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Smoking - giving up smoking

smoking; tobacco; cigarettes; giving; up; quit; quitting; nicotine; addict; addiction; smoke ;


If you made the mistake of becoming a smoker, you are probably aware of how hard it is to give up. Don't give up hope though, because it can be done. After all, think of the alternative… continuing to smoke!

The good news is that, if smokers quit smoking, the body repairs itself quite quickly.

  • Nicotine leaves the body in just two hours, and another deadly chemical, carbon monoxide, leaves the blood stream after only twelve hours.
  • Within two months, the blood flow to the arms and legs has improved, and the lungs begin to repair themselves in about three months.
  • It might be a couple of years before the risk of cancers and heart disease gets back to normal…but hey, then you have a lot more years of being healthy.
  • Your sense of taste and smell improves, your skin will lose the 'grey' look that smokers get, and your body will be free of that stale tobacco smell.

Another good reason for giving up smoking is the amount of money you save.

  • Smoking is expensive. Count up how much money it costs in a year. That amount of money could pay for an overseas holiday, or buy a great sounding stereo system!

You might like to look at 'Can I kick it?' by SA Health, Heart Foundation, Cancer Council SA and Quit SA. 

What if I just cut down on smoking?

There is no 'safe' level of smoking, and the reality is that 'cutting down' just doesn't work!

  • It has been proven that, when people reduce the number of cigarettes they smoke, they take more 'drags' from each cigarette.
  • They also take the smoke deeper into their lungs, and hold it in their lungs for a longer period of time.
  • This means they just end up soaking up the same amount of nicotine and other chemicals from fewer cigarettes.

The same thing happens when people switch to cigarettes with a lower tar content (changing from 'extra mild' to 'ultra mild').

  • People usually do the same things described above, or actually end up smoking more cigarettes!

Also, research on smokers of light cigarettes has shown:

  • no reduction in smoking-related health risks
  • that people are not more likely to quit
  • that smokers are exposed to at least as much carbon monoxide or tar
  • that they still get as much heart disease and lung cancer.

Research has also shown that young people do not know this, and many think that they will be healthier if they smoke light cigarettes. This is not true. Light cigarettes will also be just as likely to make a smoker addicted to cigarettes and smoking.

How can I give up smoking?

No-one is pretending that giving up smoking will be easy, especially if you have been smoking regularly for a long time.

  • You will probably have to deal with cravings to smoke, triggered by habit as well as the addiction to nicotine itself.

However, people are giving up smoking every day, and you can do it too!

It is a good idea to prepare yourself for such a big change in your life a few days in advance.

  • Choose the day when you plan to quit, and make sure you get rid of all your cigarettes the night before.
  • You can also tell your friends and family that you will be trying to give up smoking on a certain day, and begin to plan things you can do to avoid giving into the cravings you are bound to feel for the first few days.
  • It is important to realise that every craving for a cigarette only lasts for about 3-5 minutes, and that if you can avoid smoking each time you get the urge, the craving will just fade away.

'QUIT, the Australian anti smoking organisation, suggests that you use the 4 'D's' every time you feel the urge to smoke.

  1. Most important of all is to 'Delay acting on the urge to smoke' until the craving has passed.
  2. 'Deep breathing' will help to calm you down if you are feeling stressed or anxious, and will give you something to think about other than the need for a cigarette.
  3. 'Drinking water' will freshen your mouth, and if you sip it slowly, will give you something to do until the craving has passed.
  4. 'Do something else', anything at all which will distract you and keep you from reaching for that cigarette - but avoid overeating as the substitute because this can cause other problems. Research has shown that brisk exercise, like a walk for even five minutes, significantly reduces cravings.

While you are trying to give up smoking, it will help if you keep away from other people smoking, or smoky places. It is also a good idea to have a plan to help you avoid times when you smoke out of habit.

  • You could try going for a walk immediately after eating, or using the phone in another room where you don't normally smoke - anything to help break the old habit of smoking.
  • Start going to the gym or going for a regular walk with a non-smoking friend.
  • Get involved in a sports team or take up a game so that you can practise skills.
  • Empty your wardrobe and put everything outside to air, or even wash or dry clean your clothes so that everything smells fresh.
  • Start each day with some deep breathing, and notice how much easier it gets the more you don't smoke.
  • Clean your room well and wash the windows, paintwork, curtains or blinds (notice all the brown stuff that comes off - it is usually the same stuff as what is going into your lungs).
  • Clean out your car, use some ‘new car' polish on the inside and take out the ashtray so that your car doesn't smell of smoke.
  • Look for non-smoking places to go to with your friends. Don't go outside to keep a smoking friend company while he or she has a cigarette.
  • Think of something that you really want - like new clothes, a video game, a holiday or even a car. Work out how many packets of cigarettes it will take to save the money. Put away the money for each packet you don't smoke and see how fast it grows. OK, if what you want is really expensive then it may take a long time…but you could get it if you don't smoke! Would you still get it if you kept on smoking?

