Choose a Plan or Create Your Own to Quit Smoking

We've offered you a suggested plan and links to other organizations that offer plans that have helped many people stop smoking, but many successful former smokers devised plans of their own that may help you quit.

"The first week, I told one-quarter of my friends and family that I had quit smoking, so any time I wanted to be around them..."

"The first week of my "grand plan" I told one-quarter of my friends and family that I had quit smoking all together. So any time I wanted to be around them ... I had no choice but to be smoke free. At the same time, I still had other friends that I could smoke with. The next week I told another quarter that I had quit and so on. By the end of a month, I had told everyone that I had quit and I smoked my last cigarette. I also made a few adjustments in my life to try to make it easier on me. When I hung out with my friends who smoked I always chose areas where smoking was not allowed. I also made an effort to hang around more nonsmokers and to never date a smoker." — Caroline D.

"I told myself that from this day forward I wouldn't BUY any more cigarettes."

"The day that I decided 'no more' I still had cigarettes in the house. I could have thrown them away, but I told myself that from this day forward I wouldn't BUY anymore cigarettes. EVER. Because I was so dependent, I started by cutting back. As my stash dwindled, pack by pack, I started questioning myself, 'do I REALLY want this cigarette now, or would I rather save it for tomorrow morning?' I found that since I was evaluating how important it was to smoke or not smoke each cigarette, that those last 9 packs of cigarettes lasted a VERY long time (months). At the end, I was down to that one morning cigarette. I was adjusting my body to diminishing amounts of nicotine and other additives and I was doing it at my own pace. I didn't need patches or gum because I was using real cigarettes. It does take willpower, though." — Kati M.

"I took one cigarette out of my pack and smoked the rest." "I was an approximate one-pack-a-day smoker. Quitting by cold turkey did not appeal to me, as I knew that it is a chemical and there would be actual physical withdrawal symptoms. Every day I took one cigarette out of my pack and smoked the rest. After awhile I took three cigarettes out, and smoked the rest, etc. and it worked! I smoked a modified "pack" a day, and reused the ones I took out. I did it gradually and got down to 3 cigarettes a day. It was a game with me. I would see how long I could go without one and then reward myself by having one. I knew once I smoked that third one, that was all I had for the rest of the day, so I saved them for special occasions, stuff like morning coffee, or after dinner. I was finally down to one a day, and let me tell you, I had it every morning with coffee, and my body depended on that one a day! I finally stopped, which was hard because I no longer had any more nicotene coming into my system, however, I think it was much easier, as I had weaned myself off them, and quitting that one smoke a day was easier than quitting cold turkey off a pack a day habit!

Also, in the meantime, I had kept a half of a pack in the glove compartment in my truck for months. They were terribly stale and old. They were my emergency pack in case I started jonesing really bad and was gonna have one. Well, after quitting, I had a run-in with an ex-boyfriend and my nerves were shot, and I was gonna have one no matter what, so I grabbed on of my "emergency cigarettes" out of the glove compartment and lit it and it was so stale, and as I had not had a cigarette in weeks, and the fact it was so old, it made me sick as a dog, and I've never touched one since!" — Larisa S.

Choose a Plan or Create Your Own to Quit Smoking (<i>cont'd</i>)

"Here are the steps I took to quit forever."

  1. Plan ahead and pick a date in the near future for quiting. No more than a month ahead.
  2. Every day leading up to that date, make a conscious effort to use negative 'self-talk' about how nasty the ashtrays look, how your lungs look, the yellow on your fingers, bad breath, etc. Don't try to cut back yet.
  3. Every day, recommit to quitting on that date, put it in your planner and on your calendar.
  4. Two weeks or so before quitting, start buying your cigarettes by the pack rather than having a carton available.
  5. One week before the special day, change to a brand of cigarettes completely different from your brand. I smoked a menthol light and switched to Carlton's regular.
  6. On D-day, throw away every cigarette in your possession. Clean up all ashtrays and store away. Take the ashtray out of your car. Remove extra matches, give away or throw away lighters and any other smoking accessories.
  7. Eat plenty of broccoli and cauliflower. Supposedly, it helps remove the nicotine from your system faster. Can't guarantee that this works, but it's healthy for you and can't hurt.
  8. Do not sit or stand around with friends in the smoking area. Eventually, smoke will begin to strongly offend your senses and when that happens, you've broken the addiction to smoking.
  9. Do not, under any circumstances, pick up a cigarette to see if it still tastes the same or any other excuse!! I guarantee, you will fail again if you weaken.

