Step 2: Planning To Quit?


Plan your approach and decide on the method that will work best for you. You can think of it as a map that will help plan your journey to a healthy new life as a non-smoker.

As you read through this section, you’ll learn that no two people quit smoking in exactly the same way. That means that the technique that helped your spouse or your best friend quit may not work for you. You'll begin to understand your own relationship with cigarettes, so that you can find the method that’s most helpful for you.

Step 2: Planning To Quit?

We’ll be honest: quitting isn’t easy. Nicotine is addictive, and smoking is a powerful habit. On the other hand, the benefits of quitting are enormous: better health, more years of life, and more money in your pocket. Quitting takes a great deal of work and determination. You can begin to understand the sort of work involved once you identify the three main problems of quitting:

Nicotine is an addictive drug, and most people who quit experience physical withdrawal symptoms, or unpleasant signs that your body is overcoming its dependence on nicotine. Common withdrawal symptoms include headaches, nausea, drowsiness or trouble sleeping, and difficulty concentrating.

You probably use cigarettes to help you handle emotions and stressful situations, and you’ll need to find ways of dealing with these situations without smoking.

Smoking is a habit that is hard to break.

Quitting is a big step. Your best defense is to be prepared. Think ahead to all the times and situations when you will want to smoke, and plan to do something else instead.

Woman Yawning

For a Few Days:

You may notice slight dizziness or light-headedness, a cough, or a runny nose. These symptoms are the first to pass.

For a Week or Two After Quitting:

This is when you can expect physical withdrawal symptoms such as headaches, sleepiness or trouble sleeping, increased phlegm, increased hunger, or digestive changes.

For a Month or Two After Quitting:

Psychological cravings or urges to smoke usually last for a month or more, until the habit of smoking starts to fade. You will develop your own defenses against these urges.

You will probably also feel increased stress and emotional pressure. Feelings of irritability and trouble concentrating are common. But if you are prepared, they won’t overwhelm you. And remember, there are plenty of positive emotions associated with quitting! It’s not an easy task, and you should be proud of yourself for having the courage to take it on.


You’ll probably start to feel better physically soon after you stop smoking. And with good reason — you are physically better! Here are just a few of the positive changes that take place when you stop smoking:

A few hours after you stop smoking

your carbon monoxide levels fall to normal and the oxygen in your blood increases.

One day after you stop smoking

your risk of a heart attack starts to go down.

Two days after you stop smoking

your nerve endings start to repair themselves, so your senses of taste and smell begin to return to normal.

Two weeks after you stop smoking

your lungs are working 30% better than they did before you quit.

You Start Getting Healthier — And Wealthier — On Your Very First Day As A Non-smoker.

That’s Because:

  • Your blood pressure and heart rate are no longer artificially elevated.
  • Your risk of smoking-related heart disease drops 50% in your first year as a non-smoker, and your risk of lung cancer decreases steadily.
  • Quitting smoking will often lead you to other healthy behaviors such as exercise and improved eating habits. Many ex-smokers find that living a healthier lifestyle becomes a positive addiction!
  • Quitting smoking will save you money. Just look at the numbers for a pack-a-day habit: $5.51 X 365 = $2,011.15
  • And the cost of cigarettes is going up, not down. Think of it as a bonus — and a double bonus if you’re at two packs a day: $5.51 X 365 = $2,011.15 X 2 = $4,022.30!

Here are some popular alternatives that have helped people stop smoking successfully:

Nicotine Replacement \ Therapy (NRT) — Patches, Gum, Inhalers, Nasal Sprays, Lozenges

Using NRT products just about double your chances of success. NRT helps ease the physical withdrawal from smoking by reducing the physical craving for nicotine when you stop smoking. Many of the products are available without a prescription. Your doctor or health care provider can help you decide which is best for you.


Available by prescription only, Chantix is a pill that helps lessen the urge to smoke. It is not a nicotine replacement. It works on the parts of the brain that control the desire to smoke and is used in combination with a stop smoking program (education materials, support groups, and counseling). Your doctor can help you decide if Chantix is right for you.


Not everyone gains weight when they quit smoking. Those who do gain an average of seven pounds. This is because smoking artificially speeds up your metabolism, and it returns to normal after you quit. But weight gain doesn’t have to become a problem. There are many things you can do to help keep weight off. Here are some tips to get you started:

Choose Healthy Snacks

You may find yourself wanting to snack instead of smoking. Choose healthy snacks, like fresh fruit, low-fat yogurt, fruit milkshakes, vanilla wafers, animal crackers, or low-fat cheese.

Review Your Regular Diet

Make sure you’re eating a healthy diet that’s light on fat and includes plenty of fruits and vegetables.

Exercise Regularly

Regular exercise is one of the best things you can do for your body. It strengthens your heart and lungs, makes you feel fit, and reduces your urge to smoke.

Don’t be too Hard on Yourself!

Even if you do gain weight, it might be a good idea to postpone any major changes in your diet or lifestyle until after you’ve quit for a while. By quitting smoking, you’re already making one major change in your life, and you may want to give yourself time to get used to it before making another change. And remember, being a few pounds heavier for a while is much healthier for you than continuing to smoke.

For nicotine replacements to work, they must be used exactly as directed. They can be dangerous if you use them and continue to smoke. Remember that nicotine is an addictive poison. The only reason you are using it to stop smoking is so that you can control and reduce the amounts of nicotine your body takes in and eventually end your addiction to it.

Nothing you do in a carefully monitored program of nicotine replacement therapy is going to be worse for your health than just continuing to smoke.

Nicotine replacements help only with the physical withdrawal. They do not keep you from missing cigarettes. You still have to control your habit. This is why NRT works best when it is used along with another approach, such as a smoking cessation program or a support group.

