying a few extra pounds for a few months won t hurt your heart a
s much as smoking will. Of course, gaining weight is NOT inevitable when you quit smoking.

Smoking acts as an appetite suppressant. It also dampens your sense of smell and taste. So after you quit, your appetite will likely increase and food will seem more appealing. Weight gain can also happen if you replace the oral gratification of smoking with eating, especially if you turn to unhealthy comfort foods. So it’s important to find other, healthy ways to deal with stress and other unpleasant feelings rather than mindless, emotional eating.

  • Nurture yourself. Instead of turning to cigarettes or food when you feel stressed, anxious, or depressed, learn new ways to soothe yourself.
  • Eat healthy, varied meals. Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables and limit your fat intake. Seek out low fat options that look appetizing to you and you will actually eat. Avoid alcohol, sugary sodas, and other high calorie drinks.
  • Drink lots of water. Drinking lots of water at least six to eight 8 oz. glasses will help you feel full and keep you from eating when you’re not hungry. Water will also help flush toxins from your body.
  • Take a walk. Walking is a great form of exercise. Not only will it help you burn calories and keep the weight off, but it will also help alleviate feelings of stress and frustration that accompany smoking withdrawal.
  • Snack on low calorie or calorie free foods. Good choices include sugar free gum, carrot and celery sticks, sliced bell peppers or jicama, or sugar free hard candies.

Medication and therapy to help you quit smoking

There are many different methods that have successfully helped people to quit smoking, including

  • Quitting smoking cold turkey.
  • Systematically decreasing the number of cigarettes you smoke.
  • Reducing your intake of nicotine gradually over time.
  • Using nicotine replacement therapy or non nicotine medications to reduce withdrawal symptoms.
  • Utilizing nicotine support groups.
  • Trying hypnosis, acupuncture, or counseling using cognitive behavioral techniques.

You may be successful with the first method you try. More likely, you ll have to try a number of different methods or a combination of treatments to find the ones that work best for you.

Medications to help you stop smoking

Smoking cessation medications can ease withdrawal symptoms and reduce cravings, and are most effective when used as part of a comprehensive stop smoking program monitored by your physician. Talk to your doctor about your options and whether an anti smoking medication is right for you. U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved options are

Nicotine replacement therapy. Nicotine replacement therapy involves “replacing” cigarettes with other nicotine substitutes, such as nicotine gum or a nicotine patch. It works by delivering small and steady doses of nicotine into the body to relieve some of the withdrawal symptoms without the tars and poisonous gases found in cigarettes. This type of treatment helps smokers focus on breaking their psychological addiction and makes it easier to concentrate on learning new behaviors and coping skills.

Non nicotine medication. These medications help you stop smoking by reducing cravings and withdrawal symptoms without the use of nicotine. Medications such as bupropion (Zyban) and varenicline (Chantix) are intended for short term use only.

Alternative therapies to help you stop smoking

There are several things you can do to stop smoking that don t involve nicotine replacement therapy or prescription medications Ask your doctor for a referral or see Resources and References below for help finding qualified professionals in each area.

  • Hypnosis A popular option that has produced good results. Forget anything you may have seen from stage hypnotists, hypnosis works by getting you into a deeply relaxed state where you are open to suggestions that strengthen your resolve to quit smoking and increase your negative feelings toward cigarettes.
  • Acupuncture One of the oldest known medical techniques, acupuncture is believed to work by triggering the release of endorphins (natural pain relievers) that allow the body to relax. As a smoking cessation aid, acupuncture can be helpful in managing smoking withdrawal symptoms.
  • Behavioral Therapy Nicotine addiction is related to the habitual behaviors (the “rituals”) involved in smoking. Behavior therapy focuses on learning new coping skills and breaking those habits.
  • Motivational Therapies Self help books and websites can provide a number of ways to motivate yourself to quit smoking. One well known example is calculating the monetary savings. Some people have been able to find the motivation to quit just by calculating how much money they will save. It may be enough to pay for a summer vacation.

How to hide the fact that you smoke from your parents: 10 steps

  • Delete the history of this article off the family computer to prevent further suspicion if seen. If they find this in the history, say you were just “surfing” wikiHow (By hitting the Random Article link) and you just “stumbled” across it. You weren’t reading it!
  • Don’t throw your used cigarette butts on the front porch or lawn. Dispose of all evidence.
  • If you know a friend that has a mom or dad that smoke you can use this as an excuse if you get caught for smelling like cigarettes.
  • If your parents find you smelling of smoke, claim other people were smoking near you when you were at a bus stop or ran into a friend that smokes.
  • Stay calm… they shouldn’t expect a thing if you stay normal.
  • If your parents find your cigarettes have an 18 year old friend to blame it on (they should be in on it so if your parents call them up they know and can say something like “Oh gee I left that pack there thanks so much I will pick them up tomorrow!”)
  • Don’t hide your cigarettes in your sock drawer. As seen in many television sitcoms, your mother will probably stumble upon them while packing away your underwear.
  • Wash your hair regularly. That smoky smell will linger in your hair, especially if your hair is long.
  • If you are a boy then do not wear a shirt, smoke does not stick to skin so easily and you can always shower, whilst your parents will probably come into contact with your dirty laundry.
  • Learn to roll cigarettes. They smell less than manufactured ones because they have fewer additives rolling tobacco and papers will last much longer than a pack of cigarettes and they are much cheaper.
  • It will not be hard to keep this from your parents if you lie often.
  • Wear a glove on the hand you hold the cigarette in.
  • Have a jacket on zip it all the way up and when you are done take it off and flip it inside out. this hides the smell from your shirt very well.
  • If possible, have some extra clothes (shirt or hat) with you since smoke lingers on fabrics after the cologne/perfume has worn off.
  • If you are smoking outside, take off your sweater when smoking, then once you are finished with the cigarette, put your sweater back on. This will cover the smell of cigarettes on your shirt.
  • Do not litter your cigarette butts.
  • Light some incense in your room/house to help hide the scent not only can it provide a potent aroma, but also can have a similar burning smell.
  • There are a handful of brands of aerosol based deodorizers that are specifically used for relinquishing the scent of cigarette/pot smoke.
  • The inside pockets of Jackets and Coats are great places to hide cigarettes and lighters.
  • Make U shaped paper grips for cigarettes. They will cut down the contact your hand makes with the cigarette so your hands will smell less.
  • Put your clothes in a dryer for a few minutes with fabric sheets.
  • If you smoke menthol cigarettes, chewing mint/menthol gum, or using other mint/menthol products, may reduce suspicion.
  • If you are caught with cigarettes in your pocket you could say that you swapped coats with a friend that smokes and they forgot to take them out.
  • If you quit smoking or don’t start, you won’t have anything to hide.
  • In your room, hide your cigarettes where they can’t be seen such as under furniture or in a drawer.