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What to Expect When Quitting

Quitting smoking is a journey, not a single event. Know what to expect along the way.

You Need a Plan

Only 4 to 7 percent of smokers that try to quit "cold turkey" are successful in staying smokefree. The rest of us need a plan. Our Freedom From Smoking program has helped hundreds of thousands of people quit smoking and covers topics including:

  • How to set a quit date
  • Building social support
  • Learning how to relax and control weight
  • Planning how to deal with urges to smoke
  • Using quit smoking medications* such as nicotine gum, patches, nasal spray, inhaler and lozenges and the non-nicotine medications buproprion (Zyban®) and varenicline (Chantix®) to help relieve physical symptoms

* These products should not be used by pregnant or nursing women, people under 18 and people with other medical conditions. As with any medication, talk to your healthcare provider for more information.

It Takes Time

The first seven to 10 days are the toughest, and you may need the most help during these early days. Most smokers who return to smoking do so within the first three months. "Slips" (having a puff, or smoking one or two cigarettes) are pretty common. If you've slipped, remind yourself of all the good reasons to stay quit. A slip does not mean you are a smoker again. As long you keep trying and don't give up, you will be able to quit for good.

Former smokers sometimes get urges to smoke months or even years after they quit. This is normal. These urges will occur less often over time and they'll eventually stop completely.

There Will Be Challenges

Many people run into bumps on their journey to becoming smokefree, such as:

  • Gaining weight
  • Urges to smoke
  • Withdrawal symptoms

If You Start Smoking Again

Forget about blame or guilt. You are still learning how to quit—not failing! Think of those as “practice quits.” Figure out what led to your relapse and plan what you will do differently next time.

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Take Action

See ways you can be prepared to handle obstacles when quitting smoking. You can get more help and ideas from the quit-smoking specialists at our Lung HelpLine by calling 1-800-LUNGUSA (1-800-586-4872).

    Reviewed and approved by the American Lung Association Scientific and Medical Editorial Review Panel. Last reviewed February 25, 2019.

    Page Last Updated: July 12, 2019

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