Quitting smoking is one of the best things you can do for your health – and your bank balance. If you have committed to stop smoking and to start being healthier, you have already taken the most important step. What’s next? Follow these 9 steps to quit smoking and you’ll soon be enjoying the benefits of healthier lungs and much more!
1. Figure out why you smoke
It might sound silly, but have you ever thought to ask yourself why you smoke?
Different people smoke for different reasons: out of boredom or nervousness, after eating certain foods, when drinking alcohol, with certain friends or family, or at a particular bar or event.
Think of the last few times you lit up and ask yourself what led to that choice. This will give you important insight into the kinds of triggers you’ll be fighting against in your efforts to remain a non-smoker. You can then work out a plan to avoid cravings and to fight the urge to smoke.
2. Find an attractive alternative
Once you have figured out your smoking triggers, the next step is to know how best to distract yourself so you can avoid lighting up.
As an example, let’s say you often smoke after eating. Now that you are aware that this has become a habit, you can plan to take a post-dinner stroll instead and deliberately leave your cigarettes at home.
Or, if you tend to smoke while watching TV in the evening, try getting together with friends for a games night at a non-smoking venue instead, or join a book club or night-hiking group (where you’ll also get to enjoy the benefits of healthier lungs).
3. Face the craving
Smoking cessation advice often talks about the 4-Ds of quitting: delaying, deep-breathing, drinking water, and distraction. What does this look like in practice? Let’s call these steps 4, 5, 6, and 7 of the 9 steps to quitting smoking.
Waiting just five minutes after feeling the urge to smoke can help stop you from lighting up at all. Most people find the craving goes away if you just delay.
5. Deep breathing
Taking a deep breath when you feel the urge to smoke can help you relax and fight the craving. In part, this is because a deep breath mimics the relaxing controlled breathing associated with smoking itself. And, if you tend to smoke when stressed, taking a deep breath can help you calm down and manage stress in a healthier way.
6. Drinking water
To help reduce the urge to smoke, slowly sip a glass of water, holding the liquid in your mouth for a few seconds. This has the added benefit of helping you stay hydrated.
Whatever you can do (within reason) to prevent yourself from holding a cigarette or vapourizer, do it. Take a shower, go for a run, wrestle with the dog, build a model airplane, bake some bread, knit a sweater – anything to get your hands busy so you can’t hold a cigarette.
8. Keep a “non-smoker’s diary” and announce your intention to the world
Keep yourself accountable by setting yourself up with a “non-smoker’s diary” and making sure everyone around you knows that you’re no longer a smoker.
Make sure to mark important milestones, such as:
- Getting through your first work day with no cigarettes
- Making it through your first week of being a non-smoker
- Getting through your first stressful event without smoking
- Having a night out without lighting up
- Achieving your first month of being a non-smoker
- Saving your first $50 that you would otherwise have spent on cigarettes!
You’ll also want to keep track of the key dates and times listed in step 9, so you can follow along as your body recovers from smoking now that you have kicked the habit.
9. Feel the health benefits of being a non-smoker
Depending on how you’re quitting, you may feel the pull of nicotine withdrawal. But, in those first few hours, days, weeks, and months of being a non-smoker, you can also look out for the following milestones: 
- By 8 hours after your last cigarette, your carbon monoxide level drops and your oxygen level returns to normal, meaning your cells are already being better nourished.
- By 48 hours, your risk of a heart attack starts to decrease and your sense of taste and smell begin to improve. Reward yourself with some delicious food!
- Within 72 hours, you can breathe more easily as your airways relax and your lung capacity increases. Take note as you climb stairs more easily!
- Within 2 weeks to 3 months, your circulation improves, making exercise easier and improving the appearance of your skin as well as your ability to heal and fight off infections.
- By 6 months, you are less likely to suffer from coughs, colds, sinus infections, tiredness, and shortness of breath.
- Within a year, your risk of having a heart attack caused by smoking is cut in half.
- At your 10-year anniversary, your risk of dying from lung cancer is cut in half!
- Make it to 15 years, and your risk of dying from a heart attack is the same as that of a person who never smoked.
Fifteen years might seem daunting right now, but all these years are made up of single hours, days, weeks, and months, and a series of choices made by you to not smoke that cigarette.
A Little Help Quitting
Everyone quits in their own way. There are plenty of great supports you can use to help yourself stay the course, such as:
- Cognitive behavioural therapy
- Natural supplements that help calm anxieties and cravings
Rhodiola rosea is an adaptogenic herb that can help your body cope with stress, enhance energy levels, and improve emotional well-being. L-theanine is another natural remedy that switches brainwave patterns to those of a relaxed but alert state, so you’ll feel less anxious and better able to focus on what you need to get done. No need to rely on nicotine to keep you sharp and on task!
- British Columbia Lung Association. Quit now – smart steps booklet. Available from:
[Accessed 25th March 2019].