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How to stop smoking

How can I stop smoking?

Evidence suggests smokers are three times more likely to quit successfully if they use NHS support. On this page, we explain the different ways you can stop smoking, what to do when you’re ready to quit, and further information and support available to you.

It can be very hard to change a long-term habit, whether it’s what you eat, how much you exercise or smoking. You don’t have to do it on your own. With support from friends, family and professionals, you’re more likely to be successful.

On this page:

Smoking cessation (stop smoking clinics)

You’re around three times more likely to stop successfully if you use a combination of stop smoking treatment and specialist help.

You can start your stop smoking attempt with your GP. They will be able to give you a prescription to reduce nicotine cravings, as well as nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) such as patches and gum. Your GP should also be able to advise on using e-cigarettes, which can be an effective quitting tool, despite not being risk free themselves.

Your GP will also be able to refer you to local specialist stop smoking services. But you can also contact your local stop smoking service yourself, for support in your stop smoking journey. Using aids prescribed by your GP alongside the behavioural support offered by stop smoking services is the most effective way to quit.

If you have a long-term lung condition, like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or pulmonary fibrosis, your doctor should offer you support in stopping smoking every time you meet them.

Find information on specialist stop smoking services near you on the NHS website. The NHS also has detailed information about what to expect from a stop smoking service, which you might find useful to read through. Depending on where you live in the UK, sessions may happen remotely, by phone or video call, or in person at GP surgeries or pharmacies.  You may be offered support through an app, text messages or another digital platform in addition to help you stop smoking. There are plenty of apps available to help you stop smoking – search online for one that suits you.

Go smokefree with your mobile phone

Download the free Smokefree app. It’s a four-week programme of practical support, encouragement and tailored advice.

Stop smoking treatments

Nicotine replacement therapy

Nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) comes in different forms and helps you to overcome urges to smoke. It’s available on prescription from your GP or local stop smoking service, or to buy from a pharmacy. All the therapies give you a low level of nicotine, without the tar, carbon monoxide and other poisonous chemicals that are in tobacco smoke.

Therapies include patches, gum, sprays, lozenges, and inhalators (a device to inhale something). Patches release nicotine slowly, whereas other therapies act more quickly. For most people the best approach is to combine two sorts of NRT. Usually this means a patch to provide a background level of NRT and a faster-acting product, such as gum, inhalator or nasal spray to use when you get cravings. People usually take NRT for 8-12 weeks before gradually reducing the dose and stopping. Ask your GP, pharmacist or stop smoking service for help to select the best combination for you.

E-cigarettes are also a form of nicotine replacement treatment, as the vapour usually includes nicotine. Evidence suggests that they are at least as effective at helping people quit smoking as other NRT products, but people have individual preferences.

Other stop smoking medications

Medication is available on the NHS to help you quit smoking: buproprion (Zyban) and varenicline (Champix). Champix is currently unavailable in the UK. Both can double your chances of stopping. Talk to your GP about stop smoking medication.

For advice on stop smoking treatments speak to your GP, pharmacist or local stop smoking service.

How will I benefit from stopping smoking?

Fill in our online questionnaire to remind yourself why you want to quit and how you’re going to do it. You can print it out so you can keep it somewhere you can see it.

According to the National Centre for Smoking Cessation and Training, there are many immediate benefits to stopping smoking (quick wins). They include improved lung function, fewer flare-ups in COPD, and improved sense of taste and smell.  Read more about why you should stop smoking.

I’m ready to stop smoking – what should I do?

When you’re ready to stop smoking – have a plan. Our top tips:

  • Go to see your GP and ask for a prescription for medication to help you to quit smoking, as well as a referral to your stop smoking service. They’ll be able to discuss with you the range of things you can try to help you quit, and which might be the best method for you. With this help you’re three times more likely to quit successfully.
  • Pick a date to stop and decide you’ll be a non-smoker from that day. Tell your family and friends and plan something to do to take your mind off it.
  • Ask your friends and family for support. If someone close to you is thinking of stopping, why not stop at the same time so you can support each other?
  • Think of situations where you’re likely to be tempted and come up with ways to overcome the urge. For example: ‘If I’m with friends who are smoking, I’ll leave the room or use my vape.’
  • If you find yourself struggling, go back to the stop smoking services for help. There are also stop smoking apps available that some find helpful for additional support. 
  • Keep your hands and mouth busy - when you’re out, try putting your drink in the hand that usually holds a cigarette and drink from a straw.
  • A craving can last five minutes - so think of five-minute strategies. If you find a certain time of day or place hard, try a new routine.
  • Make a list of your reasons for quitting - read it when you need motivation.
  • Call yourself a non-smoker and think of yourself as one.
  • Think about the possible withdrawal symptoms and how you will cope.
  • Reward yourself when you’re doing well, but don’t beat yourself up if you’re struggling. If the method you’re using isn’t working for you, try something else. Don’t quit quitting!

We were going away after Christmas. I decided that would be a good time to stop, as I would be away from the places that I usually smoked. Going out of the back door to smoke became just a natural habit. 

Just before we went away, I had my last cigarette – and I’ve never looked back. Judith

Your personal quit plan

Get a free personal quit plan from the NHS website.

Further information and support

England Better health: Quit smoking
0300 123 1044 Lines are open 9am - 8pm weekdays, 11am -4pm at the weekend. 

Scotland Quit your way
0800 84 84 84 Lines are open 8am - 10pm weekdays, 9am-5pm at the weekend.

Wales Help me quit
0800 085 2219 Lines are open Monday to Thursday, 8am -8pm, Friday 8am - 5pm and Saturday 9am - 4pm.

Northern IrelandWant to Stop For advice or to find your local stop-smoking service go to their website or text ‘Quit’ to 70004.

Read next: vaping and e-cigarettes

Read next: how will I benefit from stopping smoking?

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