— H.

"I knew I couldn't give up smoking forever. So I gave up cigarettes for a decade."

"I had a pack-and-a-half-a-day habit. I knew I couldn't give up smoking forever. So I gave cigarettes up for a decade. What worked for me was a little promise to myself, in the form of a simple contract. At age 19, I realized that my 20's would shape my future. I didn't want smoking to slow me down. I wrote up a contract to stop smoking on a small piece of scrap paper. I was at the airport at the time. I met a girl there selling flowers and I asked her to "witness" it. It went into effect on December 31st, 1979. I kept that promise for ten years.

Then, on New Year's Eve 1989, exactly 10 years later, I was with a friend who knew about my contract. We talked about it and as I pondered the future, I figured my 30's would represent an important turning point in my family life and career. I didn't need a return to cigarettes getting in the way. She persuaded me to renew my contract for another decade. We wrote it up on a napkin and both signed it. I kept that promise for another ten years.

Now, I'm 41 and happily in my third smoke-free decade. As I look back, I liked the idea of a contract with myself for only ten years at a time because whenever I had the urge to smoke I knew there was light at the end of the tunnel. I could wait until my contract was up. Today I am without a contract— cigarettes. I also have a wonderful family and a rewarding career. And for the first time in 20 years, I have the option to return to smoking. But now I've been separated from the habit for half my life. I finally have the free will to choose not to smoke. It might sound crazy but hey, it worked for me! — Jeff D.

Choose a Plan or Create Your Own to Quit Smoking (<i>cont'd</i>)

"First, I would change the time that I would have my first 'smoke' of the day."

"First I would change the time that I would have my first "smoke" of the day, starting at 9:00am for the first month, then 11:30 for a couple weeks, then 1:00. Once I got to that point, I'd go to bed around 9:00pm, therefore only smoking 8 hours a day and only allowing myself one per hour, thus smoking 8 cigarettes a day.

The next step, I just stopped, but I always kept a pack in my pocket. It was the psychological effect of knowing that I could smoke at anytime, but I choose not to. You see, in the past if I broke down and bought a pack I would feel obligated to smoke it since I bought it, but this way made it easier. After two months of carrying the pack with me, never having smoked from it, I threw it away and I have now been nicotine-free since February 12, 1999." — Michael P.

"The next time I had a craving, I would say to myself, 'I can wait another 15 minutes and do this chore before I have another cigarette.'"

"First, I changed my habits. If I was used to having a cigarette after eating, then right after finishing a meal, I would get up and get busy doing something to distract me from wanting to sit there and smoke. The next time I had a craving, I would say to myself, 'I can wait another 15 minutes and do this chore first before I have a cigarette.' After a while, I started to skip the usual times I would smoke because my body was no longer craving them at those times. It eventually got down to where I was only smoking three to two cigarettes a day. At that point, I figured I could give up a couple of cigarettes as it did not seem the big deal as when I started with trying to give up 1-1/2 packs a day. So basically, I took it in steps and did not give up when I would back slide and have more cigarettes than I had the day before. I just acknowledged the slip-up and went on trying from there. It took me about two months." — J.

"Start smoking in places that are not your usual places to smoke."