Nicotine is an addictive drug, but some people are more strongly dependent than others. Answering the questions below will help you determine how physically dependent you are on nicotine and help you decide whether the nicotine gum or patch may be right for you.

Do you need to smoke in the first half hour after you wake up?

Do you get a strong, gnawing hunger for a cigarette if you have not smoked for a while?

If you answered, “yes” to both of the above questions, then you may be quite addicted. But, that does not mean you will find it any harder to quit than others. If you are worried about being able to stay quit because of these symptoms, you may want to talk with your doctor.

Cold Turkey

For a lot of smokers, this is the least costly (free) way to quit, even though in many ways it’s the hardest.

Tapering Off — Gradually Reducing the Number of Cigarettes You Smoke Each Day.

Research has shown that this method is less effective than going cold turkey or using nicotine replacements or smoking cessation groups. The problems with this approach are:

  • As you reduce the number of cigarettes you smoke each day, each cigarette can become more important to you — and that may make it harder to take the final step of letting go completely.
  • You may become satisfied to remain at a certain number of cigarettes per day instead of really quitting.
  • Finally, if you do continue at a reduced level, the number of cigarettes per day often goes up again, either gradually or in a moment of weakness or crisis.

You may find it useful to taper off the number of cigarettes you smoke per day as your quit date approaches. However, it’s still important to set a date when you will give up smoking completely.

A Combination Approach

Using several methods together probably gives you the best chance of quitting and staying cigarette-free.

Empty Plate

Now that you have decided to quit smoking, it’s important to prepare for it. Review the phase “What to Expect” — you’ll need to prepare yourself for the withdrawal symptoms so there are no surprises. Being prepared is your best defense. This is very important. Anticipating problems ahead of time will give you the ammunition you need to deal with sudden cravings.

Make a list of problems and solutions (things you are going to do when you are feeling the urge to smoke). Be sure to list all of the situations where you usually smoke (e.g. driving, after a meal, talking on the phone). Then think of ways to deal with each situation without smoking. Knowing what to do ahead of time will help you get through the times when the urge to smoke is strongest.

You can also expect some physical withdrawal symptoms for a week or two after you quit. On the next page is a list of difficulties that smokers often experience and some suggestions for effective ways of dealing with them. Which ones do you think will work best for you? There’s also space for you to write in your own solutions.

Symptom How I Will Cope
Sudden craving for a cigarette Take a few deep breaths; Brush my teeth
Feeling irritable Take a few deep breaths; Take a hot bath
Trouble sleeping Avoid caffeine in the late afternoon and evening; Call my doctor
Trouble concentrating Take a walk outside; Take a break; Lighten my schedule for a few days; Remind myself that this will pass in a few days
Sleepiness Get plenty of sleep; Try to be more active; Take a nap during the day if possible
Indigestion, gas or constipation Drink plenty of fluids; Make sure I’m getting enough fiber from foods like raw vegetables, fruit, and whole grains; Try to get more exercise; Ask my doctor about over-the-counter medicines that might help
Cough or a runny nose Remind myself that these things are signs that my body is starting to repair itself from damage caused by smoking and that they’ll go away within a few weeks

Once you have decided to quit, start to think of yourself as a non-smoker. No matter which route you take to being a non-smoker, you can help yourself by anticipating some of the problems you might encounter and deciding what to do about them. You might even want to rehearse the scenes when you know you will be tempted to have a cigarette. Here are some alternative things to do when the urge to have a cigarette hits you.

Have a snack

Keep some low-fat treats, like carrots or pretzels, on hand for when you crave a cigarette.

Practice deep breathing exercises

Breathe in slowly and deeply. Hold your breath and count to five. Breathe out slowly. Repeat five times. This has a calming effect and can help distract you from your urge to smoke.

Drink water

Water helps satisfy the need to put something in your mouth and your body — and it is good for you. Flavor it up with orange or lemon slices. Use a straw.

Brush your teeth

Keep a toothbrush handy when you go out and at work. Brushing your teeth will help distract you from your cravings.

When the urge to smoke strikes remember the 5 D’s.

  • Delay - a minute or two and the urge will pass.
  • Drink Water - to fight off cravings.
  • Do something Else - to distract yourself.
  • Deep Breathe - it will relax you.
  • Discuss - your thoughts.

It’s best to set a specific date when you will stop smoking altogether. It sometimes helps to pick a date that has some special significance — your birthday, your child’s birthday, a holiday, etc. Take your time! Take a week, two weeks or a month to prepare if you think you need it. Just make sure that you set a specific date and stick to it.

There are things you can do to prepare yourself as your quit date approaches. We’ve included some suggestions below, but feel free to add to the list.

  • Start to break routines that you have associated with smoking — drink tea instead of coffee, change the order of your morning routine, drive to work a different way
  • Clean your home, remove or throw out anything that you use for smoking — ashtrays, lighters, matches, etc.
  • Have your car cleaned and deodorized so the smell doesn’t make you want a cigarette
  • Start smoking with the opposite hand than you’re used to
  • Limit your smoking to places that are not comfortable or familiar

During the next few days, you may find that one of the most difficult tasks is to start thinking of yourself as a non-smoker. You may find yourself thinking dangerous thoughts like “one cigarette won’t hurt,” or “I don’t have to quit right now — I’ll try again in a few weeks.” At times like these, it’s helpful to remember the three R’s:


yourself why you’re quitting.


to let negative thoughts take over your brain. For instance, if you find yourself thinking, “One puff won’t hurt,” push that thought away — remember: you are a non-smoker.


difficult situations ahead of time. Remember the plan you made for dealing with tough situations and practice what you’re going to say out loud.