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Smoking: How to Quit


How do I know that I am addicted to nicotine?

If you have ever tried to quit smoking but can't, have strong cravings to smoke, find it difficult to concentrate or are irritable because you didn't smoke — then you are addicted to nicotine. This is a physical addiction that changes your body chemistry so that you feel this way when you don't smoke. It can be hard to stop, but quitting is one of the best decisions you will ever make. You may have to try many times before you do it. Never say "I can't." Keep trying.

How can I quit?

There are things you can do to help yourself quit smoking:

  • Set a quit date. Set a date when you will stop smoking. Don't buy cigarettes that will carry you past your last day.
  • Throw your cigarettes away. Don't make it easy to start smoking again. If you keep cigarettes in the house you may smoke one, and then another, and another.
  • Get support from family and friends. Ask for their encouragement. Ask them not to offer you cigarettes. Chances are a lot of your friends smoke as well. Ask them for their help. True friends will help you.
  • Spend time with people who don't smoke. Think of yourself as a nonsmoker. Don't go to places where there are a lot of smokers, such as parties or bars. Sit in the nonsmoking section of restaurants.
  • Do things that don't involve smoking or people that are smokers. You may want to attend a new club or activity at school. Consider getting a job where other people that don't smoke also work.
  • Start an exercise program. As you become more fit, you will not want the nicotine effects in your body. Regular exercise will help keep you from gaining weight. It can also help you feel less depressed if you have mild depression.
  • Keep yourself busy. You may find you don't know what to do with your hands. You can read or draw, fix things, make a plastic model, or do a puzzle. You may also be used to having something in your mouth. You could chew gum or eat carrots or celery.
  • Take on new activities. Learn ways to relax and manage stress, such as exercise or going out with family or friends. Join a group or take a class in areas that interest you such as art, music, or another hobby. Volunteer in your community.
  • Join a quit-smoking program. It may be easier for you to quit if you have the support of a group.
  • Think about using nicotine gum or patches. Nicotine is the drug in tobacco that makes it hard to quit. The nicotine gum or patches help you cut your craving for nicotine. You can get nicotine gum or patches at your drug store. You do not need a prescription.
  • Think about asking your doctor for a prescription medicine. There are medicines available, such as Zyban or Chantix, to help you quit.

How will I feel after I quit?

The symptoms of withdrawal from nicotine may be intense, especially during the first 72 hours after your last use of tobacco. When you stop smoking, you may have withdrawal symptoms such as:

  • irritability
  • shakiness
  • trouble concentrating
  • trouble sleeping
  • increased appetite
  • increased craving for nicotine.

The effects of nicotine withdrawal are different for each person. The symptoms gradually get better over the next few weeks or months. Hang in there. Most people no longer feel the effects of withdrawal 6 to 8 weeks after quitting.

When the withdrawal symptoms go away you will start feeling better and better. You will:

  • have more energy
  • breathe easier
  • have fewer health risks (cancer, heart disease)
  • improve your blood flow and your skin.
  • save lots of money
  • no longer be a slave to nicotine.

You can learn to live without cigarettes in your daily life. You can quit and quit for good.


Written by Ann Carter, MD and RelayHealth.
Published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2011-01-30
Last reviewed: 2009-03-04

This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a health care professional.

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