  1. Pick a date to actually quit. Be realistic. (Don't pick tomorrow) Set your "I QUIT" date down the road at least two weeks from the day you really decide to quit.
  2. Consciously think about the goal date you have picked each time you think about lighting up.
  3. Start smoking in places that are not your usual places to (outside on the porch; in the bathroom; standing up in front of your house or apartment, etc.)
  4. Remove your ashtrays from the places where you normally light up, and dispose of them.
  5. (This a hard one.) Tell everyone you know that you are going to quit smoking, and them them your "I Quit" date. (The key words here are "going to quit" not "going to try to quit")
  6. Start leaving your cigarettes in a place that you have to go get them instead of in your pocket or purse.
  7. Start asking yourself 'Do I really need this smoke now or can I put it off for a little later?
  8. As your "I Quit" date grows closer, set up a schedule of times during the day to light up. If you miss the time, wait for the next one. (Setting up a time every 20 or 30 minutes during the day is not going to help at all.)
  9. Cut down on doing things that you do when you usally have a smoke. (Taking a drink; Driving your vehicle; Having that extra cup of coffee, etc.) Really think about this one.
  10. Ask your friends to help you quit, or get into a quit-smoking program. Your HMO and other medical coverage plans may offer this type of service.

Joe B.

Choose a Plan or Create Your Own to Quit Smoking (<i>cont'd</i>)

"I think the first thing I did was to write a list of the reasons why I wanted to quit."

I think the first thing that I did was to write a list of the reasons why I wanted to quit. When you're going through withdrawal is not the time to write the list. My list was short but to the point and blunt:

  1. Beauty — Smokers turn into "monkey-faces," as they age. Wrinkles and deep creases form around the lips. Skin looks gray and ashy, due to lack of oxygen to tissues in face. Puffy face from retaining toxic chemicals in cigarettes
  2. Child — My 8 year old son told me that for his birthday all he wanted was for me to quit smoking. I always tried to smoke outside. I spent countless nights on the patio watching my family laughing and playing while I smoked. I wanted to be a positive role model-children learn by example more than any other method.
  3. Health — I had many bouts of bronchitis and all my colds escalated to my chest. I felt ill and sluggish all the time.
  4. Freedom — I realized after smoking for 14 years that I was not free to do anything I wanted to do without thinking about the 'monkey on my back.' I would go to the show and three-fourths the way through all I thought about was having a cigarette. Christmas morning it hit me when the kids ran out to rip open there presents and had to wait for me to go out to the patio in the cold and smoke my morning cigarette.
  5. Money — Cigarettes are so expensive, you could take a wonderful luxury cruise with the money you spend on one year's smoking.
  6. Smell — It stinks...no matter what you do, i.e., gum, perfume, whatever, you have a rotten mildewy smell.
  7. Breath — Again, it stinks and when you are close to people and trying to enjoy a conversation, somewhere in the back of your mind you are thinking about your breath and wondering if it stink, which is does after you smoke.
  8. Cancer — The big "C" word. I fear it anyway and smoking exacerbates the possibilities of lung cancer and many other cancers.
  9. Oxygen — I don't want my children taking care of me when I develop lung cancer or have to scare my grand children with a hole in my throat.
  10. Outcast — Smokers are frowned upon and usually they end up set apart from parties or functions. Smoking is so yesterday.

So this was my list and I put it in an empty cigarette box. Then I compiled a list of substitutes when the cravings hit.

  1. Gum — I chewed grape bubble gum, lemon drops, sour balls, cinnamon toothpicks, etc., for the oral gratification.
  2. Coffee — Drinking coffee and substituting a latte at Starbucks helped me to not feel like I was giving up everything I enjoyed. And I used it as a reward.
  3. Deep breaths — I used some yoga deep breathing and stretches to help my body focus on the positive aspects of quitting smoking. I took a yoga class as a treat for not smoking.
  4. Apply the AA philosophy of 'One day at a time' — Don't think of it as never smoking again, just tell yourself, 'today I will be cigarette free.'
  5. RUN Baby Run — to get the same type of adrenaline rush that nicotine gives you. Go for a brisk walk swinging your arms and singing at the top of your lungs. Who cares if people think your crazy. You're a nonsmoker.
  6. Read over and over the list of why you wanted to quit smoking.
  7. Reward — Buy a new pair of shoes with the money you have saved. Keep track of each and every penny you would have spent on cigarettes and for the first 30 days spend all of it on yourself. A massage, a facial, and a fancy haircut.
  8. Go to park and watch children playing. Now imagine all those kids smoking and trying to play. Not a good visual. Honor the little kid in you and hit the toy store. Get a nurturing toy. A teddy bear. Barbie, whatever to make you feel like you're honoring your child spirit.
  9. Hit the computer and print out congratulations awards to yourself for each day you are smoke free.
  10. Hug yourself, tight, each time you need a cigarette. Dance around the room and yell, 'I am in control of my body and I choose to be smoke-free.'"

