How do I stop smoking?

  • There are a range of options available to help you stop smoking. Getting support at your free local stop smoking service gives you the best chance of success.
  • The best way to reduce your risk of cancer and improve your health is to stop smoking completely.
  • The number of people who have stopped smoking is increasing – you can do it too.

What can help with giving up smoking?

Stopping smoking is the best thing you can do for your health, and there are a range of tools and services to help you succeed.

To give you the best chance of success, get support from your free local stop smoking services.

You can also use stop smoking tools such as:

  • Prescription medicines
  • Nicotine replacement therapy (NRT)
  • E-cigarettes

How you choose to stop is up to you, so find the method that works for you. Giving up smoking for good might take a few attempts or involve trying different methods. We know it can be hard to stop smoking, but keep trying.

 

 

 

 

Nicotine is the chemical that makes smoking so addictive. These stop smoking tools are designed to help you control cravings for nicotine.  Your stop smoking advisor, doctor or pharmacist can give you advice on which tool or combination of tools could work for you.

Whichever tool you’re using, make sure you follow their advice and the manufacturer’s instructions. All the tools are most effective when you use them with advice and support from a stop smoking service. 

 

Stop smoking medicines

  • Stop smoking medicines can reduce your cravings and help with nicotine withdrawal symptoms.
  • You need a prescription for these medicines.
  • Ask your doctor about the options for stop smoking medicines. 

Nicotine replacement therapy (NRT)

  • NRT gives you nicotine to satisfy your cravings without the harmful chemicals in tobacco smoke.
  • There are lots of different types including nasal sprays, gums and patches.
  • NRT is available on prescription from a doctor or free local stop smoking service, or to buy over the counter at a pharmacy or supermarket.

Vapes/e-cigarettes

  • E-cigarettes (‘vapes’) are electronic devices that deliver nicotine in a vapour that you inhale.
  • They can satisfy your cravings but don’t contain tobacco, so they’re far less harmful than smoking.
  • You can buy them from specialist vape shops, some pharmacies, supermarkets and convenience stores.

 

What’s the best way to stop smoking?

The best way to stop smoking is using a combination of stop smoking treatment and specialist help from free local stop smoking services.  You're more likely to give up smoking for good with their advice and support. Stop smoking services are free to use and offer a range of help including: 

  • Free 1 to 1 or group support sessions where a trained advisor can support you to stop smoking.
  • Providing stop smoking treatment to help control cravings.
  • Advice on switching to e-cigarettes.

Find your free local stop smoking service

Stop smoking services may be delivered in person or online. You can contact your free local service for details.

If you don't want to use a stop smoking service or you’re not able to, you can also get help with stopping smoking from:

 

What happens when I stop smoking?

Nicotine withdrawal symptoms

There are lifelong benefits to stopping smoking, but it can be difficult at first. The nicotine in tobacco is addictive, so going without it can cause uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms such as:

  • Feeling depressed, anxious, irritable, restless or hungry
  • Poor concentration
  • Poor sleep at night
  • Urges to smoke
  • Feeling sick
  • Feeling unwell
  • Headaches

Everyone’s different, so there is no guaranteed timeline for smoking withdrawal symptoms. Symptoms usually peak during the first few days after your last cigarette and then get easier over 2 to 4 weeks. If you normally have a cough caused by smoking, you might notice this gets worse for a while when you stop, while your body gets used to not smoking any more. Stop smoking tools can ease withdrawal symptoms and specialist support can help you to cope with them until they pass.  

 

Will I gain weight if I stop smoking?

Some people who smoke may gain weight after stopping. A review of studies found that people who stopped smoking had gained around 4kg a year after stopping. But not everyone gains weight when they stop smoking, and the evidence does not show increased weight in the long term for people who stop smoking.

It's understandable that some people may be concerned about gaining weight. But, if you smoke, stopping is the best thing you can do for your health. You can talk to your doctor or nurse if you have any questions about your weight, and we have top tips for keeping a healthy weight on our website.

 

What are the benefits of stopping smoking?

It’s never too late to stop smoking. There are many benefits to stopping smoking, from improving your physical and mental health to saving money:

  • Cut your cancer risk. Stopping smoking reduces your risk of lung cancer and at least 14 other types of cancer.
  • Lower your risk of lung and heart conditions including heart attack, stroke and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
  • Feel healthier. Stopping smoking could help you feel better in your daily life. Many people report breathing more easily after giving up and that they have more energy.
  • Improve your mental wellbeingPotential positive feelings from smoking a cigarette only last for a short time. Stopping smoking can lower depression, anxiety, and stress in the long term.
  • Protect your friends and family. There is no safe level of second-hand smoke, and passive smoking is particularly dangerous for children and those who are pregnant.
  • Healthier appearance. Smoking can damage the skin and make it look grey, but stopping can help reverse this. Giving up smoking also stops your teeth becoming stained.
  • Save money. Smoking can cost thousands of pounds a year. What else could you use that money for?

