Congratulations—if you have decided to quit smoking today, you're already on your way to a healthier life. Some advanced preparation for kicking the smoking habit can go a long way in making you successful, but it is not uncommon for a smoker—when he decides to quit—to want to put that desire into action that day.

If today is the day you plan to quit smoking, here are some strategies to help you get through your most challenging first few days.

Quitting Smoking by Going "Cold Turkey"

Stopping "cold turkey"—that is, without the help of medication, nicotine replacement products or any kind of support group or class—is the most popular way to quit smoking, but also the most challenging. Only a small percentage of people are able to actually quit smoking on their first attempt on their own.

That doesn't mean you might not be in that percentage of successful quitters, but don't beat yourself up if you aren't. You'll learn through trial-and-error how to correct your weak spots, even if it takes you several tries to stop smoking altogether.

Your success rate will depend on your personality, the strength of your addiction and your daily habits. Cigarette smoking is both physically and psychologically addictive, and withdrawal symptoms can last up to three months. Some people underestimate the extent of the withdrawal they will go through, but going "cold turkey" does work better for some personalities, particularly those preferring a no-frills, black-and-white approach.

If you have tried going cold turkey before and find the withdrawal symptoms too much to take, you may want to consider a quit smoking program that step down your nicotine gradually, so that the severity of symptoms is less.

Planning Ahead to Quit Smoking

An eagerness to quit is a good thing. But if you are willing to afford yourself even a little time to prepare, you may find your efforts to be more successful.

Let's say it is the eve before you stop smoking. You will have your last cigarette before you go to bed and wake up tomorrow as a non-smoker. There are several things you need to do in preparation for the big day.

  1. Make a list of the reasons you want to quit. There must be something that is driving you to give up this habit. Is it to enjoy better health? Do you want to stop subjecting those around you to your disgusting smoke? Do you want to live longer or be a better example to others? Write down as many reasons you can think of.
  2. Get rid of cigarette paraphernalia. Dispose of your lighter, matches, ashtrays and cigarette case. Clean out your car's ashtray and spray the vehicle's interior with something that smells good. Search your pockets, purses and cabinets for any remaining cigarettes; destroy and dispose of them.
  3. Ask your friends and family for support. Tell those closest to you what your intentions are and ask them to help. Ask for their patience as you go through withdrawal and tell them you may be moody for a few days until you adjust to not having nicotine.
  4. Make a list of your possible smoking triggers—and prep ways to thwart them. You know the places and situations that you connect strongly with smoking. Do you feel that you have to light up when you drink coffee or alcohol? Can you talk on the phone without smoking? If coffee is too much of a reminder, drink tea for a while. Stay away from alcohol until you feel more in control. Have a piece of gum or sugarless candy ready for the telephone.
  5. Say goodbye to your cigarettes. As bedtime nears, start saying goodbye to your cigarettes. Tell them you appreciate how they have been there for you, but you're making a different choice about your life now and they can't come along. After smoking your final cigarette, brush your teeth, floss and use mouthwash to create a clean, new taste in your mouth.

Waking Up as a Non-Smoker

You have quit smoking today. It is the first day of the rest of your life as a non-smoker! Are you ready for the ride? There will be some bumps, so fasten your seatbelt.

  1. Keep your attitude strong. When the first wave of withdrawal hits, think "I can do this," because you can. Cravings only last a few minutes before they pass. Distract yourself by doing something physical. Take a walk around the block, or touch your toes 20 times. Don't give in to feelings of deprivation.
  2. Avoid your old smoking situations. Don't go outside with your co-workers who smoke during break. Don't go to the bar after work. When you feel a craving coming on, stop and take several deep breaths. Spend time in places where you can't smoke.
  3. Find better ways to handle a crisis. Remember that smoking doesn't make anything better. It just creates another problem to eventually deal with. Find new outlets for coping, such as helping those in need or seeking the counsel of a friend or therapist.
  4. Call on your cheerleaders. If you're really having a difficult time, call someone who will tell you how proud they are of you for quitting. Their motivation can help keep you on track and reinvigorate your commitment.
  5. Consider nicotine replacement. If you are seriously considering having a cigarette and just don't think you can avoid it, purchase a nicotine replacement product. Though you may feel like the patch or gum is a crutch, these tools help may reach their goal—even if it takes a bit longer than you may hope. You may also want to talk to your doctor about prescription options.
  6. If you relapse...forgive yourself and begin again.

Written by: Betty Holt

Source: Mayo Clinic. Smoking Cessation Medications and Depression: Be Cautious. Available at:

Publication Review By: the Editorial Staff at

Published: 16 Jun 2011

Last Modified: 19 Feb 2015