Please note: This information was current at the time of publication but now may be out of date.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;66(9):1747-1748

How do you feel about giving up smoking?

Check the box below that best describes how you feel about giving up smoking:

  • I like to smoke, and I'm not planning to stop.

  • I like lots of things about smoking, but I would like to stop.

  • I'm ready to stop smoking now.

If you answered, “I like to smoke, and I'm not planning to stop,” ask yourself this question: Why have so many other people stopped smoking? Consider this: 50 million Americans are former smokers. What do you think were their reasons for stopping? Some of those reasons may also apply to you. Do you have problems with breathing, your heart, or high blood pressure? Does cancer run in your family? You can lower your chance of having these problems by giving up smoking.

If you answered, “I like lots of things about smoking, but I would like to stop,” you are like most smokers. Now ask yourself this question: How will I be better off after I stop smoking? You might come up with some of the following answers:

  • My health will improve.

  • In what way? ______________________

  • I'll save money.

  • How much? ________________________

  • My house and car will be cleaner.

  • Why is this important? _______________

  • My family and friends will be glad. Why? _____________________________

  • I'll feel better about myself.

  • In what way? _______________________

  • Another reason is: ___________________

The more reasons you have to stop smoking, the more likely you are to follow through on your plan to stop.

If you answered, “I'm ready to stop smoking now,” your doctor will help you succeed. The following are some suggestions to help you understand why you smoke. If you know why you smoke, you can make an effective plan for stopping.

What are your smoking triggers?

Start by listing some of the times when you most want a cigarette. These are your “triggers” to smoking. Triggers are events that set off your need to smoke a cigarette. How would you complete the phrase, “I want a cigarette...”?

  • When I see someone else smoking.

  • When I see cigarettes in an ashtray.

  • When I am cleaning the house.

  • When the telephone rings.

  • When I am relaxing.

  • When I drink a cup of coffee.

  • When I have an alcoholic drink.

  • During or after meals.

  • When I am driving a car.

  • When I am on a coffee break.

  • After leaving work.

  • When I am watching TV.

For each trigger that applies to you, think of something you could do that makes you less likely to smoke. For example, instead of smoking after meals, you could get right up and brush your teeth.

Do you use cigarettes to relieve uncomfortable feelings?

Smokers often use cigarettes to help them cope with uncomfortable feelings. Think about whether you do this. You may have smoked cigarettes when you felt:

  • Angry

  • Mistreated

  • Disappointed

  • Hurt

  • Resentful

  • Frightened

  • Ashamed

  • Frustrated

  • Lonely

  • Embarrassed

  • Abandoned

  • Depressed

  • Guilty

  • Anxious or stressed

  • Sorry for yourself

  • Bored

  • Abused

  • Worried

Once you know that you use cigarettes to help you cope with stressful or difficult times, you will be better able to get through those times without smoking. Deep breathing, relaxation exercises, and guided imagery have helped many smokers stop. Ask your doctor for more information about these techniques.

What can I do about nicotine withdrawal?

If you smoke on a regular basis, you are probably physically dependent on nicotine. You will have withdrawal symptoms when you stop smoking.

Your body gets rid of one half the nicotine in your bloodstream every 1 to 2 hours, so it doesn't take long after you finish a cigarette before your body cries out for another. You may become irritable and agitated, have trouble sleeping, have difficulty concentrating, or experience mood swings. These withdrawal symptoms are often the reason smokers give up their effort to stop. These symptoms are worse during the first few days after you stop smoking, but most are gone in a few weeks.

Nicotine replacement products are ways to take in nicotine without smoking. These products include the chewing gum, patch, nasal spray, and inhaler. They allow you to change the things you do that support your habit before you deal with your addiction to nicotine. You can buy the patch and gum without a prescription.

A medicine called bupropion (brand name: Zyban) helps some people stop smoking. It is taken as a pill and does not contain nicotine.

For any of these products to work, you must follow the directions on the package carefully. It's important that you don't smoke while using nicotine replacement products. Talk to your doctor about which of these products might help you.

Where can I get more information?

Your doctor.

  • American Cancer Society

  • Telephone: 1-800-227-2345

  • Web address:

  • American Lung Association (Freedom from Smoking)

  • Telephone: 1-212-315-8700

  • Web address:

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