 

Top tips for stopping smoking for good

We know that stopping smoking can be hard. Smoking can be part of a well-established routine, which can be difficult to break.

But thousands of people stop smoking every year in the UK, and you can do it too! Here are our top tips to get you started.

  1. Decide when to do it. Making a plan increases your chances of doing something. Decide on a date when you will stop smoking and stick to it.
  2. Be prepared. Think about what could get in the way of you stopping smoking. For situations that you might find difficult, plan what actions you’ll take to help yourself. For example if you are socialising with friends who smoke.
  3. Ask for help. Although it is hard, you don’t need to go it alone. Talk to your free local stop smoking service or your doctor. They can give you help and advice.
  4. Tell people you’re stopping.  Friends and family can then support and encourage you and celebrate your smokefree milestones.
  5. Keep trying. It takes most people a few tries before they manage to stop smoking for good. If you don’t succeed at first, think about what worked and what didn’t, and what you could do differently next time. Your stop smoking service, doctor or pharmacy can help you find a method that works for you.
  6. Focus on your motivation. Remember why you decided to stop smoking and what the personal benefits are for you – try leaving sticky notes for yourself or set reminders on your phone.
  7. Change your routine. If you’re used to smoking at certain times, try doing things differently to break the link between a certain time or activity and you smoking. For example, if you normally smoke after a meal, try going for a walk or doing something you enjoy instead.
  8. Keep your mind and hands busy. Even with stop smoking tools, you’ll probably still feel the urge to smoke sometimes. Try doing something else to distract you, like exercising, watching TV or reading. It may help to hold something in the hand that normally holds your cigarette.

 

Start your stop smoking journey today

 

There are lots of different types of NRT, and they can all increase your chances of stopping smoking. Your stop smoking service, pharmacist or doctor can help you choose your NRT and advise you on how to use it and for how long.

  • Nicotine patches give you a steady supply of nicotine to help reduce cravings and withdrawal symptoms throughout the day.
  • Products like nicotine gum, lozenges and spray give you a quicker, shorter dose of nicotine.

Everyone’s different, so find the NRT product that works for you. You can combine more than one product, which is particularly effective. For example, you might use long-acting patches with a shorter-acting type to ‘top up’ your nicotine when you need it. Whichever type or combination you use, make sure you’re using enough to help with your withdrawal symptoms and cravings. Nicotine doesn’t cause cancer, so NRT is safe to use for as long as you need it.   

Research shows using e-cigarettes (vaping) can help people to stop smoking.

This is because they allow you to breathe in nicotine in a vapour, relieving cravings. Vaping can also feel similar to smoking, like holding a cigarette and breathing in.

Although more research is needed into their long-term effects, studies so far have found that legal e-cigarettes are far less harmful than smoking. This is because they do not contain tobacco, which is responsible for the harmful effects of smoking cigarettes.

E-cigarettes should only be used to help you stop smoking, or to stop you going back to tobacco. If you have never smoked, you shouldn’t use e-cigarettes.

Find out more about vaping.

If you want to use an e-cigarette to stop smoking, your stop smoking service, pharmacist or doctor can advise you. Here are some tips that can help you to use an e-cigarette to stop smoking:

  • Don't get caught out - remember to charge your e-cigarette and bring refills when you leave the house.
  • Use the right nicotine strength for you - if you find your e-cigarette is not relieving your cravings, you may not be using a high enough concentration of nicotine in your e-liquid.
  • Experiment - there are lots of different types of devices and flavours of e-liquid. Find what works for you.

There are prescription medicines, such as varenicline and bupropion, that can help you stop smoking by reducing cravings and helping with withdrawal symptoms. Ask your doctor about the option of stop smoking medicines. 

International Agency for Reseach on Cancer. Personal Habit and Indoor Combustion: Tobacco Smoking. Vol  100 E, 377–504 (2012). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK304395/

Kotz, D., Brown, J. & West, R. ‘Real-world’ effectiveness of smoking cessation treatments: a population study. Addiction 109, 491–499 (2014).

National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE). Tobacco: preventing uptake, promoting quitting and treating dependence [NG209]. (2021).

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