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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).
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.
Write down your reasons so you can look at them every time you want to smoke or dip.
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.
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.
Here are some steps to help you get ready for your Quit Day:
Successful quitting is a matter of planning and commitment, not luck. Decide now on your own plan.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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:
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 journalists, 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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Smoking Cessation Leadership Center. Ready to quit. Available at https://smokingcessationleadership.ucsf.edu/ready-quit. Accessed October 10, 2020.
US Department of Health and Human Services. What you need to know about quitting smoking: Advice from the Surgeon General. Available at https://www.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/2020-cessation-sgr-consumer-guide.pdf. Accessed October 10, 2020.
US Preventive Services Task Force. Tobacco smoking cessation in adults, including pregnant women: Behavioral and pharmacotherapy interventions. 2015. Available at https://www.uspreventiveservicestaskforce.org/uspstf/document/RecommendationStatementFinal/tobacco-use-in-adults-and-pregnant-women-counseling-and-interventions. Accessed October 10, 2020.
Last Revised: October 10, 2020
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