Prepare to Quit Smoking


Prepare to Quit Smoking

We all know this, quitting is hard. But it is easier if you prepare ahead of time. When you feel like you are ready to quit, START by following these five steps:

1. Set a Quit Date

Pick a date within the next two weeks to quit smoking. This will give you enough time to prepare. Really think about your quit date. Avoid choosing a day where you know you will be busy, stressed, or tempted to smoke (for example, a night out with friends, days where you may smoke at work).

2. Tell Family and Friends You Plan to Quit

Quitting smoking is easier when the people in your life support you. Let them know you are planning to quit. Explain how they can help you quit. We all need different things, so be sure you let friends and family know exactly how they can help. Not sure what you need? Here are a few ways to START the conversation:

  • Tell family and friends your reasons for quitting.

  • Ask your friends and family to check in with you to see how things are going.

  • Identify your smoking triggers, and ask your friends and family to help you deal with them.

  • Ask your friends and family to help you think of smokefree activities you can do together (like going to the movies or a nice restaurant).

  • Know a friend or family member who smokes? Ask them to quit with you, or at least not smoke around you.

  • You are going to be tempted to smoke. Ask your friends and family not to let you have a cigarette—no matter what.

  • Let your friends and family know that you may be in a bad mood while quitting; ask them to be patient and help you through it.

  • Do you take any medicines? Tell your doctor or pharmacist you are quitting. You may need to change your prescriptions after you quit.

Support is one of the keys to successfully quitting. Check out additional support options to help you quit.

3. Anticipate and Plan for Challenges While Quitting

Quitting smoking is hardest during the first few weeks. You will deal with uncomfortable feelings, temptations to smoke, withdrawal symptoms, and cigarette cravings. An important part of preparing to quit is anticipating these challenges. To get a head START, be aware of the following:

Uncomfortable Feelings

The first few weeks after quitting, a lot of people may feel uncomfortable and will crave a cigarette. This is because of withdrawal. Withdrawal is when your body gets used to not having nicotine from cigarettes. Nicotine is the chemical found in cigarettes that makes you want to keep smoking. Some of the more common feelings that come with withdrawal are:

  • Feeling a little depressed

  • Not being able to sleep

  • Getting cranky, frustrated, or mad

  • Feeling anxious, nervous, or restless

  • Having trouble thinking clearly

You may be tempted to smoke to relieve these feelings. Just remember that they are temporary, no matter how powerful they feel at the time.

Smoking Triggers

Triggers are specific persons, places, or activities that make you feel like smoking. It is important to know your smoking triggers so you can learn to deal with them.


Cravings are short but intense urges to smoke. They usually only last a few minutes. Plan ahead and come up with a list of short activities you can do when you get a craving.

4. Remove Cigarettes and Other Tobacco From Your Home‚ Car‚ and Work

You will be tempted to smoke during your quit. Stay strong; you can do it! Removing things that remind you of smoking will get you ready to quit. Try these tips:

  • Throw away all your cigarettes and matches. Give or throw away your lighters and ashtrays. Remember the ashtray and lighter in your car!

  • Don't save one pack of cigarettes "just in case.' Keeping one pack just makes it easier to start smoking again.

  • Remove the smell of cigarettes from your life. Make things clean and fresh at work‚ in your car‚ and at home. Clean your drapes and clothes. Shampoo your car. You will be less tempted to light up if you don't smell smoke.

  • Have your dentist clean your teeth to get rid of smoking stains. Your teeth will look amazing. When you quit smoking, they will always look that way.

Don't Use Other Products with Tobacco

Thinking about using other tobacco products instead of cigarettes? Think again. All tobacco products contain harmful chemicals and poisons. Despite their name, light or low-tar cigarettes are just as bad as regular cigarettes. Smokeless tobacco‚ pipes‚ cigars‚ cigarillos‚ hookahs (waterpipes)‚ bidi cigarettes‚ clove cigarettes‚ and herbal cigarettes also hurt your health.

No matter how they are presented in advertisements‚ all tobacco products are dangerous.

5. Talk to Your Doctor or Pharmacist About Quit Options

It is difficult to quit smoking on your own, but quitting "cold turkey" is not your only choice. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist about other support options. Most doctors and pharmacists can answer your questions, give advice, and tell you where to get quit smoking help.

Quit smoking medications are also an effective quit option. Many quit smoking medicines, especially Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT), are available without a prescription. This includes the nicotine patch, nicotine gum, or nicotine lozenge. Read the instructions before using any medications. If you have questions about a medication, ask your pharmacist. If you are pregnant or planning to become pregnant, consult your doctor before using any type of medication. If you plan on using quit smoking medications, remember to have them available on your quit day. Visit our medications page to learn more.

If you need help right away, you can talk to a quit smoking counselor by phone or online.

Quit Day: 5 Steps

Congratulations on the decision to quit. Your first day without cigarettes can be difficult, but having a plan will make it easier! Don't rely on willpower alone to keep you smokefree. Prepare so that you can feel confident in your ability to stay quit today.

Step One

Tell your friends and family that today is your quit day. Ask them for support during these first few days and weeks. They can help you get through the rough spots, but make sure to tell them how they can support you. Be specific; they aren't mind readers.

Step Two

Get the support you need—either by developing your own quit plan or finding a quit program that works for you. A quit plan combines strategies that help you stay focused, confident, and motivated to quit. You might decide to use a quit program like SmokefreeTXT, or a quitline like 1–800–QUIT–NOW (1–800–784–8669), to get started. If you're not sure exactly which quit methods are right for you, visit the Quit Smoking Methods Explorer to learn more. If nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) is part of your plan, make sure to start using it first thing in the morning. Remember, there's no right way to quit—be honest about what you need. Just don't celebrate with a cigarette.

Step Three

Stay busy. It might seem simple, but staying busy is one of the best ways to stay smokefree on your quit day. Try one of these activities:

  • Get out of the house

  • Go to dinner at your favorite smokefree restaurant

  • Go to a movie

  • Chew gum or hard candy

  • Keep your hands busy with a pen or toothpick

  • Relax with deep breathing

  • Plan a game night with non-smoking friends

  • Change your regular routine

  • Drink a lot of water

  • Exercise

Step Four

Avoid smoking triggers. Triggers are the people, places, things, and situations that trigger your urge to smoke. On your quit day, it's best to avoid them all together. Here are a few tips to help you outsmart some common smoking triggers:

  • Throw away your cigarettes, lighters, and ash trays if you haven't already

  • Avoid caffeine, which can make you feel jittery; try drinking water instead

  • Hang out with non-smokers; most people don't smoke, so you should have options

  • Go to a place where smoking isn't allowed; unless you want to break the law, you won't light up

  • Get plenty of rest and eat healthy; lack of sleep and too much sugar can trigger you to smoke

Step Five

Stay positive, but vigilant. Quitting smoking happens one minute, one hour, and one day at a time. Don't think of quitting as "forever". Pay attention to right now, and the days will add up! Quitting smoking is difficult, but it doesn't hurt to say positive; don't beat yourself up. Day one isn't going to be perfect, but all that matters is you don't smoke—not even one puff. Reward yourself for being smokefree for 24 hours. You deserve it!

If you're not feeling prepared to quit today, set a quit date that makes sense for you. It's okay if you need a few more days to prepare to quit smoking.

For additional information and tips, see our book Addicted Kids; Our Lost Generation