How to quit smoking

Posted: Dec 14 2020

According to Cancer Council Australia, smoking can lead to 15 different types of cancers. It’s also known that tobacco smoke contains more than 7,000 chemicals, 70 of which are known to be cancer causing. There is some good news, as soon as you quit, there are immediate and long-term health benefits.

What happens when you stop smoking?

  • Almost all of the nicotine has left your system after 12 hours of quitting smoking.
  • Your body can take and use oxygen more efficiently after 24 hours.
  • Sense of smell and taste starts to return after 2 days.
  • Blood flow to your hands and feet will begin to improve after 2 months.
  • Your risk of heart disease drops dramatically after 1 year.
  • You risk of developing lung cancer is halved after 10 years.

How to get started

To get to the nitty gritty of how to best quit smoking, we chat to Cancer Council SA’s Quitline Counsellor, David Schmidt. He says kicking off your smoke-free journey should begin with a clear plan of attack in place. “A lot of people wake up one morning and decide they want to quit, but going in with a plan is a way that will help you have success.”

Pick a ‘quit day’ and try to stick to it. It’s a good idea to tell friends and family about your plan so you can stay accountable.

Having clear motivations outlined in the beginning as to why you want to quit is also a very helpful tactic that will encourage you stay on track. Mr Schmidt says putting these motivations in place from the get go will help support your future self when challenges arise.

Motivations to kick the habit:

  • Improving your health
  • Planning a family
  • Protecting loved ones from passive smoking
  • To save money

Methods of quitting

  • Going cold turkey – For some people, completely cutting out cigarettes from the get go is the most successful way to go about it.
  • Slowly reducing the amount – Each day try to cut down on the amount of cigarettes you smoke until you’re no longer smoking. Delaying your first cigarette by an hour each day is also recommended.
  • Nicotine replacement therapy – Nicotine patches, lozenges and gum can help to reduce the withdrawal symptoms without any of the harmful chemicals that come with smoking.
  • Alternative therapies – Herbal remedies and spiritual healing are available but there’s not enough evidence to suggest these help.

Coping with cravings and withdrawals

When nicotine enters the blood system, a ‘feel good’ effect occurs thanks to the brain’s ‘reward system’. The body then craves this drug when it’s removed from our system, as it believes something good is missing.

It’s common within the first few days of putting down the smokes to feel irritable, tired and tense. However, this reaction is only temporary and usually within one or two weeks these symptoms disappear.

Knowing your triggers as you begin to quit is important to take note of. There may be certain situations that will make you more likely to reach for a cigarette, like during your coffee break or when you feel stressed. So it’s best to be aware of this and prepare for it.

If the urge arises, try ‘the four D’s:

  • Delay acting on this urge to smoke, usually after five minutes this desire decreases.
  • Deep breathe slowly, repeating three times.
  • Drink some water.
  • Do something else to take your mind off this urge. Go for a walk, talk to a friend or eat a snack, it’s all about distraction.

Mr Schmidt says nicotine replacement therapy is a good tool to use if quitting is becoming too stressful. Using an appropriate level of nicotine replacement therapy will reduce your cravings and make quitting more bearable.

The patches, lozenges and gum are available at a reduced cost through the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS), you’ll just need a prescription from your doctor. Otherwise, all of these products are available over the counter at pharmacies and supermarkets.

Each time you resist the urge to smoke, why not treat yourself and spend some of the money you would have otherwise used for smoking? It’s estimated if you smoked a pack of cigarettes a day, each year you’d be forking out around $10,000!

Who can help?

Having a strong support system around you is very important. Chatting to friends and family who have been through the challenges of quitting smoking can be helpful when times are tough.

Try not to worry if you don’t have this support network around, there are other options out there. Mr Schmidt says, “We have a web chat service where you can log on to or a lot of people get the support of a GP or another health practitioner.”

How can you help someone trying to quit?

  • If you’re around someone who’s trying to quit, here are some helpful tips to consider:
  • Ask how you can help, rather than provide unwanted advice
  • Don’t nag, but rather encourage them
  • Listen, if the person quitting wants to chat
  • If you can’t help, suggest they seek professional advice

Finally, it’s ok to fail! Some people take a couple of attempts to completely kick the habit, so don’t be disheartened or throw in the towel if you slip up. Learning from your experience and sticking to your goals is what’s important.

From more information or to chat to a Quitline Counsellor, call 13 78 48.

Get 20% off quit smoking products

Health Partners members with Extras cover save 20% on the full price of most quit smoking products at over 50 pharmacies.

Find a pharmacy

Posted: Dec 14 2020


The information contained here is of a general nature and does not take into account your personal medical situation. The information is not a substitute for independent professional medical advice and is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease or used for therapeutic purposes. Should you require specific medical information, please seek advice from your healthcare practitioner. Health Partners does not accept any liability for any injury, loss or damage incurred by use of or reliance on the information provided. While we have prepared the information carefully, we can’t guarantee that it is accurate, complete or up-to-date. And while we may mention goods or services provided by others, we aren’t specifically endorsing them and can’t accept responsibility for them.

© Copyright Health Partners. 2024 All Rights Reserved.

Health Partners is committed to providing quality and affordable health care, and we value our members and our obligation to protect your privacy. As part of our responsibility in protecting your privacy, from time to time we review our policies to ensure we are meeting our obligations. We have recently made some updates to our Privacy Policy. Please click here to view the Health Partners Privacy Policy.

Contact Us

1300 113 113 Tue 8am - 8pm

Send us a message

Contact options and opening hours

View all