How do I stop smoking?
- There are lots of options available to help you stop smoking. Treatment and support at your local free stop smoking service give you the best chance of success.
- The best way for people who smoke to reduce their risk of cancer and improve their health is to stop smoking completely.
- The number of people stopping has increased – you can do it too.
Stopping smoking is the best thing you can do for your health. There are lots of tools and services to help you succeed.
Find the method that works for you.
Get help to stop smoking
The best way to stop smoking is using a combination of a stop smoking treatment and specialist help from local stop smoking services. They are free to use.
Thousands of people quit every month using stop smoking services. You're around 3 times more likely to stop smoking for good with their advice and support. They offer a range of help including:
- Free 1 to 1 or group counselling where a trained advisor can support you to break your smoking habits.
- Providing different medicines and treatments to help control cravings.
- Advice on switching to e-cigarettes and how to best use them.
To show you what it might be like to attend a stop smoking service, we filmed Brian's experience.
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, stop smoking services may be delivered online. Please contact your local service for details. You can contact them online or by phone.
If you don't want to use a stop smoking service, you can also get help with stopping smoking from:
- Email support programmes from the NHS.
- The Smoke Free app for smartphones.
- The NHS Smokefree online community.
Stop smoking medicines and treatments
There are three main types of stop smoking treatment:
- Medicines such as bupropion (Zyban) that can reduce cravings are available on prescription from a doctor or stop smoking service.
- 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. It’s available on prescription or you can buy it over the counter at a pharmacy.
- Vapes/E-cigarettes. An e-cigarette (or vape) is an electronic device that delivers nicotine in a vapour that you inhale. Vaping is also far less harmful than smoking. You can buy e-cigarettes at specialist vape shops, as well as some pharmacies, supermarkets and convenience stores.
All these treatments are most effective when you use them with advice and support from a stop smoking service.
Nicotine is the chemical that makes smoking so addictive. These stop smoking medicines are designed to help you control cravings for nicotine.
Can I get medicines to help me stop smoking?
Yes, there are medicines such as bupropion that can help you stop smoking by reducing cravings. You need a prescription for these treatments, which you can get from your stop smoking service or doctor.
What is the best way to use NRT?
NRT can increase your chances of success – as long as you use it properly.
- Combine NRT tools - try a fast-acting nasal spray, gum or inhalator along with slower-release patches.
- Use as much as you want for as long as you need - nicotine itself doesn’t cause cancer and you don’t have to worry about having too much.
- Ask your stop smoking service, doctor or pharmacist for advice - they can recommend which products or combinations of products to use, and how to use enough to wean you off nicotine without falling back into smoking.
Can vaping help me to stop smoking?
Yes, research shows using e-cigarettes 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, evidence so far shows that 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.
What's the best way to use your e-cigarette?
Each person needs to find what works best for them, but here are some tips that can help you use an e-cigarette to stop smoking:
- Use your e-cigarette as often as you need - don’t wait for your cravings to tempt you to reach for a cigarette.
- Don't get caught out - remember to charge your e-cigarette and bring refills when you leave the house.
- Use the right nicotine concentration - if you find your e-cigarette is not relieving your cravings even when using it a lot, 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 out what works for you.
- Get advice - if you want to use an e-cigarette to help stop smoking, your stop smoking service can support with this.
What are the benefits of stopping smoking?
There are countless 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 and at least 14 other types of cancer.
- Reduce your risk of lung and heart conditions including heart attack, stroke, COPD and chronic bronchitis.
- Feel healthier. Stopping could help you feel better in day to day life. Many people report coughing less after giving up and that they have more energy.
- Improve your mental wellbeing. Lots of people think that smoking makes them feel more relaxed or even happier, but the feeling you get after smoking a cigarette is temporary. Stopping smoking can lower depression, anxiety, and stress.
- 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 would you do with the extra cash?
Stopping smoking can be hard, and withdrawal symptoms can be uncomfortable to start with. But keep going. The withdrawal symptoms will pass, and the benefits of stopping smoking will last forever.
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 help is available. More people are stopping smoking every year. Here are our top tips to get you started.
- 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.
- Be prepared. Think about what could get in the way of stopping smoking. For example, what you’ll do if you are with friends who smoke, and plan your actions in advance.
- Find the method that works for you. There are many effective stop smoking treatments out there that might be right for you. You can read about these above.
- Ask for help. Although it is hard, you don’t need to go it alone. Talk to your local stop smoking service or your doctor. They can give you help and advice.
- Don't stop trying. It takes most people a few tries before they manage to stop smoking for good, so don’t be disheartened if you’re not successful at first. If one way doesn’t work for you – try another. Don’t be afraid to go back to your local service or doctor, they’ll still want to help.
There is some evidence that some people who smoke gain weight after stopping. A review of studies found that people who stopped gained around 4kg one year after stopping. But, not everyone gains weight when they stop smoking.
Over longer periods of time people who quit weigh the same as people 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, there are things you can do. These include talking to your doctor and following some of these top tips for keeping a healthy weight.
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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).