Thinking about quitting smoking or quitting using tobacco products? Not sure if it's the right time or decision? Here’s some great news. Just thinking about it is a huge step towards your quit attempt – and you should be proud. Whether this is your first quit attempt, or you’ve tried quitting in the past, it’s important to remember that every quit attempt brings you one step closer to quitting for good. There are no failures when it comes to quitting, only learning experiences that can help you in the future.
It’s normal to have feelings of doubt
Many smokers want to quit but don’t know how, have fears, or think that it’s too late. However, it's never too late.1 All smokers, no matter how heavy they smoke, will notice significant health benefits after quitting. You’ll also save time and money.2 3
It's really hard, but it’s not impossible.
Everyone has different reasons for using tobacco and different reasons for quitting. Whichever phase of your quit journey you're at, the information and resources below can help.
If you're thinking about quitting, it can be helpful to think about what you like about smoking, what you don’t like, and what smoking means to you. You can also make a list of reasons why it’s important for you to quit. These reasons are personal for everyone. When you've gone through these steps, then you can decide whether you're ready to quit.
Let’s look at the major health benefits that will happen as soon as you quit.4
- 20 minutes - your blood pressure drops to a level similar to what it was before your last cigarette.
- 8 hours - the level of carbon monoxide (a toxic gas) in your blood drops to normal.
- 24 hours - your risk of having a heart attack starts to drop
- 2 weeks to 3 months - the airways in your lungs relax and you can get more air into your lungs and breathe easier
- 1 to 9 months - you cough less and your lungs work even better.
- 1 year - your added risk of coronary heart disease is half than that of a smoker’s
- 5 years - you have the same chance of having a stroke as a non-smoker
- 10 Years - your chance of dying from lung cancer is much lower. So is your chance of getting cancer in your mouth, throat, esophagus, bladder, kidney, and/or pancreas
- 15 Years - your risk of coronary heart disease is similar to that of a non-smoker
- Quitting Smoking: A Self-Help Resource Guide (PDF)
A comprehensive resource guide containing information about accessing self-help resources and free nicotine replacement therapy.
You've decided that you're ready to quit smoking (congratulations!), but now what? Let’s look at where to start.
Step 1: Make a Plan
Planning ahead can be an important step in setting yourself up for success
When you're making a plan, start by talking to your healthcare provider. It’s always a good idea to let them know you're quitting smoking and they can likely provide you with some great resources to get started. Your healthcare provider knows your history best and they can give you advice on which quitting option might work best for you. Your pharmacist can also be a great resource for advice.
- “Cold Turkey” refers to when you quit completely without using any nicotine replacement therapy or medication.3
- “Cut Back / Reduce” involves cutting back or reducing the amount of tobacco that you use per day. Keeping track of when you use tobacco, what you were doing, and how you are feeling can help you to cut back.1 3
- “Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT)” (patch, lozenge, gum, spray, or inhaler) can help to reduce withdrawal symptoms and cravings by replacing nicotine that you would normally get from using tobacco products. These are available over the counter without a prescription at most drug stores or pharmacies.3 6 Learn more about NRT and how you can access it for free.
- Champix® or Zyban® are medications that can be prescribed by a doctor or pharmacist. Although they do not contain any nicotine, these medications can be effective in helping people quit smoking.3 6 In Ontario, these medications are free to anyone who is on Ontario Works or Ontario Disability Support Program, or for young adults 18-24 years of age through OHIP Plus. For others, these medications may be covered under your drug plan.3
- Access resources that can help you prepare to quit and create a quit plan.
Step 2: Set a Quit Date
Once you’ve decided to quit, you’re ready to pick a quit date.
- Try quitting on a Monday rather than a random day. Many people see Monday as the perfect day for a fresh start; this could increase your chances of quitting.
- Choose a time when you are not too stressed.1 3
- Think about what the next week is going to look like. Is this something that you can commit to?3
- Write your quit date down. It might be helpful to circle it on a calendar or set a reminder in your phone.1 3 5
Step 3: Develop a Support System
Telling your family, friends and co-workers gives you another reason to stay focused. Whatever way you decide to quit, having support is very important.
Make sure that your supporters are aware that you are planning to quit. This could include family, friends, co-workers and health professionals. Identify any negative influences or people who do not want you to quit.1 3 56 This can be a good opportunity for you to identify if being around other smokers will be difficult for you. If so, this is the time to remind friends or family who smoke to not smoke near you if possible and to not offer you cigarettes.
Health811 is a great support for quitting smoking. They have quit coach services available by phone from 10:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. Sign up by calling 811.
