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What’s important about picking a Quit Day?

Once you’ve decided to quit, you’re ready to pick a quit date. This is a very important step. Pick a day within the next month as your Quit Day. Picking a date too far away can allow you time to rationalize and change your mind. But you want to give yourself enough time to prepare and come up with a plan. You might choose a date with a special meaning like a birthday or anniversary, or the date of the Great American Smokeout (the third Thursday in November each year). Or you might want to just pick a random date. Circle the date on your calendar. Make a strong, personal commitment to quit on that day.

Remember that if you’re planning to use a prescription drug, you will need to talk with your doctor about getting it in time for your Quit Day. If you plan to use bupropion (Zyban) or varenicline (Chantix), you must start taking the drug at least a full week, or maybe even 2 weeks, before your Quit Day. Talk with your doctor about exactly when to start, and how to use the medicine. Also find out what side effects to watch for and report. If you are using a prescription drug, put a note on your calendar to remind you when to start taking it.

Prepare for your Quit Day

There’s no one right way to quit. Most smokers prefer to quit cold turkey – they stop completely, all at once, with no medicines or nicotine replacement. They smoke until their Quit Day and then quit. Some may smoke fewer cigarettes for a few weeks before their Quit Day. Another way is to cut down on the number of cigarettes you smoke a little bit each day. This way, you slowly reduce the amount of nicotine in your body. You might cut out cigarettes smoked with a cup of coffee, or you might decide to smoke only at certain times of the day. It makes sense to cut down before your quit date in order to reduce withdrawal symptoms, but this can be hard to do.

Quitting smoking is a lot like losing weight: it takes a strong commitment over a long time. Smokers may wish there was a magic bullet – a pill or something that would make quitting painless and easy – but there’s no such thing. Nicotine replacement can help reduce withdrawal symptoms, but it works best when used as part of a stop-smoking plan that addresses both the physical and psychological components of quitting smoking.

Here are some steps to help you get ready for your Quit Day:

  • Pick the date and mark it on your calendar.
  • Tell friends and family about your Quit Day.
  • Get rid of all the cigarettes and ashtrays in your home, car, and at work.
  • Stock up on oral substitutes – sugarless gum, carrot sticks, hard candy, cinnamon sticks, coffee stirrers, straws, and/or toothpicks.
  • Decide on a plan. Will you use NRT or other medicines? Will you attend a stop-smoking class? If so, sign up now.
  • Practice saying, “No thank you, I don’t smoke.”
  • Set up a support system. This could be a group program or a friend or family member who has successfully quit and is willing to help you. Ask family and friends who still smoke not to smoke around you, and not to leave cigarettes out where you can see them.
  • If you are using bupropion or varenicline, take your dose each day leading up to your Quit Day.
  • Think about your past attempts to quit. Try to figure out what worked and what didn’t.

Successful quitting is a matter of planning and commitment, not luck. Decide now on your own plan. Some options include using nicotine replacement or other medicines, joining a stop-smoking class, going to Nicotine Anonymous meetings, using self-help materials such as books and pamphlets, or some combination of these methods. For the best chance at success, your plan should include at least 2 of these options.

Your Quit Day

On your Quit Day:

  • Do not smoke. This means not at all – not even one puff!
  • Keep active – try walking, short bursts of exercise, or other activities and hobbies.
  • Drink lots of water and juices.
  • Start using nicotine replacement if that’s your choice.
  • Attend a stop-smoking class or follow your self-help plan.
  • Avoid situations where the urge to smoke is strong.
  • Avoid people who are smoking.
  • Drink less alcohol or avoid it completely.
  • Think about how you can change your routine. Use a different route to go to work. Drink tea instead of coffee. Eat breakfast in a different place or eat different foods.

Read on to find out more about the kinds of thoughts and temptations that come up when you try to quit, as well as ideas for ways to deal with or avoid them.

Last Medical Review: 02/06/2014
Last Revised: 02/06/2014