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Cancer Risk and Prevention

Making a Plan to Quit and Planning Your Quit Day

There’s no one right way to quit tobacco (known as tobacco cessation), but there are some important steps that can help make a person's decision to quit a success. These steps can help whether you or a loved one are trying to quit smoking cigarettes or smokeless tobacco (chew, dip, or snuff).

Make the decision to quit tobacco

The decision to quit smoking or to quit using smokeless tobacco is one that only you can make. Others may want you to quit, but the real commitment must come from you.

Think about why you want to quit.

  • Are you worried that you could get a tobacco-related disease?
  • Do you believe that the benefits of quitting outweigh the benefits of continuing to use tobacco?
  • Do you know someone who has had health problems because of using tobacco or being around it a lot?
  • Are you interested in saving the money you now spend on cigarettes, chew, dip, or snuff?
  • Are you hoping to be healthy and have more energy for upcoming events, such as a family wedding?
  • Are you ready to make a serious try at quitting?

Write down your reasons so you can look at them every time you want to smoke or dip.

Set a date for your Quit Day

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 key step. Pick a day within the next month as your Quit Day. Picking a date too far away gives you time to change your mind. Still, you need to give yourself enough time to prepare. 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. Let others know of your plan.

How do you plan to quit?

There are many ways to quit, and some work better than others. Nicotine replacement therapy, prescription drugs, and other methods are available and are helpful for quitting cigarettes. There may also be some benefit to using these when you are quitting smokeless tobacco. Learn more about ways to quit so you can find the method that best suits you. It’s also a good idea to talk to your doctor or dentist, and get their advice and support. Also check with your insurance company about coverage for quit programs and quit aids, such as medicines and counseling.

Support is another key part of your plan. In-person quit programs, advice from trusted health care professionals, telephone quit lines, phone reminder apps, Nicotine Anonymous meetings, self-help materials such as books and pamphlets, and counselors can be a great help. Also tell your family, friends, and co-workers that you’re quitting. They can give you help and encouragement, which increases your chances of quitting for good.

Combining 2 or more types of quit aids may be more effective than the use of just 1.

Prepare for your Quit Day

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, or all the smokeless tobacco products 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 call a telephone quitline? Will you attend a quit class? If so, call to find out how to sign up as soon as possible.
  • Talk to your doctor about what might work best for you and talk to your insurance company about coverage for programs and medicines.
  • Practice saying, “No thank you, I don’t use tobacco.”
  • 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 use tobacco not to use it around you, and not to leave cigarettes or dip out where you can see them.
  • If you are using bupropion or varenicline, take your prescribed 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.

What else you can do before your Quit Day

Cut down on how much you use

One way to cut back before quitting is to cut down on the number of cigarettes you smoke each day or the amount you dip or chew each day. By doing this, you slowly reduce the amount of nicotine in your body. Try cutting back to half of your usual amount before you quit. If you usually carry a supply with you, try leaving it behind. Carry something else to put in your mouth instead.

Cut back on when and where you use

You can also try cutting back on when and where you smoke, dip, or chew. This gives you a chance to notice when your cravings are the worst. It helps you decide on a game plan if you know what triggers your cravings. Again, once you’ve decided not to use tobacco at a certain place, leave it at home when you go there. Try your substitutes instead.

Put off using tobacco when you have a craving

Go as long as you can without giving into a craving. Start by trying for at least 10 minutes, then longer and longer as you near your Quit Day. Pick your 3 worst triggers and stop using tobacco at those times. This will be hard at first, but practice will make it easier.

On your Quit Day

Over time, using tobacco becomes a strong habit. Daily events, like waking up in the morning, finishing a meal, drinking coffee, or taking a break at work, often trigger your urge to use it. Breaking the link between the trigger and tobacco use will help you stop.

On your Quit Day go down this list:

  • Do not use tobacco. This means not at all – not even one puff!
  • Stay busy – 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 quit class or follow your self-help plan.
  • Avoid situations where the urge to use tobacco is strong.
  • Avoid people who are using tobacco.
  • 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.

Be prepared to feel the urge to use tobacco and the urge will probably be pretty strong. But, it's important to remember that urge will pass whether you give in to it or not. Use the 4 D’s to help fight the urge:

  • Delay for 10 minutes. Repeat if needed.
  • Deep breathe. Close your eyes, slowly breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. Picture your lungs filling with fresh, clean air.
  • Drink water slowly, sip by sip.
  • Do something else. Some activities trigger cravings. Get up and move around.

Often this simple trick will allow you to move beyond the strong urge to use tobacco.

The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team

Our team is made up of doctors and oncology certified nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as editors and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.

This content has been developed by the American Cancer Society in collaboration with the Smoking Cessation Leadership Center to help people who want to learn about quitting tobacco. 

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Last Revised: October 10, 2020

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