How to Quit Smoking

Options and tools to quit smoking so you can find what works for you

How hard is it to actually quit smoking?

It’s no secret that nicotine is an addictive drug. Nicotine has properties that help you focus, and it also releases the chemical dopamine, making you feel happy.

Nicotine is not the only way to focus or release dopamine, and the health risks involved with any kind of smoking (cigarettes, vaping, e-cigarettes, tobacco, etc.) are so extreme that you have probably already looked into quitting. But every time you try to quit you probably find yourself jittery, unfocused, and a little depressed. If you know a cigarette is a quick fix to those problems, it becomes easy to slide right back into that habit.

As humans, we love habits and routines. Simply, if smoking is ingrained as part of your routine as deeply as brushing your teeth, or even putting on pants, it’s going to be a hard thing to quit. You will have to consciously create a new habit of not smoking, while breaking your nicotine addiction.

How long does it take?

That depends on how you do it, but the short answer is: you can quit smoking in three weeks! Yeah, three short weeks. If you're going cold turkey, withdrawal symptoms typically peak around day 2 or 3. This means you'll make real progress in the first few days, and can be comfortably done within a month. Other methods can take longer but have fewer side effects, or may be easier for you to stick to.

About two thirds of smokers are interested in quitting, and about half attempt to quit every year. Less than 10% of people who attempt to quit are successful.

Your likelihood of successfully quitting goes up each time you attempt to quit. This means that even if you try and don't succeed right away, you're further along on your journey to being smoke-free than you were before you tried. So give it a shot! It's only going to help.

Methods For Quitting

Cold Turkey

Pros - Simple - Free - Start to form new habits right away

Cons - Cravings can be intense - Possible nicotine withdrawal

Likelihood of Success This is a hard way to quit smoking. The more you smoke and the longer you have smoked, the more difficult it is to quit cold turkey.

Nicotine Gum

Pros - You can control the amount of nicotine you get - Minimizes withdrawal symptoms - Can use gum during a craving for a quick hit

Cons - You are still ingesting nicotine - The gum itself can be addictive - Incorrect use can cause nicotine overdose

Likelihood of Success

People definitely find success with gum, the risk you are taking with it is that you are still using the chemical that you are addicted to; therefore it is easy to become addicted to the gum itself.

Nicotine Patches

Pros - Minimizes nicotine withdrawal symptoms - You can use this with other aids to quit smoking - You only have to change it once a day

Cons - You are still ingesting nicotine - Hard to adjust the amount of nicotine you are getting - No quick-hit of nicotine like with cigarettes or gum - May have side effects like skin rash and vivid dreams

Likelihood of Success Similar to nicotine gum, people find more success with the patch than with quitting cold turkey. The patch is harder to adjust your dose of nicotine, so it can be a hard transition for people because they do not feel the immediate release of nicotine like with a cigarette or gum.

Non-Nicotine Cigarettes / E-cigarettes / Vaping

Pros - Gets you the same physical behavior as smoking - No nicotine - Can be combined with nicotine replacements (gum or patch)

Cons - If used alone, can cause withdrawal symptoms - Flavors added to non-nicotine cigarettes may be harmful to your lungs. - Smoking an e-cigarette or vaping is NOT just inhaling water vapor!

Likelihood of Success Not proven to be more successful than gum, patch, or cold turkey on the whole - however some people see great success with this method. Especially when slowly lowering their nicotine consumption over time. Some folks transition to vaping but never actually taper down to zero nicotine consumption.

Be careful! These products often have misleading labels and are packaged as a “safe” nicotine-free alternative—there is mounting evidence suggesting that chemicals found in these types of alternative smoking devices are also harmful to your lungs.

Apps

Pros - Free or inexpensive - Set your own pace and goals - You can track your progress - Community support - No nicotine - but can be combined with other nicotine sources (gum, patch, vaping)

Cons - You don't like apps, notifications, or the tone of the one you're using - Not scientifically proven - If not using a nicotine source, may experience withdrawal symptoms

Likelihood of Success There isn’t a lot of research done yet to understand if these apps are really helping people to quit smoking. If it seems like something that might help motivate you, it is worth finding one that works for you.