Smoking - your step-by-step guide to giving up the habit

It's always a good time to stub out your last cigarette. So follow our advice on how to get started...

Pick a day

Look at your diary for the week ahead, then choose the best day for giving up. Avoid days on which you have stressful meetings or social events that might make you give in to nicotine cravings. But stay busy – boredom can be a precursor to a sneaky puff too.

See your GP

It’s in your doctor’s interests to see you give up – after all, once your body’s cleared out all the gunk you’ve been inhaling, your lungs will be clearer, you’ll suffer from fewer colds and congestion and you’ll sleep better. Ask him or her to provide you with a self-help pack, advice on different methods or aids for giving up, and information about the benefits of quitting.

Get in with a gang

There’s nothing like a bit of healthy competition to keep you at it, so get together with other smokers and make it a group effort. Whenever you feel weak or low, give a member of the group a call – the support will be invaluable, and peer group pressure can be an immensely effective tool in situations like this.

Get help

Join your local NHS Stop Smoking Service. You’ll get advice and help from experts, as well as enjoying the support of other individuals in the same situation as you. It’s a good way to meet new people, which is an extra bonus to quitting.

Go to the chemist

Can’t face the physical symptoms associated with nicotine withdrawal? Get a nicotine replacement. Choose between gum, patches, lozenges and inhalers. Go for gum or lozenges if you want something to do with your mouth. Patches are best for people who are wary of replacement activities such as chewing or inhaling, but believe they need the physical support of nicotine during the giving-up process. Inhalers are useful as a way to gradually decrease your reliance on nicotine while allowing you to continue ‘smoking’ – they are shaped and used like cigarettes. Over time, all these treatments must be reduced, gradually decreasing your body’s ‘need’ for nicotine.

Tell the world

Sign up to write a blog on so you can chart your progress, have a moan or report on how great you’re feeling. Making your quitting efforts public knowledge makes it more difficult for you to renege on your pledge. If a blog sounds too much like hard work, simply log on to – here you can read or talk about quitting, as well as get tips and support from other users.

When you’ve had your last

Just 20 minutes after you stub out your last cigarette your body is already beginning to heal itself. Your blood pressure and pulse rate are returning to normal levels, and you’ve already saved money by not lighting up another, with packets of cigarettes usually now costing more than £7 each.

Remove the evidence

Get rid of any objects you associate with your habit. That doesn’t just mean ashtrays, lighters and matches; you should also try to remove or relocate things like the coffee cup you always use when you have your first cig of the day, or the chair you recline in for a ‘relaxing smoke’ after the shopping. These things are ‘triggers’ for nicotine cravings. They remind you of smoking and will make you miss it even more.

Quit alcohol too

Don’t panic – this is only for the first few days when your resistance is at its lowest! Alcohol actually increases the pleasurable effects of nicotine, and so having a few drinks makes you even more likely to reach for a fag packet. Avoid it during the first week, when you’re most likely to fail, and you’ll be past the worst of your withdrawal symptoms when you allow yourself to have a drink again.

Chew gum

A minty chew works on two levels – it gives you something to do with your mouth, and the fresh mint scent gives your brain sensory stimulation distracting you from your nicotine cravings.

The end of your first day

Congratulations, you’ve made it to the end of your first day of quitting. You’ve also halved the nicotine and carbon monoxide levels in your bloodstream. And your oxygen levels are beginning to return to normal. Not bad for 24 hours.

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.