Tips for Quitting and Kicking the Habit for Good

Smoking Cessation

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Tips for Quitting and Kicking the Habit for Good

We are very proud of the role we play in providing much needed support and encouragement in helping people to quit smoking.
Whether you are seeking information for yourself or for someone you care about, we are sure you'll find exactly what you are looking for.

you like to quit smoking? Quitting smoking can be a drag, but you can successfully quit when you know what to expect, are motivated, have social support, and create a personal game plan.  Stopping smoking requires desire, determination, and commitment, but the more you learn about your options and prepare for quitting, the easier it will be. While some smokers successfully quit by going cold turkey, most people need a plan that involves a gradual reduction in smoking and different rituals for satisfying your needs. You may be surprised to discover other things in your life that are as pleasurable as smoking. It is possible to learn how to replace your smoking habits, manage your cravings, and join the millions of people who have kicked the habit for good!
Health professionals are the single most influential determinant of tobacco cessation success and can contribute significantly to an increase in overall cessation rates.  Suwannee River AHEC currently offers six live continuing education courses as well as online training at

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends that all health care providers treat tobacco dependence in their practices. A minimal intervention lasting three minutes or less can have a significant impact on smoking cessation rates and improve individual treatment outcomes for your patients.

Professional continuing education is offered by qualified Tobacco Cessation Specialists to health care providers and community partners on a variety of tobacco related topics.

Presentations are based on the Public Health Service Clinical Practice Guideline: Treating Tobacco Use and Dependence and CDC Best Practices for Comprehensive Tobacco Control Programs.

Live continuing education courses:

START: Stopping Tobacco with Assessments, Referrals,  and Training
The Effects of Tobacco Use on the Cardiopulmonary System
Head to Toe: The Health Consequences of Tobacco Use
Tobacco Trend Busting
Tobacco Cessation Medications

Diabetes and Tobacco: A Dangerous Liaison online courses:

Suwannee River AHEC encourages all providers to complete the tobacco-related modules offered at and The modules offer online continuing education for health care professionals.  Completion of the modules will broaden a health care professional's understanding of tobacco-related issues and treatment modalities.  These modules are provided free to health care providers.  Registration is required in order to receive credit. 

Florida AHEC courses have the following credit types available: AMA PRA Category 1 Credit™, Florida Physician Assistants, Florida Board of Dentistry, Florida Board of Medicine, Florida Board of Nursing, Florida Board of Clinical Social Work (Marriage and Family Therapy and Mental Health Counseling), National Commission for Health Education Credentialing, and Florida Board of Respiratory Care. 

Contact Sarah Catalanotto at 386-462-1551 ext 103 to schedule a presentation.

Why quitting seems so hard

The pleasures of smoking

It’s not easy to let go of something that’s been such an integral part of your life for so long. That little stick of tobacco has stuck with you through thick or thin, rain or shine, day or night. With minimal effort it has provided hours of comfort and activated the pleasure centers in your brain. No wonder the thought of quitting seems so daunting. Who wants to give up something that can temporarily make sadness, stress, and boredom evaporate into thin air? Just thinking about it can stop you in your tracks. But that’s exactly what’s needed. Stop for a moment and think about why smoking is in your life. What purpose does it serve? 

How to get your smoking needs met without smoking

Whatever your reasons are for having smoking in your life, there is an alternative behavior you can  substitute in place of smoking which will achieve the same result in the end. Only you can determine what will work for you. Some examples include:

Purpose of Smoking

Sample Substitute Behaviors

Relaxation or stress reduction

Deep breathing exercises, meditation, massage or exercise

Boredom or Loneliness

Find something you’re passionate about such as art, music, or literature

To feel more comfortable in social situations

Counseling, enroll in a public speaking class, join a support group or splurge on a makeover

A meal doesn’t feel quite complete without a cigarette

Eat a healthy meal and then top it off with a delicious dessert

Tips for creating your personal stop smoking plan

Designing your personal game plan

Tailoring a personal game plan to your specific needs and desires can be a big help. A good place to start is with the online guide from They recommend thinking about why you want to quit and then writing down all your reasons. The site goes on to give you helpful tips and options. Some of your choices include: quitting smoking cold turkey, systematically decreasing the number of cigarettes you smoke, reducing your intake of nicotine gradually over time, using nicotine replacement therapy or non-nicotine medications to reduce withdrawal symptoms, utilizing nicotine support groups, trying hypnosis, acupuncture, or counseling using cognitive behavioral techniques.

