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Quick tips to staying smoke free

The first two weeks of quitting can be the toughest, but the cravings for a cigarette will pass. In the meantime, you’ll cope better if you’re equipped with strategies to help you deal with your urges to smoke and with ‘trigger’ situations — like having a drink or a work break — where you’d normally light up.

Read on for some tips on how to keep saying no to nicotine. 

Tip 1 — Coping with cravings

  • Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT). NRT can help you by reducing your nicotine cravings to increase your chances of quitting. It’s less harmful to your lungs than smoking. NRT is available on prescription or over-the-counter at pharmacies as nicotine gum, patches, tablets, lozenges or inhalers.
  • Medication. There are non-nicotine prescription medicines that your doctor may consider to help reduce your urge to smoke. However, as they’re not suitable for everyone, you will need to talk to your doctor to find out more and to discuss whether these medicines are suitable for you.
  • Use the 4 ‘D’s technique.
    • Delay acting on the urge to smoke — the urge will pass in a few minutes
    • Deep breathing — take a long slow breath in and out. Do this three times
    • Drink water — slowly sip a drink of water
    • Do something else — block your thoughts about smoking by doing something else — chew some gum or use a relaxation technique, for example — to take your mind off the urge to smoke.
  • Use positive ‘self-talk’. Tell yourself ‘I can do this’ and remind yourself how much healthier you’ll feel in a few weeks time’.
  • Remind yourself why you want to quit. Think of the benefits of quitting such as how much money you’re saving — this can add up to more than $3,000 a year if you previously had a 20-cigarettes-a-day habit.
  • Phone a friend. Call a friend to distract you from the urge to smoke, or you can also call the Quitline on 13 QUIT for support.

Tip 2 — Anticipate and make a plan to cope with stress

It’s normal to feel stressed and irritable at first. Being prepared with strategies to handle this will help you stay smoke-free — especially if you’re under extra pressure or having a bad day. Decide what works best for you — a relaxation technique, getting some fresh air or doing something calming like listening to music.

Tip 3 — Avoid situations that tempt you to light up

Until it gets easier to control your urges to smoke, it can be best to avoid places — or people — that make it harder for you to resist cigarettes. These may include:

  • Drinking alcohol — having a cigarette with a drink is a common ‘trigger’. Alcohol can also affect your judgment, making it easier to give in to cravings.
  • Social events where people drink and smoke
  • Being around friends who smoke.

If you decide to go to social events where others will smoke or drink, take a friend along to help support you not to smoke. Be prepared to leave early if you’re craving a cigarette.

Tip 4 — Find something to do with your hands

It can help to keep your hands busy — text a friend, knit or use a stress ball.

Tip 5 — Focus on the positive changes in your body in the first days and weeks of quitting

  • After 8 hours — blood oxygen levels return to normal, and your chances of heart attack begin to fall
  • After 24 hours — carbon monoxide leaves the body. This is good news as carbon monoxide is a toxic gas that contributes to hardened arteries and increases heart disease risk. Your lungs also start getting rid of mucus and debris — this might cause you to cough more, but it’s a sign that your lungs are recovering
  • After 48 hours — your body is nicotine-free! Your senses of taste and smell should be improving
  • After 72 hours — your breathing gets easier and your energy levels increase
  • After two to 12 weeks — circulation improves throughout your body and walking and exercise should get easier.

Tip 6 — What about using hypnotherapy or acupuncture to help you quit?

More research needs to be done to know whether these treatments help. They may or may not work, but are unlikely to do any harm.

Tip 7 — Go easy on caffeine

It’s best to reduce your caffeine intake. As your body eliminates nicotine it absorbs more caffeine, so your normal levels of caffeine from coffee, tea, cola and chocolate may contribute to feeling jittery or sleepless.

Tip 8 — Recovering from a slip

If you slip up and have one cigarette, it doesn’t mean you have to go back to smoking and undo all the progress you’ve made so far. Keep trying — your body has started to recover and each day without a cigarette is good news for your health.

If you need some help getting back on track to make sure you don’t go back to smoking, consider the following:

  • You’ve had one – now stop before you have another. Don’t put off quitting again until tomorrow or next week. The sooner you go back to quitting, the easier it will be
  • Get rid of all your cigarettes, lighters or matches
  • Remind yourself why you want to quit
  • Talk to someone for support – a family member, a friend, your local pharmacist, your doctor, or ring the Quitline
  • Focus on all the cigarettes you haven’t smoked since you quit, rather than the one you had just then
  • Learn from the slip-up — figure out what led to you going back to smoking. Now that you know what might be a high-risk situation, how can you avoid it happening again?

Remember, quitting smoking is a process. Keep it one day at a time, and don’t give up just because of a slip.

Tip 9 — What if you relapse?

If you’ve starting smoking again, don’t give up. Most people take a few goes to quit for good. A relapse isn’t a failure. What’s important is finding out what you learned from this attempt to quit — what helped you and what worked against you. This information will give you a better chance of staying smoke-free the next time you try. And once you’re ready, set another date for quitting — and try again!

Further Information



Abbot NC, Stead LF, White AR, Barnes J. Hypnotherapy for smoking cessation. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 1998, Issue 2. Art. No.: CD001008. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD001008

Pharmacy Self Care. Staying a non-smoker. Deakin, ACT: Pharmaceutical Society of Australia. 2009.

Quit SA. Fast facts — Tobacco. [online] Unley, SA: Quit SA. 2009 [accessed 1 Sept 2010] Available from: (PDF 49.2kB)

Quit Tasmania. Supporting someone to quit. [online] New Town, TAS: Quit Tasmania. c2009 [accessed 30 Aug 2010] Available from:

Quit Victoria. Coping with cravings. [online] Carlton South, VIC: Quit Victoria. c2010 [accessed 30 Aug 2010] Available from: http://

Quit Victoria. Patches, gums, hypnosis and more. [online] Carlton South, VIC: Quit Victoria. c2010 [accessed 1 Sept 2010] Available from:

White AR, Rampes H, Campbell J. Acupuncture and related interventions for smoking cessation. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2006, Issue 1. Art. No.: CD000009. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD000009.pub2

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This information has been developed and reviewed for Bupa by health professionals. To the best of their knowledge it is current and based on reputable sources of medical research. It should be used as a guide only and should not be relied upon as a substitute for professional medical or other health professional advice.

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