Healthy living

Becoming a non-smoker

Once you have beaten your urges to smoke and you are getting them less often, you are ready for the next step – becoming a non-smoker.

Quitting isn’t over just yet. The next stage is learning to enjoy and value your new smoke-free lifestyle and starting to think of yourself as a non-smoker.

Remember, it’s normal to get cravings in situations where you used to smoke. Resisting cravings is a necessary step in making them go away.

Your new, smokefree lifestyle

Getting rid of smoking is a big change in your life. Learning to enjoy and value life without cigarettes is the next step. For some people this comes naturally, while others find it harder.

This section describes what might happen after cravings die down and how to become someone who no longer needs cigarettes.

Giving up smoking is not easy, you are likely to face some tough times. Read some quick tips to get you through those challenging days.

Find new habits to take the place of smoking

Smokers use cigarettes for many things. Some examples include:

  • for concentration
  • to socialise
  • to relax
  • to fill in time
  • when they are hungry
  • as a reward
  • to cope with feelings such as stress, anger or grief.

Consider your reasons for smoking:

  1. What did you think cigarettes gave you?
  2. Can you do each of these things as well as when you used to smoke?

If you answered yes in statement 2, this proves that smoking wasn’t really useful in this situation and that you haven’t lost out by quitting.

Three women performing stretching exercises in a park

“My skin has improved, my cough has gone, and I am feeling great”. Christine, 34

If you answered no, it’s really important to try out new ways to replace those things you felt smoking gave you.

Try fun and relaxing activities with the time and money you’ve saved from quitting. Call the Quitline if you need ideas. Once you find things that work, make them a part of your regular routine.

Coping with stress

If you used smoking to deal with stress (as most smokers do), then you are likely to get cravings to smoke next time you’re stressed out. Take your time before reacting. Remember, having a cigarette is not going to make the problem go away.

Resisting cravings and using other strategies to cope will make you less likely to have strong cravings in future stressful situations.

As a non-smoker, you’ve learned new skills and have shown great determination.

How else can you get the support you need instead of falling back on a cigarette? Is there someone you trust who you could talk to? Do you have new, relaxing activities that help take the edge off things?

Doing something about stress

Sometimes it is helpful to identify the main sources of stress in your life and how they contribute to you smoking. Think about how much control you have or want to have over these sources of stress.

  • Write down your sources of stress in a list
  • Next to these write the number 1, 2, or 3 depending on whether you believe it’s possible for you to:
    1. Get rid of the stress.
    2. Make changes to reduce the stress.
    3. Learn to cope with the situation as it is.

For example, you might decide to try to accept and learn to cope with the peak hour traffic. This means you will continue to drive in peak hour and you will find ways of dealing with the stress. 

There are no right or wrong answers. Another person may make different choices to yours.

Try this

Think about a sudden crisis that happened in your past when you were smoking. Imagine going through it now, but without smoking. What strategies could you use?

Stopping quitting medication

If you used nicotine replacement products and cravings become too strong after you stop using them, start using them again for a while longer.

The quitting blues

Some people feel sad about stopping smoking.

Even though people want to stop, they may feel they are losing something that has been part of their life, sometimes a big part. This is a normal reaction. It usually passes, but it may take some work.

If you are finding it tough, try to stop yourself from dwelling too much on missing smoking, as this can bring on cravings. Focus instead on the benefits quitting has brought you.

If these feelings continue and you’re having difficulty coping, speak to your doctor.

Confront old smoking situations

While you were quitting you may have avoided risky situations such as people or places where you used to smoke. When you’re ready, prepare for and face these situations without smoking.

The more time you spend in old smoking situations without the cigarette, the less likely you will be to get cravings. In time, you’ll feel more and more like a non-smoker.

If you used a quitting product to help you quit, you also need to prove to yourself that you can cope in old smoking situations without this extra support.

Sudden strong cravings

Occasionally, you might get a craving ‘out of the blue’, even years after quitting. This is normal and doesn’t mean you are failing at quitting.

This happens because you return to a situation that is linked to your past smoking habit, even if you don’t recognise it at first.

For example, you might start craving a cigarette when visiting a place where you used to live when you were a smoker, or when you meet up with old friends with whom you used to smoke.

Draw on the strategies you used when you first quit to deal with these situations.

Social pressure

If your friends or family are making quitting harder for you, explain to them how you feel. Spend time relaxing with people who are glad to see you looking after your health.

What if you do gain weight?

If you put on a few kilos, try not to be too hard on yourself. Concentrate on your resolve to give up smoking and then tackle the weight gain. But do try to eat healthy foods and get some extra exercise.

If you think weight gain is a problem, discuss it with your doctor or dietitian. Remember, starting to smoke again may not help you lose the weight you have gained.

The new you

You may still see yourself as a smoker who’s quit.

Start to think of yourself as a non-smoker – that is, someone who sees no real use for cigarettes. The more non-smoking experiences you have, the more you’ll feel like a non-smoker or a proud ex-smoker.

Congratulations!

Try this

Think about your plans at work and home for the next few weeks. Can you make 1 or 2 changes to reduce the pressure? Talk about problems openly with those involved.

Where to get help

Quitline

Quitline is a confidential telephone support service staffed by professional advisors who are trained to provide encouragement and support to help you quit.

Phone: 13 7848 (13 QUIT) (local call rates from land line only). Advisors are available from:

  • Monday to Friday 7am – 8pm
  • Saturday 12.30pm – 3.30pm
  • Sunday closed.

Remember

  • It is normal to get cravings in situations where you used to smoke, even if you quit a long time ago.
  • Identifying and learning how to deal with (or avoid) stressful situations will help you to resist the urge to smoke.
  • Try to start thinking of yourself as a non-smoker – the more positive experiences you have a non-smoker, the less likely you will feeling like smoking again.

Acknowledgements

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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