- Smoker’s Helpline is another great support for quitting smoking. They have an online quit program that includes a personalized quit plan, quit calculator, and motivating emails, as well as text message support, and downloadable quit resources. Text iQuit to 123456 to start texting with a quit coach.
Step 4: Put Your Plan Into Action
Remember, quitting is not an event, it’s a process.
Use resources that work for you and the goals you're trying to achieve. Remember, if you slip up, that’s okay! Quitting is not an event, it’s a process. It takes time, patience, and practice, so be kind to yourself and don’t give up.
Here are a few tips to help get you started and to keep you on track:
- DELAY: Cravings rarely last longer than a few minutes. When you get the urge to smoke, try to wait for 5 minutes and you may be surprised to find the craving has passed.
- DISTRACT: Do something to keep yourself busy when you get a craving. Go for a walk, start cleaning something or play a game on your phone. Think of something that will work for you to keep your mind off cigarettes.
- DRINK LOTS OF WATER: This helps replace the hand-to-mouth behaviours of smoking. As you quit, it also helps you with your coughing as your lungs start to clear out the toxins from the cigarettes.
- DEEP BREATHING: This helps to reduce cravings, anxiety and stress. Try inhaling through your nose and holding it for a count of 5. Slowly breathe out through your mouth for a count of 7. Repeat this a few times.
- Reward yourself: Celebrate your success! For example, you can treat yourself to something special for every week you have met one of your goals. You can even use the money that you saved from buying cigarettes to put towards this reward.
Quitting smoking is probably one of the most difficult things you will ever do. However, it's also one of the most rewarding. There are many resources and interactive tools to help you quit and provide the motivation needed to stay smoke-free. It’s never too late to quit!
- Cost Calculator
Calculate how much you would save if you quit using tobacco by using the Healthy Canadians cost calculator.
- Quash App
A free interactive mobile app developed to help youths aged 14-19 quit smoking and vaping.
- Don’t Quit Quitting
Find help and support at Don't Quit Quitting, no matter how many times you attempt to quit.
- Quit Map
Find support to quit smoking and vaping nearby, online, by phone and elsewhere.
Provides information, resources and support to pregnant and postpartum women and their health care providers to improve the health of moms and their babies.
- Canadian Cancer Society - You Can Quit: One Step at a Time
- Health Canada: On the Road to Quitting for Adults
- Health Canada: Quit 4 Life Handbook for Youth
- Health Canada: On the Road to Quitting for Young Adults
- Centre for Addiction and Mental Health: My Change Plan Workbook (PDF)
- Lung Health Foundation: Journey to Quit Workbook (PDF)
Nicotine Replacement Therapy is medication that can help to reduce withdrawal symptoms and cravings in order to help you quit.1 These medications contain nicotine and are meant to replace the nicotine that you would normally get from using tobacco but without the chemicals and toxins found in cigarettes.7
There are several forms of NRT (add link to NRT pamphlet once updated) available such as the nicotine patch, lozenge, gum, mouth spray, and inhaler.When combined with counselling, NRT can increases your chances of quitting for good.8
Where can I get NRT?
NRT products such as the patch, lozenge, gum, spray, and inhaler are available over the counter without a prescription at most drug stores or pharmacies. NRT products may be available at no cost through the following programs.
- STOP on the NET
An online program designed to support individuals 18 years of age and older in an attempt to quit smoking. Eligible participants can receive a free 10-week NRT kit containing nicotine patches and gum/lozenges mailed directly to their address.
- Ottawa Model for Smoking Cessation Community Program
For Ontarians who want to quit smoking but are not enrolled with a health care provider or cannot easily access smoking cessation support. Eligible participants will receive a consultation, follow-up support, and nicotine replacement therapy vouchers. Call 1-888-645-5405 and leave your contact information on the voicemail. A Nicotine Addiction Specialist will get back to you within 2 business days.
- Healthcare Providers
Those who are members of participating Family Health Teams, Community Health Centre, Nurse Practitioner Led Clinic, or the Southwestern Ontario Aboriginal Health Access Centres (SOAHAC) may offer free NRT to eligible patients.
- The Non-Insured Health Benefits (NIHB) for First Nation and Inuit.
- Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT)
Information on the nicotine patch, mouth spray, gum, inhaler and lozenge and how to use them.
Traditional tobacco is very different from commercial tobacco. Traditional tobacco has been used by Indigenous Peoples for thousands of years as a sacred medicine and is an important part of culture and spiritual connectedness. In contrast, commercial cigarettes are designed to be highly addictive and cause sickness. Learn more →
Last modified on: October 20, 2023