Giving up smoking is not easy, and not everybody manages to quit on their first try.

  • It seems that most people actually take a few tries before they manage to quit for good, and that it gets easier each time.
  • Sometimes there can be relapses - if you're at a party you may have a cigarette or two. Don't be too hard on yourself - accept this as an indication of how hard it is to give up - not as an example of failure!
  • Stop smoking again the next day or after the party.

What about withdrawal symptoms?

You may find that you feel pretty bad for a while when you first give up smoking, because your body is 'withdrawing' from its addiction to nicotine.

  • Withdrawal occurs when the body is used to having high levels of chemicals in the blood, and these are suddenly removed.
  • In response, the body gets some unpleasant physical symptoms for a little while.
  • This is the same type of reaction that heroin addicts or alcoholics get when they try to get rid of their addiction.

You may find that:

  • you get constipation or diarrhoea for a few days as your body tries to get used to the lack of nicotine in your system
  • you begin to cough more - this is because your lungs are attempting to clean out the muck that has built up in them over time
  • you suffer from headaches, mood swings, tiredness and getting cranky, or feel dizzy or light headed.

It is important to remember that not everybody suffers from all of these problems, and that they are only temporary. The longer your body goes without nicotine, the milder any withdrawal symptoms will get.

Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT)

  • NRT includes things like patches, gum, lozenges, inhalers and tablets.
  • When someone is addicted to cigarettes or tobacco they are actually addicted to nicotine. Nicotine does not cause the harmful effects of smoking such as lung cancer, but it is the addictive part of tobacco.
  • Nicotine replacement therapy is much, much safer than smoking cigarettes.
  • NRT provides some nicotine to the body to help reduce the cravings, so people can focus on the other challenges of quitting, such as social aspects or peer pressure. Check with a Quitline counsellor, a doctor, or pharmacist to see if you can use NRT.
  • It is not a good idea to use patches during pregnancy, but using the gum is better than smoking if you don't continue smoking while also using the gum!

Weight gain

A lot of people worry that they will put on weight if they give up smoking.

  • The truth is that not all ex-smokers put on weight, and those who do usually only gain a kilo or two.
  • This weight gain is usually only temporary, and a small weight gain is less harmful than continuing to smoke.
  • If you are concerned about any possible increase in weight, try to eat healthy foods and enjoy physical activity regularly while you are trying to quit smoking - this will help improve your overall health, and remind you that you are doing positive things for your body.

Helping your friend to give up smoking

You can't really make someone else give up smoking, but you can help.

  • Help your friend by going to non-smoking places.
  • Involve your friend in fitness activities.
  • Encourage your friend by paying compliments like "you look really well," "your skin/hair looks great," "you are looking fit", etc.
  • Don't nag. Going on and on about not smoking will make your friend desperate to light up a cigarette!

More reasons for being a non-smoker

  • Smoking is not acceptable socially any more.
  • Look at how many rental places ask for non-smokers only. Why? Just wipe a tissue over the window nearest to where someone has been smoking. See all that oily looking brown stuff? Well, that's what gets all over furniture, curtains, windows, tiles, carpets, etc. Is it any wonder that landlords don't want smokers renting their properties?
  • Smokers teeth look yellow.
  • Smokers eyes get red and sore when in a smoky atmosphere.
  • Cigarettes are expensive! Think about all the cool things you could buy with the money that goes on cigarettes! A car, clothes, trips, sports gear, gym membership.
  • Starting to smoke means that you will have to try to give up.  Sometimes this means giving up again and again and again.

Don't give up trying though.

  • Even if you do slip up and decide to have a cigarette - just one at a party - you can give up again the next day.
  • You haven't failed.
  • You just need to be determined that next time you'll succeed.

Why? Because you know that smoking is not cool and it's bad for you!

What is our community doing?

These are what world experts think are essential components of tobacco control policy

  • Use of price, tax increases, or both to reduce consumption
  • Preventing smoking in public places and in workplaces
  • Health warnings on packets of tobacco products
  • Health promotion and public information campaigns
  • Prohibition of advertising and other promotion
  • Provision of smoking cessation services
  • Prevention of smuggling
  • Prohibition of sales and reduction of availability to people under 18 years.

In South Australia all of these have been put in place, and the numbers of people smoking is decreasing, but still too many people smoke.


South Australia



Information in languages other than English

Posters in many languages have been made for the Australian National Tobacco Campaign 2011. They are listed under the heading referring to advertisements on this page 


Brochures and information sheets published by South Australian Smoking and Health Project (QUIT Campaign).

For example:

QuitSA: Smoking cessation guidelines - for Australian General Practice

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The information on this site should not be used as an alternative to professional care. If you have a particular problem, see a doctor or other health professional.
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