Healthy living

Coping with setbacks after you quit smoking

Quitting can be hard. You might be going along OK, but suddenly the urge to smoke can return.

Warning signs

You want ‘just 1’

You keep on thinking ‘Just 1 would be OK’ or ‘It’d be great to smoke just 1 a month or 1 a week’.

But why weren’t you smoking just 1 a month or just 1 a week before you quit? The answer is because tobacco is extremely addictive - that’s why you’ve had to work so hard to quit.

Don’t let nicotine control you again!

You miss smoking

You’re really missing smoking and you question whether quitting is worth the effort.

Sometimes quitting can be really tough, but you can get through it. Find other ways to treat yourself and keep doing things that you enjoy every day.

You sample other people’s cigarettes

You take puffs of other people’s cigarettes but excuse it as ‘not really smoking’.

You know it’s only a matter of time before you find yourself buying a pack. Ask your friends not to give you cigarettes, no matter what.

Watch out for warning signs and get help from the Quitline if they start to build up or things go wrong.

Try this

Remember, every craving only lasts a few minutes. You can fight it off – delay, deep breathe, drink water or do something else.

Remind yourself of how far you have come. Think about if you really want to have to start all over again?

Husband and wife buying popcorn at the movies

“I had a big night and ended up having a few smokes. I didn’t even enjoy them. It felt like I’d failed but I haven’t lit up again. So I guess that’s success.” Tony, 49

Write down your reasons for quitting on a card that you can carry with you. Read the reasons whenever you feel the urge to smoke.

Reward yourself for staying stopped. Do things you enjoy

Have you found replacements for all the things you used cigarettes for? Think of what you can do to enjoy life without cigarettes.

If you have a cigarette

Don’t let 1 cigarette lead you back to full-time smoking.

Think of how long you have gone without a cigarette and say to yourself: ‘I’m determined to give up. After all, I have only slipped up once. In the past, I would have smoked 20 a day. I am determined to quit.’

Review your Quitting Plan and revise if necessary. For more help, call the Quitline on 13 7848 (13 QUIT). If you go back to regular smoking don’t despair. Begin to plan for your next attempt.

Most people who have successfully quit smoking for good have made several serious attempts. It may take you a while to learn to be a non-smoker.

Although you may be feeling disappointed, you should take pride in what you have achieved. Every day that you spent smoke-free made your body healthier and helped to break your habit and weaken your addiction.

Try this

If you start to smoke again, plan another date to give up as soon as possible. If you have lost the urge to quit, remind yourself why you decided to quit in the first place.

Make a note of what you learned from your recent quit attempt. What situations did you need to prepare for? What strategies worked best?

If you have made your home and car smoke-free, keep them that way.

Call the advisors at the Quitline. They understand that quitting for good can take a few tries. They won’t judge you, but will discuss your experiences of quitting with you and offer help with  what you decide to do next.

Where to get help


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 6am – 7pm
  • Saturday 11.30pm – 2.30pm
  • Sunday closed.


  • If you slip up, don’t let 1 cigarette lead you back to full-time smoking.
  • If you start smoking again – don’t despair – plan your next quit attempt.
  • Taking puffs of other people’s cigarettes still makes you a smoker.


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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