Medical treatment

You’ve seen people chewing gum. Someone rolls up their sleeve to reveal a patch.

Nicotine-replacement products reduce withdrawal symptoms. Talk to your doctor, nurse practitioner or pharmacist about these over-the-counter products or about a prescription that can help you quit smoking for good. Some drugs – what’s in the patch, for example – can help increase your chances of success.

Find pharmacies in your neighbourhood.

Ontario Drug Benefit recipients

The Ontario Drug Benefit includes coverage to help you quit smoking:

  • up to a year of pharmacist-assisted counselling (talk to your pharmacist or health care provider)
  • drugs (Champix or Zyban) if you are age 18 years or older

Cold turkey

Cold turkey is not for everyone. (Maybe you’ve tried.) Some people can pick a date and time to quit –and stick to it. They stop lighting up and live with the effects of nicotine withdrawal, with no help at all.

Tips to help you quit

If you’re still trying to decide between quitting gradually, counselling and support groups, or medical treatment, try some simple tips.

Make lists

Try making a list of the:

  • situations when you smoke to help you identify what triggers you to light up
  • benefits you see in quitting and keeping it handy so you can re-read it
  • activities you picture yourself doing instead of smoking, like going for a walk or run

Get moving

Exercise relaxes the mind and body, and helps repair some of the damage smoking has done to your health.

Avoid triggers

Figure out what situations make you crave a cigarette and try to avoid or change them. If you usually:

  • smoke while drinking coffee, try tea or water instead
  • smoke at parties, try to avoid them until you feel confident about enjoying these occasions without smoking

Reduce cravings

Try these simple activities – even if they sound too simple – to reduce your nicotine-craving:

  • breathe deeply to help yourself relax
  • drink water to keep your hands and mouth busy (it helps flush the toxins from your system, and you can raise a glass to your success)

Health Canada guides

Whether it’s your first or fifth attempt to quit smoking, Health Canada’s guides will help you get on the road to quitting.

Counselling and support groups

Talk to your doctor about getting individual counselling or joining a support group. You can also:

  • contact your local public health unit
  • call Telehealth Ontario (toll-free) at 1-866-797-0000 for supports to help you quit smoking
  • visit the Smokers’ Helpline website to register for online programs and text-message support

Coming up with strategies to quit or sharing stories about quitting may be what you need to succeed.

Quit gradually

You may find it easier to quit gradually. Smoke less often, smoke fewer cigarettes in a row or try to go longer between smokes. Some people battle the addiction by developing new habits:

  • using matches instead of a lighter because they run out sooner and are harder to light
  • putting cigarettes in an out-of-the-way spot instead of having them on you, so you have to go get them
  • butting out after half a cigarette instead of finishing it
  • delaying your first smoke of the day by an hour and then adding another 15 minutes to the time before the next one, a half hour to the next and so on

To quit gradually, write down a plan and stick to it. Writing down why you want to quit, and how you’ll do it, makes it more real. You’ll be more committed.

Being more committed, you’ll probably want to talk to other people who get it: former smokers whose own attempts seemed destined to fail – but weren’t.

Talking to friends and co-workers, you may find a buddy – someone who wants to quit with you, who’ll help you stick to the plan.

Quitting is personal

Everyone benefits – right away and over time – when they quit smoking. But quitting is personal. Only you’ll know what works for you.

That doesn’t mean you’re alone in making this decision. More and more people are choosing to quit. Look at these numbers from the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health:

  • in 2014, 43% smokers aged 18+ made a serious attempt at quitting (going without smoking for at least 24 hours) in the past year
  • in 2014, 32% of smokers 18+ said they intended to quit in the next 30 days, up from 23% the year before

Immediate benefits

As soon as you stop smoking, you start to feel better.

20 minutes:Your blood pressure and pulse to return to normal.

 
24 hours:Your risk of heart attack starts to drop.

 
14 days:Your circulation increases. The airways in your lungs relax.

Longer-term benefits of quitting

The longer you go without a cigarette, the better it gets:

1 to 9 months
You cough less and your lungs work better.
 
1 year
Your added risk of smoking-related heart disease or stroke is cut in half.
 
5 years
Your risk of stroke is the same as someone who never smoked.
 
10 years
Your risk of dying of lung cancer is much lower.
 
15 years
Your risk of heart disease is similar to a non-smoker.
 
Updated: September 23, 2021
Published: November 27, 2015