Healthy living

Staying stopped – a guide for people who have recently quit smoking

Congratulations on quitting smoking

Quitting smoking is a major achievement, so well done. This information is intended to provide some practical assistance to help you stay a non-smoker for life.

Why have you quit?

Your best motivation to stay a non-smoker is to remind yourself why you have given up smoking.

Perhaps you have been advised (or even asked) by others to quit. If so, it is because they care about you. Or you may have decided to do it for yourself – to improve your health, to help you feel and look better or to save money.

Whatever your reasons, remember that the person who benefits most is you. However difficult it might seem at times, it will be worth it.

Think about all the benefits of quitting.

Almost immediately the nicotine is cleared from your body. Breathing becomes easier and your smoker’s cough should disappear. Your sense of taste will improve, and your breath and clothes will no longer smell of stale cigarette smoke.

Previous smokers find they have more energy and can exercise more easily than before.

Then there are the long-term health benefits of quitting. It is never too late to stop smoking.

As soon as smokers quit, they begin to reduce their risk of dying from a smoking-related disease. Lung cancer, heart disease and stroke are just some of the disabling and fatal illnesses that can be prevented by giving up smoking now.

When will the withdrawal symptoms go?

Physical withdrawal symptoms are a positive sign that your body is recovering from the absence of the substances found in cigarettes, particularly nicotine. These symptoms will usually pass within 3 to 14 days.

Withdrawal symptoms vary among each ex-smoker. Many people quit successfully without any discomfort at all.

Recent quitters may experience:

  • headaches
  • inability to concentrate
  • sleep disturbances
  • drowsiness or fatigue
  • constipation
  • diarrhoea
  • nausea.

Some people may experience a small weight gain after quitting smoking. This is usually 1 or 2 kilos and can be easily managed with a healthy diet and regular exercise.

Smoking cessation products may help some smokers who experience severe nicotine withdrawal symptoms.

If you think that cessation products will help you quit smoking ask your GP or pharmacist for advice on what therapy would best suit you.

If you do experience withdrawal symptoms, don’t give in. See the symptoms as a signal to try some of the coping strategies suggested here.

How should you deal with cravings?

It is not unusual to experience cravings for a cigarette soon after quitting. These often occur at times or in situations where you would normally smoke.

Remember that every craving you survive without having a cigarette is a positive step towards remaining a non-smoker.

Tell yourself that each time you overcome the urge to have a cigarette you’ll feel more able to resist the next craving. With time, such cravings will disappear.

Identify some ways of dealing with cravings ahead of time and use your cravings as a signal to implement coping strategies. The 4Ds offer a simple method of dealing with your cravings.

Remember the 4Ds

  1. Delay acting on the urge to smoke. Don’t give in.
  2. Deep breathe take 2 deep breaths. Breathe in slowly and deeply, then breathe out slowly.
  3. Drink water, sip slowly. Hold it in your mouth a little longer and savour the taste.
  4. Do something else. Take your mind off smoking by doing something else. Try listening to music or calling a friend.

Try to PACE yourself

  • Prepare yourself. Know when and why you want to smoke and what you can do instead.
  • Avoid ‘risky’ situations until you feel ready to deal with them.
  • Confront the urge to smoke and overcome it.
  • Escape from situations where the urge to smoke is overwhelming.

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.


  • Your best motivation to stay stopped is to remind yourself why you quit in the first place.
  • It is not unusual to experience cravings but these should pass.

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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