What to Expect | American Lung Association

What to Expect

Quitting smoking is a journey, not a single event. Know what to expect along the way.

You Need a Plan

Only 4 to 7 percent of smokers that quit "cold turkey" are successful in staying smokefree. The rest of us need a plan. Our Freedom From Smoking program has helped hundreds of thousands of people quit smoking and walks individuals through the stages of quitting smoking that include: Smokers can get help from our cessation specialists behind the Lung HelpLine at 1-800-LUNGUSA (1-800-586-4872), who can suggest lots of ways to quit smoking and to stay quit. For example:

  • How to set a quit date.
  • Building social support.
  • Learning how to relax and control weight.
  • Planning how to deal with urges to smoke.
  • Using quit smoking medications* such as nicotine gum, skin patches, nasal spray, oral inhalers and the non-nicotine medications buproprion hydrochloride (Zyban®) and varenicline (Chantix®) to help relieve physical symptoms when trying to quit. 

It Takes Time

The first seven to 10 days are the toughest, and you may need the most help during these early days. Most smokers who return to smoking do so within the first three months. "Slips" (having a puff, or smoking one or two cigarettes) are pretty common. If you've slipped, remind yourself of all the good reasons to stay quit. A "slip" does not mean you are a smoker again. As long you keep trying and don't give up, you will be able to quit for good.

Former smokers sometimes have urges to smoke months or even years after they quit. This is normal. These urges will occur less often over time and they'll eventually stop completely.

There Will Be Challenges

Many people run into bumps on their journey to quitting smoking, such as:

  • Gaining weight
  • Urges to Smoke
  • Withdrawal symptoms

See ways you can be prepared to handle these obstacles.

If You Start Smoking Again

Forget about blame or guilt. You are still learning how to quit—not failing! Each time someone tries to quit is a step forward. Help figure out what led to your relapse and plan what you will do differently next time.

* These products should not be used by pregnant or nursing women. People with other medical conditions should consult their physicians before using.

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