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How to stop smoking

What about withdrawal symptoms from stopping smoking?

When you stop smoking, you might experience some withdrawal symptoms. On this page, we explain the withdrawal symptoms you might experience, ways to help you cope and what to do if you relapse.

On this page:

What withdrawal symptoms might I experience?

The instant you stop smoking, your body will start to recover. You may experience some nicotine withdrawal and recovery symptoms in the first few weeks. You may still have the urge to smoke or feel a bit restless, irritable, frustrated or tired. Some people find it difficult to sleep or concentrate.

Remember the symptoms will pass and there are things you can do to manage them in the meantime. If you decide to use a form of NRT (nicotine replacement therapy) in your stop smoking attempt, your GP or stop smoking advisor should be able to explain the importance of getting enough nicotine to overcome withdrawal symptoms.


When you stop smoking you are likely to experience cravings. This is because your body is craving nicotine. There are two types of cravings:

  • A steady, background desire for a cigarette – this normally decreases in intensity over several weeks after quitting
  • A sudden burst of a more intense desire for a cigarette – this is normally triggered by something, for example at a time of day when you’d usually have a cigarette, or if you’re feeling stressed.

These urges will get less frequent and less intense over time. It’s a good idea to try and be prepared for these cravings, by having a plan in place to help you deal with them.

How can I cope with withdrawal symptoms?

If you find yourself thinking about having a cigarette, try these distractions: 

  • Talk to someone - call a friend for support
  • Do some activity, like going for a brisk walk – exercise may help reduce nicotine cravings and relieve withdrawal symptoms
  • Stay busy - download the Smokefree app or play a game on your phone
  • Drink a glass of water or find something to distract yourself - keep yourself occupied for those crucial few minutes and find something to keep your hands busy
  • A change of scene – try moving to another room or go outside for some fresh air.

If you’re struggling to cope, remind yourself why you’re stopping. Remember the health and financial benefits for you and your family. And there are lots of people to help you.

What if I start smoking again?

If you lapse, don’t worry. You haven’t failed. It’s a small setback and it’s always worth continuing. The best time to try to quit again is straight away.

What if I have a cigarette?

  • If you do have a cigarette, stop again immediately. 
  • Throw away the rest of the pack.  
  • Go for a walk, drink some water and take a deep breath. 
  • Ask yourself if you really want to be a smoker again. 

Think about what made you slip up.

  • Be positive and put it behind you. 
  • Remember why you wanted to stop. 
  • If the method you’re using isn’t working for you, try something else.
  • Remind yourself you are a non-smoker.

When the time is right, spend a bit longer planning. Think what really worked for you and what made you lapse.  Talk to your doctor or local stop smoking service to get more help to cope with cravings this time. 

Remember: the next time could be the last time you ever have to try. 

You can do it!

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