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7 Ways to Quit Smoking

Rena Goldman

A gray cement wall with a white sign that says "no smoking please" under an illustration of a lit cigarette.

Jul 13, 2022

In This Article

If you’re a smoker, one of the best things you can do to improve your health is to quit. According to a report from the U.S. surgeon general, smoking is still the top cause of preventable disease, death, and disability (1). It accounts for about 1 in 5 deaths in the United States (2).

But it’s never too late to quit. No matter how long you’ve been a smoker, you can still gain a variety of health benefits once you stop.

Saying no to nicotine isn’t easy, but quitting can happen with determination and the use of different smoking cessation methods.

There are lots of ways to quit smoking. The best ways are the ones that work for you. It may take several tries, and you may have to combine a few methods to quit for good, but it’s possible to kick the habit.

Here are seven ways to quit smoking.

Make the first attempt to quit

Every quitting journey begins with that first try. You can start by deciding to make a change and commit to acting on it.

Scott Sherman, MD, MPH, professor of population health, medicine, and psychiatry at the New York University Grossman School of Medicine and a medical advisor to Oar Health, says he recommends picking a quit date that’s two to four weeks away.

Picking a date can help you prepare in advance, but Sherman says not to push your quit date out more than four weeks.

Think about why you want to quit. It can help to make a list of what you like and what you don’t like about smoking. Sherman says trying to come up with more reasons to quit can make you more likely to succeed.

He also suggests writing the main reasons you’re quitting on a piece of paper and displaying it somewhere you’ll see each day, like on the bathroom mirror.

Remember, your first attempt—even if it’s one of many—is the gateway to success.

Learn from the past

You’re far from alone if you’ve tried to quit multiple times. It often takes several attempts before quitting sticks.

“The average person who quits has typically tried to stop a half dozen times before,” says Sherman. “It really does take practice.”

Each time you try, you’ll learn a little more about yourself and what worked and what didn’t. This is an opportunity to try something different and ultimately find the quitting strategy that works for you.

For example, if you tried to quit cold turkey the last time and had really intense cravings and withdrawal symptoms, you might consider using nicotine replacement therapy or medication to help take the edge off.

Try medication

Medication, including nicotine replacement therapy, can reduce withdrawal symptoms and the urge to smoke. If you’ve tried quitting cold turkey and feel like you need extra help, medication could be a good option.

Some research suggests that using medications can increase the success rate of a quit attempt (3).

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has currently approved two medications to help with quitting smoking: bupropion and varenicline. Both are taken as pills.

Bupropion is an antidepressant that has shown effectiveness for smoking cessation in clinical trials (4).

Varenicline works by reducing the enjoyment your brain gets from nicotine.

Both medications can reduce cravings and nicotine withdrawal symptoms. An Oar Health membership includes discounted access to doctors who can prescribe medication.

With nicotine replacement therapy, you deliver smaller doses of nicotine to your body, usually with a patch, gum, or lozenge, to reduce the discomfort of withdrawal symptoms. These are available over the counter. You can use them to gradually cut back on smoking.

Seek counseling

Smoking can be a way of coping with stress.  This may make it difficult to quit without a replacement for that stress relief. Talking with a counselor or therapist may help you understand your behaviors around smoking and how to establish a new routine without it.  

Research suggests that both basic health education and cognitive behavioral therapy can help smokers quit (5). Cognitive behavioral therapy is a type of talk therapy that helps you identify behavior patterns and build healthy coping strategies.

Sign up for text message support

Your cell phone can also help you quit smoking. There are several services, including a National Texting Portal from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), that send text messages designed to provide daily support and encouragement.

You can dial 1-800-QUIT-NOW to reach a portal and get to a quit line for your state.

Researchers have found evidence to support the use of text messaging as a method of helping people quit smoking (6).

Sherman also recommends making use of texting services. “Text messaging doubles your chance of quitting,” he says.

Get help from friends and family

Telling someone about a goal can help you stick to it. Reach out to family and friends and tell them your plan to quit smoking and what they can do to support you.

They might be able to distract you during a cigarette craving, check in to see how you’re doing, or join you in a replacement activity to help with stress relief.

If your friends or family smoke, you may want to ask them to avoid doing so around you.

Keep trying

A 2016 study suggests that the amount of tries it takes to quit smoking for good could be 30 attempts or more (7). This is even higher than previous estimates by the American Cancer Society (8 to 10 attempts) and the CDC (8 to 11 attempts).

But these numbers don’t mean people won’t successfully quit.  It just might take some time for it to stick. The longer you’re able to stay smoke-free, the higher your chances are of quitting for good.

Takeaway  

There are several ways to quit smoking. It starts with your first attempt. The next time you try, you’ll likely learn from the experience, which might lead to using tools, like medication, counseling, and text message support.

For most people, it takes many tries to find a strategy that sticks. Remember that quitting takes time, so try not to be discouraged if it takes multiple attempts. As long as you’re trying, you’re that much closer to quitting.

About The Author

Rena Goldman is a freelance journalist and editor based in Los Angeles. She has over a decade of experience and enjoys writing and learning about health, wellness, mental health, and how politics and policies impact our daily lives. Her articles have been featured in national publications and lifestyle brands.

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