Questions to ask yourself

To successfully detach from smoking, you will need to identify and address your smoking habits, the true nature of your dependency, and the techniques that work for you. These types of questions can help:

  • Do you feel the need to smoke at every meal?
  • Are you more of a social smoker?
  • Is it a very bad addiction (more than a pack a day)? Or would a simple nicotine patch do the job?
  • Is your cigarette smoking linked to other addictions?
  • Are you open to hypnosis therapy and acupuncture?
  • Are you someone who is open to talking about your addiction?
  • Are you interested in getting into a fitness program?

Take the time to think of what kind of smoker you are, which moments of your life call for a cigarette, and why. This will help you to identify which tips, techniques or therapies may be most beneficial for you.    

Stop smoking plan (START)

S = Set a quit date.

T = Tell family, friends, and co-workers that you plan to quit.

A = Anticipate and plan for the challenges you'll face while quitting.

R = Remove cigarettes and other tobacco products from your home, car, and work.

T = Talk to your doctor about getting help to quit.

For a more info see the Surgeon General’s Tobacco Cessation Help Pages

How Jerry quit 

Jerry kicked a 1/2 pack a day habit by reducing his intake, one cigarette at a time. First he cut out the morning cigarette that he always had with his coffee by substituting a warm cinnamon bun. After two weeks he dropped the mid-morning cigarette break. Then every other week he dropped another scheduled smoke time until he was totally smoke-free. Because he weaned himself off the nicotine so slowly he was able to quit without feeling any severe withdrawal symptoms.  

Laura’s motivation to stop smoking

Laura smoked more than a pack a day for 10 years. She had tried quitting a few times over the years but always ended up retrieving the crumpled cigarette pack from the wastepaper basket. Nothing seemed to work until the day she got the jolt of her life; her doctor told her she had cancer. This event forced her to take stock of her life and started her on the path to quitting again. That was three years ago and she hasn’t lit up since. When you ask her how she did it, she’ll tell you it was sheer willpower and the support of family and friends.

Fear is a powerful motivator but you don’t have to wait until something frightening happens to stop smoking.

Tips to quit smoking and manage cravings

Cravings associated to sugar levels

When you stop smoking, your body reacts very quickly to the lack of nicotine in your system. Over the course of three to five days, you are likely to experience a number of the following physical symptoms as the toxins are flushed from your body:

  • Increased irritability, frustration, or anger
  • Anxiety, tension or nervousness
  • Restlessness
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Increased appetite and weight gain

As you smoke, nicotine is absorbed into your bloodstream and within 3 minutes, chemical reactions cause your body to trigger the release of sugar.  After quitting, you may feel dizzy, restless, nervous or even have strong headaches. This is because you are lacking the immediate release of sugar that cigarettes provide – and why you may have a bigger appetite. These sugar-related cravings should only last a few days until your body adjusts to this new smoke-less state of being. So, for the first 3 or 4 days after you quit, make sure you keep your sugar levels a bit higher than usual by drinking plenty of juice. It will help prevent the craving symptoms triggered by a lack of sugar and help your body re-adjust back to normal.

Smoking cessation and high sugar levels

When you quit smoking try eating healthier. Cravings can lead to over-eating to make up for the lack of instant sugar that was released in your body when you were smoking. Speak to a nutritionist if you are concerned, high sugar levels can be dangerous.

For more information, read Tips for a Healthy Diet : Guidelines for developing a plan for healthy eating

How to manage cigarette cravings

Remnants of old habits such as smoking with your morning coffee, after meals or business meetings, and while you’re stuck in traffic can trigger cravings. There are ways to anticipate those moments and deal with the possible withdrawal symptoms.

Cravings associated with meals

For some smokers, having a cup of coffee after a meal goes hand-in-hand with lighting up, and the idea of giving that up may look like a hard prospect. People have been able to successfully replace that special moment, at least in the early stages, with something that works for them. It could be a piece of fruit, a dessert, or a piece of dark chocolate. Eventually, you will re-discover the real savor of a good meal or a nicely brewed cup of coffee and will find that cigarette smoke spoils its taste.

Alcohol and cigarettes

Many people have a habit of smoking when they have an alcoholic drink. If you feel cravings after drinking with friends or family you may have to try non-alcoholic drinks. Nuts and chips to munch on are also great cigarette substitutes.  

