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Quitting Smoking - Planning Your Strategy to Quit

Learn what works for you.

When it comes to quitting smoking, some people find it helpful to plan ahead. Others don't. Do what works for you. If you are ready to quit right now, see the section Ready to Quit Today?

If you prefer to plan ahead, start by asking yourself some questions. Are you a goal-setter? How confident do you feel that you will succeed at giving up smoking? Asking yourself these questions is one way to prepare yourself for quitting.

Know your reasons

Your reason for wanting to quit is important. Maybe you want to protect your heart and your health and live longer. Or maybe you want to spend your money on something besides cigarettes. If your reason comes from you—and not someone else—it will be easier for you to try to quit for good.

After you know your reasons for wanting to quit, use the U.S. Surgeon General's five keys to quitting: get ready, get support, learn new skills and behaviors, get and use medicine, and be prepared for relapse.

1. Get ready

Contact your doctor or local health department to learn about medicines and to find out what kinds of help are available in your area for people who want to quit smoking. Telephone helplines operated by your state can also help you find information and support for quitting smoking.

Check with your insurance provider to find out if medicines and counseling are covered under your health plan. Your employer may also help pay the cost of a quit-smoking program or provide help to pay for medicines, even over-the-counter ones.

Free smartphone and tablet apps may be another helpful way to plan your quit. Apps such as the National Cancer Institute's QuitPal can help you set goals, track your progress, and share your struggles and successes with family and friends. QuitPal can also support you with text reminders.

Here are some other ways to get ready to quit smoking:

  • Set your goals. To achieve a long-term goal like quitting smoking, you may find it helpful to break the task into smaller goals. Every time you reach a goal, you feel a sense of pride along the path to becoming tobacco-free. A personal action plan(What is a PDF document?) can help you reach your goals.
    • Set your goals clearly. Write down your goals, or tell someone what you are trying to do. Goals should include "by when" or "how long" as well as "what." For example: "I will track my smoking for 1 week, starting tomorrow." Or "I will cut back from 20 cigarettes a day to 15 by this time next week."
    • Set a quit date, and stick to it. This is an important step. Choosing a good time to quit can greatly improve your chances of success. Avoid setting your quit date on high-stress days, such as holidays.
    • Reward yourself for meeting your goals. Quitting smoking is a difficult process, and each small success deserves credit. If you don't meet a goal, don't punish yourself. Instead, hold back on a reward until you achieve your goal. For example, give yourself something special if you succeed.
    • Pace yourself. You may want or need to quit slowly by reducing the number of cigarettes you smoke each day over the course of several weeks. Set a comfortable pace. Certain activities won't be temptation-free for many months after you quit.
    • Be realistic. You may feel very excited and positive about your plan for change. Be sure to set realistic goals—including a timeline for quitting—that you can meet. For example, your goal could be to cut back from 20 cigarettes a day to 10.
  • Make some changes. Get rid of all cigarettes, ashtrays, and lighters after your last cigarette. Throw away pipes or cans of snuff. Also, get rid of the smell of smoke and other reminders of smoking by cleaning your clothes and your house, including curtains, upholstery, and walls. Don't let people smoke in your home. Take the lighter out of your car. Try some methods to reduce smoking, such as gradually increasing the time between cigarettes, before your official quit date. A smoking tracker can help you keep track of what triggers urge you to use tobacco. This gives you important information on when it's toughest for you to resist.
  • If you have tried to quit in the past, review those past attempts. Think of the three most important things that helped in those attempts, and plan to use those strategies again this time. Think of things that hindered your success, and plan ways to deal with or avoid them. Write this down as a plan.
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