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How to quit smoking

Man breaking a cigarette in half to show quit smoking

It’s never too late to quit smoking, no matter how long you’ve been doing it for. In fact, you may be surprised to hear that your body will start to recover within the first day of being smoke-free!

Why do you smoke?

As a smoker, your body is addicted to the nicotine in cigarettes, which you get hooked on. You may also smoke as part of a routine, so it becomes an automatic response when taking a break from work, eating a meal or spending time with friends.

Preparation for quitting

Before you quit it can be helpful to work out what the challenges you face will be:

  • Think about when you smoke – are you a heavy, chain-smoker? Or do you tend to have the odd one in a lunch break?
  • Consider keeping a smoking diary in the week before you quit. Jot down:
    • When you smoke
    • How many cigarettes you smoke
    • How bad your cravings are
  • If you’ve tried to quit in the past think about what made you relapse

Once you’ve worked this out then write down some ideas to help you break your routine. For example, if you smoke after a meal, can you replace this by doing something else?

People who combine specialist support and medication when they quit are a staggering 225% more successful (Cancer Research UK). You can find out more about signing up to get some help on the NHS’s Smokefree website.

The Smokefree site also gives lots of information about what to expect when you quit and the physical benefits you’ll start to notice.

Set a date to quit smoking

Pick a day when you are less likely to be stressed or – if you tend to smoke socially – when you’re less likely to go out somewhere such as the pub.

The day before, remove everything to do with smoking (including half-finished packs and lighters) and resist the temptation to keep a spare pack ‘for an emergency.

Tell friends and family that you’re quitting so they can support you.

Keeping motivated

Resisting cravings is hard, but over time you’ll find this gets easier. There are a wide range of tricks you can use to help, including:

  • Think of your reason to quit. If it’s a person you care about, keep a photo to look at when you are tempted. If it’s something else, write this down on a bit of paper and keep it on you at all times
  • Find something to do with your hands:
    • If you’re drinking, hold your glass in the hand you smoke with
    • Fiddle with a pencil, stress ball or elastic band
    • Cut a straw into cigarette-sized pieces and inhale through it
  • Distract yourself:
    • Play a game on your phone
    • Talk to someone
    • Listen to music
    • Go for a walk
  • Chew some gum
  • Consider nicotine replacement therapy – such as patches, gum or vaping – as this has been shown to double your chances of quitting. You can chat to your GP, pharmacy or NHS Stop Smoking Service to help decide which is right for you.

If your friends smoke, find out if they can avoid smoking around you for a week or two. If anyone offers you a cigarette, just say “no, I don’t smoke”. (If you’re worried about this, try reading our assertiveness blog.)

It’s also good to give yourself little rewards for hitting certain milestones, such as cooking your favourite meal. After two days you’ll find that your ability to taste and smell will improve, so food will taste amazing!

You can also work out exactly how much money you spend each week on smoking (you can find a handy calculator on the NHS website) and put that amount towards a treat.

It’s important not to replace smoking with comfort eating, and to ensure you look after your health while you quit. You can find simple tips in our Staying Work Fit brochure, physical health blog and physical wellbeing section.

If you have a smoke

Don’t worry if you slip up and have a smoke – many people have to try a number of times before they quit. Use the experience to learn from:

  • If you bought a pack throw the rest of it away
  • Remind yourself that you did manage to quit for a while and that beating an addiction will be hard
  • Work out what made you smoke again and what you could do to cope with this in future

We are here

If you are finding it hard to cope, Ben is here. We support the people who work in the UK’s automotive industry, and their families, for life.

You can call our free, confidential helpline on 08081 311 333 or use our online chat. These are open Monday to Friday, 8am to 8pm.

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