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
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
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
- 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.