Social Smoking

When friends, family, and co-workers smoke around you, you are in risk of never being able to give up smoking. If you don’t address this directly it can increase your risk for relapse. Talking about your decision to quit is the first step, your social circles need to know that you are changing your habits. It may involve a change of habit on their part too, for example, they won’t be able to smoke when you’re in the car with them or in your presence.  

Know that in every social circle there are non-smokers, sometimes former smokers, and people that can be of some inspiration in finding new and better habits. In your workplace, don’t take all your coffee breaks with smokers only, do something else instead, and find other non-smokers to have your breaks with. Your decision to quit could be a good role model for your friends and give them the incentive to quit as well.  

The main thing is to stay strong and not compromise. This is a crucial change in your life. Let others around you know that you are serious about quitting.

Tips to deal with common cravings and withdrawal symptoms

  • Stay active: Keep yourself distracted and occupied, go for walks.
  • Keep your hands/fingers busy: Squeeze balls, pencils, or paper clips are good substitutes to satisfy that need for tactile stimulation.
  • Keep your mind busy: Read a book or magazine, listen to some music you love.
  • Find an oral substitute: Keep other things around to pop in your mouth when you’re craving a cigarette. Good choices include mints, hard candy, carrot or celery sticks, gum, and sunflower seeds.
  • Drink lots of water: Flushing toxins from your body minimizes withdrawal symptoms and helps cravings pass faster.
  • Look for new ways to relax and to cope with depression or anxiety: There are a lot of ways to improve your mood without smoking. See Depression Self-Help for some ideas. For tips on ways to deal with stress, visit Coping with Stress.

Keep a craving journal

For a couple of weeks make entries into a log book to monitor your daily progress. Think about different moments in your life when you enjoy having a cigarette, these are your triggers to smoking. Are there certain people or environments that trigger your cravings? How do you feel when you smoke? Jot down some other things you can do to feel that way. After you quit, if you’re having a bad day, you can look back at the comments you wrote in week one to get perspective on how far you’ve come.

Get support from others

Quitting smoking is challenging, and having the right people around you can make all the difference. Let your friends and family in on your plan to quit smoking and tell them you need their support and encouragement to stop. Look for a quit buddy who wants to stop smoking as well. You can help each other get through the rough times. 

Keep the pounds off   

Weight gain is a common concern when quitting smoking. While it’s true that many smokers put on weight when they stop smoking, the gain is usually small, on average 3-5 pounds. Weight gain occurs because the oral gratification of smoking is replaced by the self-soothing mechanism of eating. Don’t let the fear of putting on a few pounds weigh you down. Eating a healthy diet and staying active can help you maintain your current weight. See Healthy Weight Loss.

Finding help to quit smoking

Finding the right combination of things to help you stop smoking is as individual as you are. Medication can provide support in your effort to stop smoking by easing withdrawal symptoms, reducing cravings, and improving your chances of successfully quitting.

Medication therapy

Smoking cessation medications are most effective when used as part of a comprehensive stop smoking program monitored by your physician. Talk to your doctor about your options and whether an anti-smoking medication is right for you. U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved options are: 

Nicotine Replacement Therapy

Nicotine replacement therapy involves "replacing" cigarettes with other nicotine substitutes, such as nicotine gum or a nicotine patch. It works by delivering “small and steady doses” of nicotine into the body to relieve some of the withdrawal symptoms without the tars and poisonous gases found in cigarettes. This type of treatment helps smokers focus on breaking their psychological addiction and makes it easier to concentrate on learning new behaviors and coping skills.

Non-Nicotine Medication

Non-nicotine medications help you stop smoking by reducing cravings and withdrawal symptoms. Currently, bupropion (Zyban) and varenicline (Chantix) are the only two medications that don’t contain nicotine which are approved as smoking cessation aids. These anti-smoking pills are intended for short-term use.

Non-medication therapies

There are several things you can do to stop smoking that don’t involve nicotine replacement therapy or prescription medications:


A popular option that has good results. Hypnosis works by getting you into a deeply relaxed state where you are open to suggestions that strengthen your resolve to quit smoking and increase your negative feelings toward cigarettes. Ask your doctor to recommend a qualified smoking cessation hypnotherapist in your area.


One of the oldest known medical techniques. Acupuncture is believed to work by triggering the release of endorphins (natural pain relievers) that allow the body to relax. As a smoking cessation aid, acupuncture can be helpful in managing smoking withdrawal symptoms.