Rain T.

Choose a Plan or Create Your Own to Quit Smoking (<i>cont'd</i>)

"Note the time of day you smoke, then the length of time between cigarettes."

"I have found two ways to quit smoking. One is to wait for the motivation and timing. The other is to cut down gradually. I did it successfully. Smoke one cigarette per normal cycle for a week. Note the time of day you smoke, then the length of time between cigarettes. Once you know your pattern it is necessary to lengthen the time in between cigarettes. If normally you smoke every half hour, then make the next week your 35-minute week. That means one cigarette every 35 minutes or less. This method satisfied my addictions while allowing me to control my usage. I quit in three months, two years ago." — Jeff W.

"Instead of smoking a whole cigarette I'd smoke only half of it and finish the rest the next time I wanted one."

When I decided to quit smoking I smoked 1 pack a day so I wanted to quit gradually. Instead of smoking a whole cigarette I'd smoke only half of it and finish the rest the next time I wanted one. The second one didn't taste as good as the first one so I started to smoke less. Also I started to chew sugarless gum to substitute cravings. I started to work out also so I had motivation to quit. After about 4 weeks I was down to 1/2 pack a day and was working out at least three times a week. Then I started to take just a few drags and put out my cigarette and keep going like that. By the time you relight the same smoke 5 times it really doesn't seem that great anymore.

After five months I was down to two cigarettes a day. I was chewing lots of gum but it helped curb the cravings. It took six months until I thought I could finally quit altogether. On October 31st, 1985, at 5 minutes to midnight I had my last cigarette and flushed the rest down the toilet. I've never smoked again. By the time the sixth month came around it seemed pointless to just have two cigarettes a day and not just quit, so it was easy. I still enjoy the aroma of a freshly lit cigarette from someone else, but I've never started again. — David M.

"The first thing I did was create a plan for what my life would look like as a nonsmoker..."

"The first thing I did was create a plan for what my life would look like as a non-smoker. I had always mistakenly believed that smoking somehow made me a bit "cooler" than those who didn't smoke. We had a club, we were rebels smoking in all forms of weather outside the building while everyone else was working. How could I ever walk into a bar and not want to smoke a cigarette? My smoker identity was so strong that I even had an extensive collection of cigarette cases, expensive lighters and kitschy ashtrays.

Once I realized that I wouldn't change intrinsically, I started to create healthy changes slowly as I prepared to quit smoking. I realized that it would be great to wake up and not smell like an ashtray. It would be even better to not taste like an ashtray all the time. Cigarette smoking permeates everything, your pores, your bloodstream, your hair, your clothing, your teeth, your car. Let alone the health risks of cancer and heart disease.

I looked at the calendar and chose a date three months away to give myself plenty of time to prepare. The date I chose was the day I returned from a vacation I had been looking forward to for quite sometime. That way I wouldn't have to worry about being irritable while traveling.

In the meantime, I set goals for decreasing the amount of cigarettes each week leading up towards my "Quit Date." Weaning myself from the nicotine gradually was a key to my success. I bought a box of nicotine patches about a month before and read through their helpful hint guidelines, which really helped me to get a sense of things I could prepare for now to help me fight the urge to smoke then. I used the patch for six weeks. — Marlene K.

