Healthy living

Aboriginal health – have you thought about quitting the smokes?

Reducing or quitting the smokes

Giving up the smokes can be hard for some people. This is because the nicotine in smokes is an addictive substance, and your smoking may be a strong habit.

There are a lot of reasons why people smoke. Maybe you smoke to help you cope, help you relax, get an energy lift, or to be part of the group, and you may wonder how you would manage things without a smoke.

Drawing of Aboriginal people smoking and socialising


Drawing of Aboriginal man standing with his hands in pocketsWhen you quit smoking you may have some withdrawal symptoms as your body begins to repair and return to normal. These may include:

  • coughing
  • cravings
  • irritable and mood swings
  • difficulty concentrating
  • tingles in hands and feet
  • restlessness
  • feeling anxious for no reason
  • upset stomach
  • headaches
  • feeling hungry.

These symptoms will disappear. It may take 10 to 30 days.

Managing cravings

Cravings only last a few minutes, and get less over time. When you have a craving remember it will pass.

The 4 Deadly Ds

Drawing of an Aboriginal woman showing she is struggling to manage cravingsThe 4 Ds can be a useful way of managing that craving:

  • Delay
  • Deep breathe
  • Drink water
  • Do something else.

Quitting methods

Going cold turkey

This means giving up the smokes suddenly. This works for many people, and you can still get support or use quitting medications to help you get through.

Gradual approach

Drawing of a selection of nicotine patches, lozenges, gums and quit smoking medicationsThis means you cut down the number of smokes you have each day, until you no longer smoke. Or you may delay the time you have your first cigarette, making it later and later, until you no longer smoke. If you take this approach it helps to aim to be smoke free within 2 weeks.


Medications are available which can reduce withdrawal symptoms. These are nicotine replacement products and some prescription medications. Ask your doctor or health care worker if these would be OK for you.

Quitting tips

Drawing of an Aboriginal family

  • Make a plan and stick to it.
  • See if anyone else in the family wants to quit with you.
  • Find people who can support you.
  • Change old habits.
  • Ask other people who quit how they did it.
  • Join a group – it can make things easier.
  • Know what triggers you to smoke.
  • Keep a track of how much money you are saving.
  • Find other things to do with your hands.
  • Remember it can take several attempts to stay quit.
  • Don’t be hard on yourself if you have a slip up – it’s a chance to learn to do things differently.
  • Phone a friend or call Quitline 13 78 48.

Drawing of a group of Aboriginal people of different ages seated in a circle and watching a presentation

Good health news about quitting

  • 8 hours – excess carbon monoxide is out of your blood.
  • 5 days – most nicotine is out of your body.
  • 1 week – your senses of taste and smell get better.
  • 4 weeks – your blood flow is improving.
  • 3 months – your lungs are working better.
  • 12 months – your risk of heart disease has halved.
  • 5 years – your risk of stroke is greatly reduced.

Drawing of a group of Aboriginal people talking and laughingDrawing of a group of Aboriginal people socialising outdoors

More good things about quitting

  • Save money
  • Be a good role model for kids and community
  • Live longer
  • Be there to pass on culture and knowledge
  • Make the family proud
  • Feel fitter and healthier
  • Have more energy
  • Know you are keeping your kids safe and healthy.

Drawing of Aboriginal artists painting a mural and creating art

Where to get help

If you’re thinking about quitting or cutting down on smokes there are a lot of people who could help you.

You can speak to your:

  • doctor or GP
  • local nurse
  • chemist
  • Aboriginal health practitioner
  • AMS health worker
  • tobacco cessation worker
  • other people who have quit
  • family and friends.


Quitline is a confidential telephone service. You can call Quitline and choose to speak with an Aboriginal counsellor. Quitline counsellors are very experienced in helping people stop or reduce their smoking.

Quitline counsellors understand that quitting smoking can be tough, and they will support you to find the way to quit that works for you.

Phone: 13 7848 (13 QUIT) (local call rates from land line only). You can also text 0477 765 007 to receive a call back from a counsellor. Counsellors are available from:
  • Monday to Friday 7am – 8pm
  • Saturday 12.30pm – 3.30pm
  • Sunday closed.

Don’t Make Smokes Your Story

The National Tobacco Campaign’s Don’t Make Smokes Your Story campaign aims to encourage Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander smokers and their families to quit. View stories (external site) about people quitting and the reasons why:


  • Quitting smokes can improve your health, and reduce your chances of getting sick with heart disease.
  • Cravings only last a few minutes and get less over time.
  • It can take up to 30 days for withdrawal symptoms to disappear.

Illustrations by Patrick Bayly


Chronic Disease Prevention Directorate

This publication is provided for education and information purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical care. Information about a therapy, service, product or treatment does not imply endorsement and is not intended to replace advice from your healthcare professional. Readers should note that over time currency and completeness of the information may change. All users should seek advice from a qualified healthcare professional for a diagnosis and answers to their medical questions.

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