How do I stop smoking?

  • The best way for people who smoke to reduce their risk of cancer and improve their overall health, is to stop smoking completely
  • You’re most likely to kick the habit by using prescription medication and support at your free, local Stop Smoking Service, but how you chose to quit is up to you
  • The number of people successfully stopping has increased – you can do it too

Stopping smoking can be hard, but free services and treatments are available to help. To show you what it might be like, we filmed Brian‘s experience with his local Stop Smoking Service.

Trying to stop smoking – Brian’s story


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What support can I get to give up smoking?

Free Stop Smoking Services have been shown to roughly triple the likelihood of success compared to going “cold turkey” alone. They help thousands of people stop smoking every year.

Talk to your doctor or pharmacist, visit the NHS Smokefree website or call the Helpline to find what will work for you.

There is a range of free services to help you keep on track, including:

  • Prescription medication to help control cravings – this could be nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) or non-nicotine stop smoking medications, varenicline (Champix) or bupropion (Zyban), find out more here

If you do decide to try by yourself, NRT, such as gum and nasal sprays, can be bought without a prescription. NRT can increase your chances of success – as long as you use it properly.

  • Talk to your GP or local pharmacist for advice on how to use enough to wean yourself off nicotine, without falling back into smoking
  • Combining a slow release product (the patch) with a fast release one (such as the inhalator, gum, microtab or nasal spray) can be most effective
  • Get support from friends and family by talking about the challenges you face whilst stopping

You can read more about quit aids on the NHS website here.

Can e-cigarettes help me to stop smoking?

Growing evidence shows e-cigarettes may help people move away from smoking tobacco.

E-cigarettes produce vapour from nicotine dissolved in liquid, propylene glycol or glycerine, but do not contain tobacco.

Initial indications suggest success rates are higher when used alongside support from Stop Smoking Services. Many of these are e-cigarette friendly. Recent research suggests that e-cigarettes may even be more effective than NRT when combined with behavioural support. But further research is needed on how best to to use them and how they compare to other methods of quitting.

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

But the main reason is because tobacco contains addictive nicotine. Nicotine is just as addictive as other ‘harder’ drugs and causes addiction in a similar way to heroin or cocaine.

Nicotine itself, for example in nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) or e-cigarettes doesn’t cause cancer and you don’t have to worry about having too much to deal with your cravings.

Cigarettes give you a fast nicotine hit. It takes less than 20 seconds for the drug to reach your brain from inhaled cigarette smoke. NRT can deliver nicotine, but not as much, as quickly.

Using other sources of nicotine to wean yourself off tobacco is far safer than continuing to smoke. It can be challenging to control cravings, so it’s important to use them enough. The most important thing is to stop smoking.

Not everyone gains weight when they stop smoking. A review of studies found that on average people who stopped gained around 4kg one year after stopping.

But studies looking at weight changes over longer periods of time have suggested that people who stopped smoking may weigh the same as those that never smoked.

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.

It’s not clear why some people gain weight when they stop smoking. But, if you're really worried about gaining weight when you stop smoking, there are things you can do. These include talking to your doctor and keeping in mind some of these top tips for keeping a healthy weight, like doing regular physical activity.

You can also find our more on the NHS website

International Agency for Reseach on Cancer. Personal Habit and Indoor Combustion: Tobacco Smoking. Vol  100 E, 377–504 (2012).

International Agency for Research on Cancer. Tobacco smoke and involuntary smoking. Vol 83, 1–1413 (2004).

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). Stop smoking interventions and services [NG92]. (2018).

Tobacco Advisory Group of The Royal College of Physicians. Nicotine without Smoke. (2016).

Aubin, HJ. et al. Weight gain in smokers after quitting cigarettes: meta-analysis. BMJ. 345:e4439 (2012).

Koster-Rasmussen, R. et al. Back on track-Smoking cessation and weight changes over 9 years in a community-based cohort study. Preventive Medicine. 81, 320-325 (2015).

Action on Smoking and Health Scotland. Cigarette smoking and body mass index (BMI) (2012).

Tian, J. et al. The association between quitting smoking and weight gain: a systematic review and meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies. Obesity Reviews. 16, 883-901 (2015).

Farley, AC. et al. Interventions for preventing weight gain after smoking cessation. The Cochrane database of systematic reviews. (2012)

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Want to stop smoking for good?

Talk to your doctor or pharmacist

Or get in touch:

Find your local Stop Smoking Service

Stopping smoking can also protect those around you. Find out more about passive smoking.


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