How to quit smoking

Breaking the habit of smoking is hard – but trying and trying again is the best thing you can do for your health. Quit Victoria director Dr Sarah White shares some advice.

Written by Dr Sarah White

Make a plan

When it comes to quitting, there are a lot of individual challenges for smokers. We advocate that the best way to do it is to set a quit date and commit yourself to it in your mind. Then you need to prepare for that date by getting rid of all your smoking paraphernalia and working out a plan for how you will avoid the situations that trigger you to smoke.

If you call Quitline you can speak to a trained cessation counsellor, who can help you develop the best plan for yourself. It’s a free call and the service has been shown to be very effective. The counsellors are not there to tell you off – they are there to coach and support you, and help you put some strategies in place.

Understand your triggers

There are two forms of addiction when it comes to cigarettes. One is the addiction to the drug nicotine. The other is more of a psychological addiction, which happens when people rely on having a cigarette as their ‘me time’, and it becomes ingrained in the habits of their day.

So what people need to do is try to understand when and why they are smoking. When you come to a conviction within yourself that you really do need to quit, and you can say, “I know what triggers my cravings for cigarettes. I know when I smoke, and I know why I smoke,” this will really help you develop strategies around quitting.

Cope with cravings

Cravings can feel unbearable, but if you can hold off and just wait five minutes, the craving will go away. Where possible, take yourself out of the situation where you’re wanting to smoke. For example, if you normally have a cigarette with your coffee in the morning, deliberately do something else instead.

When you feel a craving coming on, remember the four Ds:

  • Drink a glass of water
  • Distract yourself from the craving by doing something else, like going for a walk
  • Deep breath
  • Delay acting for five minutes

Nicotine cravings actually go away reasonably quickly. For most people, you’ll be out of your nicotine addiction within about three weeks, though for some people it may take a little longer.

Quitting again

If you’re trying to quit and you fall off the wagon, don’t think of it as a failure. You’ve never failed. Quitting is a process, and every time you quit you learn a little more. Willpower is just like a muscle – the more you exercise it, the stronger it gets.

On average it takes about eight tries before you quit for good. Don’t beat yourself up, and never give up giving up. Every cigarette you don’t have is good for you, so just keep trying.

Your health and your wealth

It’s really important to keep remembering that the leading cause of preventable death in Australia is smoking, and quitting smoking is absolutely the best thing you can do for your health, and also for the people around you.

If the health argument doesn’t sway you, think about how many packets of cigarettes that you smoke a week, and how much you’re spending. Most smokers will save over $7000 a year by quitting. For your health and your wealth there’s really nothing better you can do.

Where to get help quitting

Quitline – Quitline counselling, combined with nicotine replacement therapy is absolutely the most effective method of quitting. Call 13 78 48 to chat with an experienced counsellor.

The Quit Facebook page – Here you’ll find communities of people who can share their stories and tips about what worked for them.

Your friends and family – Build a support network around yourself to keep you focused on quitting. They can be a big help in keeping you motivated.

Your doctor – Your GP can give you advice based on your personal history, and can help you with nicotine replacement products or quitting medications if necessary. If you have a prescription from your doctor, you can also access a rebate on some of these products under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS).

Online programs and apps – For more information, there are a number of helpful online resources available at quit.org.au.

Written by Dr Sarah White

Dr Sarah White is the Director of Quit Victoria. Her previous roles include Director of Communications at the Royal Women’s Hospital and global director of communications at the Ludwig Institute of Cancer Research.

Previous article

Protect your hearing

Next article

How to set goals that matter

Related articles

Subscribe to receive the best from Live Better every week. Healthy recipes, exercise tips and activities, offers and promotions – everything to help you eat, move and feel better.

By clicking sign up I understand and agree to Medibank's privacy policy

Thanks for subscribing. You’re on the road to a better, healthier version of you!