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Quitting methods

There are many different ways you can quit smoking. Learn about the different methods and work out which ones might work best for you.

There are lots of options to help you quit smoking. Which ones you choose may depend on what your triggers are.

Going cold turkey

Giving up smoking suddenly, with no outside help or support, is known as going 'cold turkey'. People who use this method rely on their own willpower to get them through the cravings and withdrawal symptoms.

While this is a popular method, it's not as successful as using a combination of methods and support.

If you want to try it, you'll have a better chance of success if you:

  • avoid situations that will trigger a desire to smoke
  • distract yourself with new activities
  • get support from family and friends
  • focus on the benefits of not smoking

Gradually cutting down

This method involves slowly reducing the number of cigarettes you're smoking until you've quit completely. It's not as effective as quitting completely, but it might be a good place to start if you're not ready to quit right away.

You can cut down by:

  • slowly increasing the time between cigarettes
  • reducing the number of cigarettes in your packet each day

It's still a good idea to set a quit date and work towards that. Read more about cutting down to quit.

Nicotine replacement therapy (NRT)

NRT aims to reduce the cravings and withdrawal symptoms that occur when you stop smoking. Used properly, NRT can make a big difference in helping you quit successfully.

Available from pharmacies and some supermarkets, without a prescription, it comes in different forms:

  • patches
  • gum
  • nasal and oral sprays
  • inhalers
  • lozenges or tablets

How does it help?

By providing small, measured doses of nicotine into the bloodstream, you're not getting the harmful chemicals from tobacco smoke. Reducing physical withdrawal symptoms means you can focus on the situations and emotions that can trigger a desire to smoke.

Did you know?

Combining 2 forms of NRT has been shown to work better than using a single method because they work in different ways. For example:

  • a patch releases nicotine slowly, giving you a steady dose of nicotine
  • a gum or spray releases nicotine more quickly, helping deal with sudden cravings

Is it subsidised through the PBS?

Some nicotine patches are available at a reduced price through the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) for all eligible Australians (including concession card holders). Your doctor will need to give you a prescription so it's best to talk about which products will work best for you.

Prescription medications

There are other prescription medicines, available through the PBS, that can reduce withdrawal symptoms, such as Bupropion (Zyban) and Varenicline (Champix®). They work by blocking the nicotine receptors in your brain so smoking is less enjoyable.

These medicines are not suitable for everybody, so talk to your doctor or health professional to find out whether they're right for you. There are limits on how many prescriptions you can have in a year, and you may be required to receive support from Quitline or a health professional while you're quitting.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are eligible for extra help through the PBS.

Apps

My QuitBuddy is a free mobile phone app designed to support and encourage you to quit smoking. It lets you set personal goals, track your progress and see how much money you've saved. Alerts and other messages help keep you on track and support is available from the many other people using the app.

The Quit for You – Quit for Two mobile phone app helps pregnant women to quit smoking. While it offers similar features to My QuitBuddy it has also has information about your baby's development to help keep you motivated.

Support services

Other services you may find helpful include:

  • the Quitline — call 137 848 between 8am and 8pm Monday to Friday, to talk to a counsellor or ask for a callback
  • Quit Pack — ask the Quitline for this free pack. It contains useful information including: a book to help you prepare, a guide to choosing the best way for you to quit, and a handy wallet card with tips to cope with cravings
  • QuitCoach — an online tool that asks questions about your smoking habits and lifestyle. Using that information it creates a quit plan tailored for you
  • the Quit because you can booklet is part of the Quit Kit. This booklet includes information to help you learn about why you smoke and describes different ways of quitting. No matter where you are in your quit journey, this booklet has advice for you.

Alternative methods

Other alternative methods that some people try include:

  • hypnotherapy
  • acupuncture

There is no clear evidence so far to show how much these kinds of methods will help you to quit smoking.

Methods not recommended

Other methods that people think will help them quite smoking include:

  • switching to lower nicotine and tar cigarettes
  • using filters and filter blocking products
  • using e-cigarettes

There is no evidence that any of these methods will help you to quit smoking or reduce your risk of smoking-related diseases.

Find out why there are no safe smoking options.

Next step

Once you've decided what you think will work for you, you're ready to make a quit plan and start your journey to a smoke-free, healthier life.

Last updated: 
9 October 2019

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