"If normally I smoked twenty cigarettes a day, I would tell myself I'd only have eighteen..."

"I quit smoking by cutting back on a daily basis. If normally I smoked twenty cigarettes a day, I would tell myself I'd only have eighteen, and the next day fifteen, etc. I set goals I pretty much knew I could achieve, but when I felt daring I'd make them challenging. The important thing is to keep progressing toward your overall goal of quitting, for good. When the number of cigarettes I'd smoke per day got low (under ten per day for me, but it depends on your habits) I'd wait awhile after I woke up to have my first cigarette of the day. This is a good thing to do at the beginning of your path to quitting, too. It helps build your will. Wait an hour from the time you'd normally light your first smoke before burning one. Wait four hours after waiting an hour becomes easy. It's all about establishing new habits." — M.F.

Choose a Plan or Create Your Own to Quit Smoking (<i>cont'd</i>)

"I started out by telling myself that I was buying only one more carton..."

"I started out by telling myself that I was buying only one more carton and then I was quitting. I stopped smoking at work and stayed away from people at breaks who where smoking. When I would get home I'd smoke as much as I wanted. When I started not to crave cigarettes at work, I decided to cut back on how much I would smoke at home. Eventually I was smoking one or two cigarettes a day. So when the carton ran out I didn't really need them. I did have days when I would want one, but it wasn't like I would die without them. All I needed was a little willpower and support from my family and friends!" — Marie F.

"Set aside a weekend or a few days away from the daily grind."

"When I quit smoking five years ago, I created a plan that went as follows:

  1. Set aside a weekend or a few days away from the 'daily grind.' Most smokers know that stressful situations only tempt one to smoke even more than they usually do.
  2. Avoid alcohol and caffeine. Other drugs such as these only lessen one's will-power and self control.
  3. Tell your friends and family. They should support you. If they also smoke and they are (for some reason) unsupportive, then try to avoid them for a few days.
  4. Breathe! Take deep breaths when the withdrawal symptoms really kick in. Go for short walks, too. This will help clear one's "system" from nicotine.
  5. Eat sensibly, drink plenty of fluids, and take a vitamin supplement. This will allow the body to flush the nicotine drug from the "system" and shorten the withdrawal period.
  6. Chew gum or use mints, if one thinks it beneficial.
  7. Remember that the withdrawal period will last only a few days and will grow gradually weaker as time progresses. Forget any horror stories that one might recall from those who failed to quit. They will only serve to discourage prospective quitters.

Having a plan helped me to quit smoking on my first attempt, but smokers who fail at this first attempt should not become discouraged. Try again. Remember, the smoker does not have to do anything to quit; quitting is about not doing something. Get rid of any cigarettes that are around the home, and 'take it one minute at a time.' Pretty soon the cravings will subside, and one will finally become free from this dangerous drug addiction." — Geoffrey M.

"I didn't empty my ashtrays the final week, and dumped all my butts in a jar on 'D-Day'..."

"Patches worked best for me. I quit previously using Smoke Enders, Nicorette, cold turkey — never stayed off them more than three years. Now it's been almost ten years.

  • I didn't empty my ashtrays the final week, and dumped all my butts in a jar on "D-day", added a little water and took the lid for a good sniff when I wanted to smoke.
  • I also took some work clothes, put them in dry-cleaning bags, and when I wanted to smoke, I unveiled the clothes so I could remember what I smelled like.

I also employed other previous tactics I learned:

  • changing brands
  • changing from regular to menthol
  • changing to a brand with lower nicotine
  • changing smoking hand
  • not smoking in the car
  • not smoking on the phone
  • not smoking after meals
  • (Some folks may want to only smoke outside, but I was already doing that.)
  • I avoided spots where people were smoking, such as bars or smoking sections of restaurants.
  • I bought a huge box of Tootsie Pops and when I normally smoked a cigarette, I had a Tootsie Pop.

I've heard time and time again what a powerful addiction nicotine is. However, I found changing my habitual behavior helped tremendously in succeeding. — Wendy N.