Preparing to stop smoking

Giving up smoking can seem daunting at first. You may feel that the stress of having to deal with a cancer diagnosis makes it even more challenging. However, there are several things you can do to help you prepare to stop. It can be helpful to start by thinking about the benefits of giving up smoking and making a list of your reasons for stopping.

You can prepare by:

  • making a list of your reasons for stopping
  • setting a date to stop and planning your first smoke-free day
  • getting rid of cigarettes, ashtrays and lighters
  • trying to find other ways of dealing with stress

It is important to get support. Friends and family can help as well as your doctor or pharmacist. Using a stop smoking service can improve your chances of success. You can also use medicines to reduce cravings.

You could set yourself goals and reward yourself when you meet them. When you stop smoking, you may find it is a good idea to adapt your daily routine to avoid situations where you might be most tempted to smoke. Keeping a smoking diary might help you understand your smoking habits and what you could do instead of smoking.

Getting support before you stop

Deciding to give up smoking and wanting to succeed are important steps in becoming a non-smoker. Giving up smoking is not easy, but you can help yourself by preparing for possible problems before you stop. It can help to make sure you have support ready, to help you overcome any problems.

Talk to people who can give you help and support to stop smoking. This might be your family, friends, or the people you work with. Tell them the date you plan to stop smoking, so they know when you might need support.

Your doctor or pharmacist can give you practical help and advice. They can refer you to a free, local stop smoking service.

Stop smoking services

Using a stop smoking service can really make a difference to your chances of success. Research shows that people who use them are twice as likely to succeed than people who try to give up smoking on their own.

Stop smoking services have specialist treatment for people who want to give up smoking. They can:

  • give you information about smoking and giving up
  • help you prepare a plan for stopping and give ongoing support
  • prescribe medicines to help improve withdrawal symptoms and reduce cravings
  • arrange weekly meetings where you can meet other people who are trying to give up.

There are stop smoking services across the UK:


The first 3 or 4 days after you have stopped can be the most difficult. You may have withdrawal symptoms from nicotine and this might tempt you to smoke again. There are medicines that can help, but make sure you get them before you plan to give up smoking. It is best to start taking medicines like Varenicline and Bupropion 1 to 2 weeks before you quit.

Your GP or staff at your local stop smoking service can talk to you about these medicines.

Getting ready to stop

Make a list of your reasons for stopping

Your reasons could be health-related, or to do with the money you could save. There are lots of benefits to stopping smoking. You can use this list to motivate yourself whenever you feel tempted to smoke.

Set yourself goals

These could be about getting through the first day, week and month smoke-free. Plan rewards for yourself with each goal that you set.

Set a date to stop completely

The best way to reduce the harmful effects of smoking is to stop completely. Try setting a date to stop and mark it on your calendar. Smoke your normal amount until this date, then stop suddenly. If someone you know also wants to quit, it may help to decide the date together. Some people find it easier to cut down on the amount they smoke before stopping completely.

When your date to stop is getting nearer, it is a good idea to plan your first smoke-free day. Think about what you are going to do instead of smoking during breaks at work or when you feel stressed.

Plan other ways of coping with stress

Many smokers use cigarettes to cope with stress. So the shock of being diagnosed with cancer or coping with treatment can make it harder to quit. It may help to find other ways of coping with stress, such as being physically active or using relaxation techniques. You could try using relaxation CDs, podcasts or mobile phone apps. Some Macmillan information centres or hospitals may offer relaxation sessions for people with cancer.

Some people use complementary therapies, hypnotherapy, visualisation (mental imagery) or mindfulness meditation to cope with stress. It can also help to talk things over with someone you trust, a counsellor or someone in a local support service. If you are finding it difficult to cope with stress, ask your specialist nurse or GP for advice.

Get rid of cigarettes, ashtrays and lighters

Do this the day before you give up. Check the house, car and your clothes for any cigarettes.

Use a smoking diary

Some people find keeping a smoking diary can help them work out their smoking habits. It can help you recognise situations that might make you want a cigarette and what the difficult times of the day are for you. Use the diary to record every cigarette you smoke and what made you want to smoke (what triggers urge you to smoke).

Understanding your habits when you are in those situations may help you think about what you could do instead of smoking.

You might want to print the diary out and keep it somewhere useful, like on the front of your fridge. Or it might be easier to put it in your purse or wallet, so you can use it throughout the day.

I’m doing it for the right reasons. I want to give up and am determined to beat it. Make a goal, make it a challenge.


Being positive helps enormously, but it's ok to have a rubbish day too. It's impossible to stay positive and strong every day. Don't be too hard on yourself.


Back to Giving up smoking

Reasons to quit

Whether you’re living with or after cancer, giving up smoking has important health benefits.

Staying stopped

If you’ve decided to give up smoking, several things can help you stay stopped.

Reducing the cravings

There are several medicines you can use to reduce cravings and help you give up smoking.