Stopping smoking

Stopping smoking can be very difficult. You might have certain habits that you associate with smoking, such as drinking tea, coffee or alcohol. It might be good to try and change some of these habits before you give up smoking, so it is less hard when you do stop.

There are some practical things that you can do to help make the first few weeks of giving up easier. These include:

  • Saving the money you would have spent on smoking – keeping a record of how much you are saving can help you see your progress.
  • Eating healthy snacks – having healthier snacks to hand might help if you are worried about gaining weight.
  • Keeping busy – starting a new hobby can help to distract you and take your mind off smoking.

You might struggle with withdrawal symptoms, especially during the first week. These can include difficulty sleeping, headaches, and a temporary cough. You might also experience symptoms such as anxiety, irritability, and restlessness. You can find more information and support to help with withdrawal symptoms by contacting your local stop smoking service.

Help with stopping smoking

It may help to change your routine. If possible, stay away from places or situations that you associate with smoking. If you always want to smoke when you have a coffee, try drinking tea. Or you could try to change the habit before you stop smoking. For example, you could drink coffee but without the cigarette, so that you no longer link the two together.

It’s a good idea to avoid alcohol to begin with. People often find they have less self-control after they have drunk alcohol.

This can also be a good time to use the smoking diary. It can help you identify when you feel like smoking and what you can do instead.

Put aside the money you would have spent on smoking

Keep a record of how much you save each week, so you can see it adding up. You could use the money to treat yourself, your family or your friends instead.

Eat healthy snacks

On the day you give up, eat whatever you like. You will be using your mental strength to not smoke, and it is better to focus on one issue at a time.

Once you have stopped, you may be tempted to snack more. If you are worried about putting on weight, keep healthy, non-fattening snacks to hand. These could include fruit, raw vegetables or savoury crackers. Some people find sugar-free chewing gum helps too. If you can, try to be more physically active. Even short walks for 20 minutes each day can help.

Keep busy

A stress ball may help if you need to do something with your hands. Or you could think about starting a hobby, like knitting, gardening or playing computer games. This can help keep your hands busy and take your mind off cigarettes.

Coping with withdrawal symptoms

Withdrawal symptoms are usually the worst during the first week of stopping smoking. Here we talk about some common withdrawal symptoms and suggest tips to help you cope. These are just some ideas to help you through the first week, but your local stop smoking service can give you more information and support.

If your doctor has prescribed medicines to help you give up, use these as prescribed. Let your doctor know if you have any problems with them.

A sense of panic after smoking your last cigarette

  • Remind yourself to focus on getting through one minute, one hour and then one day at a time.
  • Try not to think about a life without smoking and instead focus on the benefits of giving up.
  • Try to understand what triggers you to smoke. This can help you stay in control and try to avoid the triggers. You can use our smoking diary to make a note of these.
  • Keep your mind distracted by reading or doing things that interest you, like a crossword, Sudoku or a game on your phone.

Feeling restless, irritable, frustrated or angry

  • You may feel short-tempered and less tolerant for the first week, or maybe longer. Remind yourself that these feelings and the cravings will pass.
  • Try being active, for example by going for a short walk or following an activity DVD.
  • When you feel the urge to smoke, have a healthy snack. For example, eat a carrot, some celery or a piece of fruit, or try chewing on some sugar-free chewing gum.
  • Try to reduce the amount caffeine you have each day, for example by drinking less tea and coffee.
  • Try breathing exercises to help you relax and focus on the benefits of not smoking. Take a deep breath in through your nose and blow out slowly through your mouth. Try this 10 times.
  • Go out somewhere with a non-smoking friend. They can support you and help distract you if you crave a cigarette.
  • Ask your doctor about nicotine replacement therapies or other medicines.

Difficulty sleeping

  • If smoking is part of your evening routine, try to change your routine. If you usually crave a cigarette before you go to sleep, start getting ready for bed and do something which distracts you instead. You could try reading a book or listening to a podcast.
  • Have a warm bath. This can help to relax and distract you.
  • Sleeping tablets may help for a short period of time. You could speak to your GP about getting a prescription for a week or two. This can sometimes help to break the habit of smoking before going to sleep.


  • Drink plenty of fluids (water or juice).
  • Try taking mild painkillers.
  • Try having some early nights to help you get plenty of rest.
  • Your headaches will gradually go away over the days and weeks after stopping.

Temporary cough

  • You may cough up more phlegm or mucus up to three months after stopping smoking. If you develop a cough, talk to your GP. They will check whether the cough is caused by anything else, such as an infection.
  • Drink plenty of fluids.
  • Try gargling with warm, salt water. This can help cough up any phlegm.
  • Be active each day, such as going for a short walk. This helps loosen phlegm or mucus, and help you to cough it up.
  • Try using throat lozenges.
  • Sleep on an extra pillow. This can help to reduce coughing at night.
  • Use a humidifier in your bedroom at night. This can help to moisten the airways in the lungs. When the airways are dry, it can make a cough worse.

When it gets difficult, even during the times when it’s tough, annoying and hell on earth, put the reasons you’re giving up at the front of your mind.


Back to Giving up smoking

Preparing to stop smoking

Giving up smoking can be challenging. There are several things you can do that will help you quit.

Staying a non-smoker

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