Quitting smoking is the single best thing you can do for your health and to reduce your risk of cancer.
No matter how long you have smoked, quitting will benefit your health now and in the future. It will also benefit the health of your friends and family and save you money.
Reasons to Quit
- Twelve hours after stopping, almost all nicotine is out of your system with most by-products gone within five days.
- After 24 hours, the level of carbon monoxide in your blood has dropped dramatically, meaning your body can take and use oxygen more efficiently.
- After two days, your senses of taste and smell start to return.
- After two months, blood flow to your hands and feet improves.
- After one year, your risk of heart disease rapidly drops.
- After 10 years, your risk of lung cancer is halved.
Approaches to Quitting
There are different methods for quitting smoking and products you can use to help you cope with cravings for a cigarette. Choose a method that is safe, effective and suits you. Stick with the tried and tested approaches and be wary of methods or products that seem too good to be true.
Nicotine is highly addictive and it might take you multiple attempts to quit for good. Keep trying and get the support you need. Whatever method you choose, always plan and prepare for your quit attempt. This will improve your chances of success.
Quitline 13 7848 (13 QUIT)
Quitline provides access to self-help resources, advice, support, and confidential telephone counselling for smokers who want to quit. Quitline staff can help you to understand why you smoke, assist you in making a plan to quit, and provide you with encouragement and information to help you stick with quitting. You can also ask to use the Quitline call-back counselling service: meaning you can ask staff to make follow-up calls, at convenient times, to see how you are going with quitting. Research has found that using this kind of service can increase the chances of quitting successfully. 1
Click here to order a free Quit Pack.
Cold Turkey vs Cutting Down
The most successful way to quit is to go “cold turkey”, which means stopping cigarettes completely without cutting down.
Gradual approaches are not recommended unless they are part of a well-structured program. 2 If you do choose a gradual approach you can reduce the number of cigarette you smoke each day or the time between cigarettes until you no longer have any cigarettes.
Some people think that switching to low tar cigarettes will reduce their health risks from smoking and make it easier for them to give up. There is no evidence that this is the case. It has been shown that lung cancer risk is similar for people who smoke medium-tar cigarettes, low-tar cigarettes or very low-tar cigarettes. 3
Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT)
Nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) products can assist highly dependent smokers who are motivated to quit. They are designed to reduce nicotine withdrawal symptoms while the person quitting concentrates on breaking the habit. It is important if you choose to use NRT that you read and follow the instructions on how to use these products in order to maximise their effectiveness. There are several different forms of NRT including: patches, gum, inhalators, lozenges and mouth spray. A doctor or pharmacist can help determine the best NRT for you and explain how to use the products. Research shows that nicotine replacement products are most helpful for people who smoke more than 15 cigarettes per day. 4
Speak with your GP if you are interested in using Champix or Zyban. When combined with counselling, these prescription medications have been shown to increase chances of quitting. These medications can help reduce withdrawal symptoms, but may not stop them completely.
Some people try acupuncture, hypnotherapy, herbal and other alternative therapies. However, there is insufficient evidence these methods help you quit. 5
Talking to your Local Health Professionals
Doctors, pharmacists, nurses, and other health professionals can be a good source of advice and information to help smokers to quit. Your GP or pharmacist is best-placed to advise on whether NRT or other drug therapies are suitable for you. You can also call Quitline 13 7848 (available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week).
Coping with Recovery Symptoms
The first few days of quitting can be the hardest, but after a week or two most of these symptoms will disappear.
To help you cope with cravings try the 4Ds:
- Delay acting on the urge to smoke for at least five minutes.
- Deep breathe in and out slowly and deeply.
- Do something else to help keep your hands and mind busy.
- Drink water and sip slowly.
Quit Smoking Courses
If you have tried to quit a number of times before without success, you may find it useful to attend a course. Courses offer extra support for those who need help in getting ready to quit and staying stopped.
Research on properly evaluated courses show that: 6
- around 70% of people who complete the course will be non-smokers at the end of the course;
- at least 15% of people who complete the course will still be non-smokers after 12 months.
Effective, quality courses generally:
- provide details of the course when asked, such as number and length of sessions, or type of information provided and costs;
- have trained experienced staff conducting the courses.
Be very wary of courses that:
- make exaggerated claims of likely rate of success;
- charge costs that appear high given the length of the program, skills of the staff and resources provided;
- do not offer or provide follow-up advice or support after the course ends.
Click here to view the range of quit smoking courses Cancer Council ACT provides.
Free Quit Now apps
1. Stead LF, Lancaster T, Perera R. Telephone counselling for smoking cessation (Cochrane Review). In: The Cochrane Library, Issue 2; 2003. Oxford: Update Software.
2. Cheong Y, Yong H, Borland R, Does how you quit affect success? A Comparison between abrupt and gradual methods using data from the International Tobacco Control Policy Evaluation Study (Unpublished – under review for journal Nicotine and Tobacco Research).
3. Harris JE, Thun MJ, Mondul AM, Calle EE. Cigarette tar yields in relation to mortality from lung cancer in the cancer prevention study II prospective cohort, 1982-8. BMJ. 2004;328:72-5.
4. Silagy C, Lancaster T, Stead L, Mant D, Fowler G. Nicotine replacement therapy for smoking cessation (Cochrane Review). In: The Cochrane Library, Issue 3; 2001. Oxford: Update Software.
5. Miller M, Wood L. Smoking Cessation Interventions: Review of Evidence and Implications for Best Practice in Health Care Settings. National Tobacco Strategy 1999 to 2002-03. Canberra: Commonwealth Department of Health and Ageing; 2001.
6. Mullins R, Borland R, Gibbs A. Evaluation of the Fresh Start workplace and community courses in 1990 and 1991. Quit Evaluation Studies 7. Victoria: Anti-Cancer Council of Victoria; 1995.