Giving up smoking

If you smoke, giving up is the healthiest decision you can make. Smoking can be a difficult habit to break, but there is support available.

Smoking and cancer

Quitting smoking has important benefits, if:

It is the healthiest decision you can make and many of the benefits happen straight away. 

It is not always easy to quit, and it may take you a few tries. There are lots of tools and resources to make stopping easier. 

The first steps are:

  • asking your cancer doctor, nurse or GP for advice 
  • contacting your local stop smoking service. 

You are 4 times more likely to quit if you have specialist support from a stop smoking service and: 

  • use products such as nicotine replacement therapies
  • use medicines to manage cravings.

What are the benefits of stopping smoking?

There is evidence about the benefits of stopping smoking when you are diagnosed with cancer. They include recovering more quickly  and having fewer or less serious treatment side effects.

Even if you have recovered from cancer, stopping smoking increases your chances of living a longer and healthier life.

Your general health will get better because quitting smoking:

  • improves your blood circulation
  • lowers your blood pressure
  • boosts your immune system
  • helps improve your breathing, or stops it from getting worse.

Your risk of the other health conditions reduces when you stop smoking. These include:

Stopping smoking also helps the health of your friends and family, or those around you. This is because you are preventing children, anyone who is pregnant and other adults from being harmed through second-hand smoke (passive smoking).

Your doctor and nurse can tell you about the support that is available. Your GP can also give you support and refer you to an NHS stop smoking service. You can also do this yourself (see below).

How smoking affects cancer treatment

If you are having cancer treatment, stopping smoking may help the treatment work better. It can help your body respond to the treatment and heal more quickly. It may also lower the risk of certain cancers coming back after treatment.

After treatment

Stopping smoking helps to reduce the risk of developing some late effects of cancer treatment. These include:

  • effects on the heart and lungs
  • effects on the bones, especially bone thinning (osteoporosis).

View our series of videos about prehabilitation. These include advice about stopping smoking in preparation for treatment.

How to stop smoking

There is lots of advice, support and treatment to help you to stop smoking.

Getting ready to quit

Quitting smoking is much easier when you have support from others. Talk to your cancer doctor or nurse, GP or pharmacist. Your family and friends can also encourage and support you.

Using an NHS stop smoking service gives you a much higher chance of success than trying to stop on your own.

Stop smoking services

Specially trained stop smoking advisers give you advice, support and encouragement. You have regular one-to-one meetings with your adviser. Many areas also offer group support and drop-in and telephone services.

There are stop smoking services across the UK:

They will give you information and support on:

  • making a plan to stop smoking
  • setting a quitting date
  • using stop smoking aids, including nicotine replacement therapy and prescription medicines
  • coping with withdrawal
  • how to make sure you do not start smoking again.

About our information

  • References

    Below is a sample of the sources used in our giving up smoking information. If you would like more information about the sources we use, please contact us at

    National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE). Tobacco: preventing uptake, promoting quitting and treating dependence [NG209]. 2021. Available from (accessed January 2022).

    Devon Alton, Lawson Eng, Lin Lu et al. Perceptions of Continued Smoking and Smoking Cessation Among Patients With Cancer. Journal of Oncology Practice, 2018, volume 14, issue 5 (accessed December 2021).

  • Reviewers

    This information has been written, revised and edited by Macmillan Cancer Support’s Cancer Information Development team. It has been reviewed by expert medical and health professionals and people living with cancer. It has been approved by Senior Medical Editor, Dr David Gilligan, Consultant Clinical Oncologist.

    Our cancer information has been awarded the PIF TICK. Created by the Patient Information Forum, this quality mark shows we meet PIF’s 10 criteria for trustworthy health information.

Date reviewed

Reviewed: 01 May 2022
Next review: 01 May 2025
Trusted Information Creator - Patient Information Forum
Trusted Information Creator - Patient Information Forum

Our cancer information meets the PIF TICK quality mark.

This means it is easy to use, up-to-date and based on the latest evidence. Learn more about how we produce our information.