Behavioral Therapy

Nicotine addiction is related to the habitual behaviors (the “rituals”) involved in smoking. Behavior therapy focuses on learning new coping skills and breaking those habits. The American Lung Association offers a free online smoking cessation program that focuses on behavioral change.

Motivational Therapies

Self-help books and websites can provide a number of ways to motivate yourself to quit smoking. One well known example is calculating the monetary savings. Some people have been able to find the motivation to quit just by calculating how much money they will save after they quit. One person saved enough money to pay his annual car insurance premiums.

What to do if you relapse

Quitting smoking didn’t work, now what?

Two steps forward, one step back is a common pattern when you’re trying to replace unwanted habits with new positive ones. Having a small setback doesn’t mean you’re a smoker again. Most people try to quit smoking several times before they kick the habit for good, so don’t beat yourself up if you start smoking again. Turn the relapse into a rebound by learning from your mistakes. Identify the triggers or trouble spots you ran into and create a new and improved stop smoking plan.   

  • You’re not a failure if you slip up. It doesn't mean you can't quit for good.
  • Don’t let a slip become a mudslide. Throw out the rest of the pack. It's important to get back on the non-smoking track now. Remember, your goal is no cigarettes - not even one puff.
  • Look back at your quit log and feel good about the time you went without smoking.
  • Find the trigger. Exactly what was it that made you smoke again? Decide how you will cope with that issue the next time it comes up.
  • Learn from your experience. What has been most helpful? What didn’t work? 
  • Find a quit buddy. You can quit smoking together and gain strength from each other.
  • Are you using a medicine to help you quit? Call your doctor if you start smoking again. Some medicines cannot be used if you are smoking at the same time.

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More Helpguide Articles:

Related links for quitting smoking

Ways to Quit Smoking and Stop-Smoking Plans

Online Guide to Quitting – Step-by-step guide to quitting describes how to make a plan to quit, cope with cravings, manage withdrawal symptoms, and avoid relapse. (

Quit Smoking Action Plan – 3-step plan for quitting smoking. Provides additional resources for support. (American Lung Association)

Double Your Chances of Quitting Smoking. Ways to improve your chances of quitting smoking. (American Cancer Society)

Helpful Hints to Kick the Smoking Habit – Provides advice on how to successfully quit smoking. Includes a list of smoke-free suggestions. (University of Maryland Medical Center)

Quit Meter – Calculate how much extra money you’ll have after quitting. (

Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT)

Nicotine Alternatives / Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT) – Provides an overview, general warnings, and side effects of NRT. (American Heart Association)

Nicotine Replacement – Comprehensive fact sheet on nicotine replacement includes a discussion of specific methods, dosages and side effects.  (American Lung Association)

Preventing Weight Gain after Quitting

You Can Control Your Weight as You Quit Smoking – Provides suggestions for what to do before, during, and after quitting smoking to prevent weight gain. (National Institutes of Health)

Coping with Nicotine Cravings and Withdrawal

Help For Cravings and Tough Situations – A list of tips to cope with cigarette cravings. (American Cancer Society)

Nicotine Dependence Coping Skills – A comprehensive guide to developing alternative coping strategies when quitting smoking. (Mayo Clinic)

Support for Smoking Cessation

Quitlines – Call 800-QUIT-NOW (800-784-8669) to get the number of your local quitline.  (North American Quitline Consortium)

Smoking Cessation Programs – Searchable database of smoking cessation programs that you can locate by state or zip code. Also offers links to free support groups. (Quitnet)

Freedom From Smoking® Online – Provides a seven module program that supports you and walks you through a smoking cessation program. (American Lung Association)

Nicotine Anonymous Meetings – Search for local meetings of Nicotine Anonymous, a 12-Step program modeled after Alcoholics Anonymous. (Nicotine Anonymous)

Tips for Friends and Family

Helping A Smoker Quit: Do's and Don'ts – Provides a general list of “do’s and don’ts” for supporting someone who is quitting smoking.  (American Cancer Society)

How Can I Help My Friends and Family (PDF) – Describes appropriate ways to help a friend or family member who is quitting smoking. (California Smokers’ Helpline) 

Deborah Cutter, Psy.D., Jonathan Lhrar, Jeanne Segal, Ph.D., and Melinda Smith, M.A., contributed to this article. Last modified:May 08.

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