Please note: This information was current at the time of publication but now may be out of date. This handout provides a general overview and may not apply to everyone. 

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Am Fam Physician. 2002;65(6):1117

Make the decision to quit smoking

Stopping smoking is the best thing you can do for your health.

If you smoke, you are more likely to get diseases of the lungs, heart, and brain. You are also more likely to get many kinds of cancer. After you quit, you will be less likely to get these diseases. Stopping smoking is hard—but you can do it! Your doctor can help you.

Get ready to quit

Once you decide to quit, make a plan with the help of your doctor. Here are some things you need to do:

  • Choose a day to quit.

  • Talk to your doctor about using the nicotine patch, gum, inhaler, or nasal spray to help you quit smoking. Getting nicotine some way other than in a cigarette can help make quitting easier.

  • Talk to your doctor about using a prescription medicine like bupropion (brand name: Zyban) to reduce your urge to smoke. If you decide to use a medicine, start taking it two weeks before your quit day.

  • Talk with your doctor about when you smoke. For example, you may smoke first thing in the morning, after a meal, or when you feel stressed. Plan what you will do instead of smoking.

  • Tell your family and friends that you are going to try to quit and on what date.

  • Put together a list of phone numbers of friends and family members who can give you support when you feel you might break down and have a cigarette.

  • Before your quit day, put all tobacco products, ashtrays, and lighters away.

Put your plan into action

When you wake up on your quit day, start using a nicotine replacement method if you had planned to do that.

For the first few days after you quit, you may have some signs of nicotine withdrawal. You may feel restless and cranky. You may find it hard to think. You might need to change your dose of nicotine if these signs upset you.

Do not smoke! If you feel like you want to smoke, call a friend or family member who has agreed to help you. Also, there might be someone in your doctor's office you can call.

Put into action your plans for doing things other than smoking. For example, when you feel the urge to smoke, you might take a walk. Or, you might visit friends who do not smoke. It is best to stay away from places where you used to smoke.

If you return to smoking—

Quitting smoking is not easy. Many people have to try several times before they succeed.

If you start smoking again, call your doctor's office soon to talk about what happened. Think about what you can do to keep from smoking when you try to quit again.

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Copyright © 2002 by the American Academy of Family Physicians.

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