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How to stop smoking

What about withdrawal symptoms from stopping smoking?

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 lots of things you can do to manage them in the meantime.

If you're thinking about having a cigarette, try these distractions:

  • Talk to someone - call a friend for support.
  • Go for a brisk walk - this will help clear your head and lungs.
  • Stay busy - download the Smokefree app or play a game on phone.
  • Drink a glass of water - keep yourself occupied for those crucial few minutes.
  • Change the scene – try moving to another room or go outside for some fresh air.

NHS Smokefree top five distractions

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. 

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!

Further information and support to help you quit

England- Smokefree

0300 123 1044
Lines are open daily, 9am-8pm weekdays and 11am-4pm at the weekend.

Get a free personal quit plan from the NHS website.

Scotland- Quit your way

0800 84 84 84
Lines are open Monday to Friday, 8am-10pm, Saturday and Sunday, 8am-5pm
 

Wales- Help me quit

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

Northern Ireland- Want to Stop

For advice or to find your local stop-smoking service visit their website or text ‘Quit’ to 70004.

Go smokefree with your mobile phone

If you have an Android phone, iPhone, iPad or iPod touch, you can download the free NHS Smokefree app. It’s a four week programme that puts practical support, encouragement and tailored advice in the palm of your hand. 

If you have urgent concerns or need advice quickly, call our helpline on 03000 030 050 between 9am and 5pm on a weekday or email them.

Download our stop smoking information (123KB, PDF)

Last medically reviewed: February 2019. Due for review: February 2022

This information uses the best available medical evidence and was produced with the support of people living with lung conditions. Find out how we produce our information. If you’d like to see our references get in touch.