Quit Smoking: The Basics

Author: Christina Bach, MBE, LCSW, OSW-C
Last Reviewed: December 17, 2023

Quitting smoking is the most important step a smoker can take to lengthen their life and improve the quality of their life. Over 70% of smokers want to quit and as many as 50% try to quit every year. This is equally, if not more important, for people with cancer. Continuing to use tobacco during treatment can make treatments more difficult to tolerate, increase side effects, and even make treatment less effective. Unfortunately, addiction to all forms of tobacco is real and difficult to overcome. These tips can help you set a quit date and be successful.

Steps to take:

  • Set a date to quit – give yourself a few days or weeks to prepare.
  • Write down your reasons for quitting and hang them on the fridge or in a prominent place to remind yourself during tough times.
  • Unfortunately, only 5-10% of smokers who quit “cold turkey” are successful. Talk to your healthcare provider about medications to help and have those ready to go on quit day. Some medications need to be started a few days/weeks in advance.
  • Think about what are your triggers to smoke. You may need to completely avoid these in the first few weeks.
  • Plan ahead for ways to fight cravings to smoke. What can you do to distract from those? What can you substitute for a cigarette?
  • Throw everything that could be a reminder in the trash- ashtrays, lighters, cigarettes – the day before your quit day.
  • Clean your car (or other places you typically smoke), and wash clothing to remove the smoke smell.
  • Identify support programs. This can be an app on your phone, a website or quitline, or in-person program, or a text message program.
  • Tell friends, family, and co-workers. Identify a few “buddies” you can call to distract you when you want a cigarette.

Remember, on average it takes 7 quit attempts for someone to quit for good. If you have tried before, think about what made you unsuccessful. Think about ways to avoid these obstacles.

Read Smoking Cessation- Where do I start? And Smoking Cessation Aids to learn more and prepare for your quit date!


Caini, S., Del Riccio, M., Vettori, V., Scotti, V., Martinoli, C., Raimondi, S., ... & Gandini, S. (2022). Quitting smoking at or around diagnosis improves the overall survival of lung cancer patients: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Journal of Thoracic Oncology, 17(5), 623-636.

Chellappan, S. (2022). Smoking cessation after cancer diagnosis and enhanced therapy response: mechanisms and significance. Current Oncology, 29(12), 9956-9969.

Gallaway, M. S., Glover-Kudon, R., Momin, B., Puckett, M., Lunsford, N. B., Ragan, K. R., ... & Babb, S. (2019). Smoking cessation attitudes and practices among cancer survivors–United States, 2015. Journal of Cancer Survivorship, 13, 66-74.


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