We discuss some methods below that you could use when you're trying to quit cigarettes and vapes. We also include tips for quitting and where to find support.
Just remember, everyone is different. What might work for someone else may not work for you. If you find one method isn’t working, try another. Using a combination of methods, like nicotine replacement and counselling, will improve your chance of successfully quitting.
Be persistent. Understand that setbacks happen. All you need to do is keep trying.
Common quitting methods
Creating a support network that you can call on when needed will help. Talking to your loved ones and your GP is a great start, but other quit support options are also available.
One-on-one advice: You may choose to talk to your doctor, health educator, psychologist, psychiatrist, or other health professional who has been trained to help people quit. These health professionals will help you understand why you smoke or vape, and provide strategies to help you quit.
Courses: Attending a quit course could provide both information on how to quit smoking, and support as you quit.
Nicotine replacement therapy (NRT)
Quitting cigarettes and vapes will usually mean you get cravings and withdrawal symptoms. Nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) aims to reduce those side effects, and when used properly, can make a big difference, helping you quit.
With a wide range of NRT products available, it can be a good idea to speak to your GP or Quitline about finding the best one for you. You can get these products at pharmacies and some supermarkets. You may also be able to get them at a reduced cost with a prescription from your doctor.
How does NRT work? NRT provides a small, measured dose of nicotine into the bloodstream without the harmful chemicals that come from cigarettes smoke and vaping liquid. This dose of nicotine works to reduce the physical withdrawal symptoms that come with quitting, allowing you to focus instead on the emotions and situations that can trigger your desire to smoke or vape.
NRT products include nicotine patches, gum, inhalators, oral sprays, and lozenges. Combining 2 forms of NRT is recommended rather than using a single method, as each works in a different way. For example, while the patch releases nicotine slowly to give you a steady dose, the spray or gum releases nicotine more quickly, helping to ease sudden cravings.
Available on prescription, quit smoking medication can help to reduce withdrawal symptoms as you quit. Options such as bupropion (Zyban) and varenicline work to block the nicotine receptors in your brain and make smoking less enjoyable.
As these medicines are not suitable for everyone, they must be prescribed by a GP. Both are subsidised by the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS). However, to receive the PBS subsidy, you must also be receiving counselling for quitting smoking from your doctor or a support service such as the Quitline.
When you go ‘cold turkey’, this means you quit smoking cigarettes and vapes suddenly, without any support or outside help. For that reason, it tends to not be as successful as using a combination of methods and quit support.
If you think cold turkey is the method for you, you may want to distract yourself with new activities, and avoid situations that tend to trigger your desire to smoke or vape. It can also help to focus on the benefits of not smoking or vaping, while being supported by family and friends.
In addition to the above methods, there are other ways to quit cigarettes and vapes, such as acupuncture, hypnosis and herbal preparations. While the theory behind each of these methods varies, there is no clear evidence to show how much they help.
- Hypnosis – proposes to act on underlying impulses to weaken the desire to smoke and strengthen your will to stop.
- Acupuncture – a traditional Chinese medicine, involves inserting fine needles into the skin at specific points in the body.
Other techniques include acupressure, laser therapy and electrostimulation. The aim of these therapies is to reduce withdrawal symptoms.
Quitting methods we don't recommend
From e-cigarettes to light, low-tar or filtered cigarettes, a wide range of products are promoted for their ability to help users to either quit smoking or allow them to smoke 'safely'. However, there's no safe smoking option. Tobacco is always harmful.
While some people believe vaping products help in quitting smoking, there isn't enough evidence to back this up. The Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods (TGA) hasn't approved any vaping products for sale to help people quit smoking.
If you’ve tried to quit smoking using other methods—such as NRT combined with quit smoking support—talk to your doctor. You need a prescription to purchase nicotine vaping products, both from Australian pharmacies and overseas. Your GP can assess your suitability to use a prescribed nicotine vaping product.
Switching to low-nicotine or low-tar cigarettes
More than half of all Australian smokers mistakenly believe that low-tar or low-nicotine cigarettes marketed as ‘gold’, ‘smooth’, ‘silver’ or ‘fine' (previously known as ‘light’ and ‘mild’ cigarettes) are less dangerous than regular cigarettes. However, there's no evidence that this is correct.
Research shows that there is little difference in the levels of nicotine, carbon monoxide and other toxins inhaled by smokers of so-called low-tar and low-nicotine cigarettes compared to smokers of regular cigarettes. This is because smokers generally take more frequent and deeper puffs of these ‘lighter’ cigarettes to get the amount of nicotine they're used to.
The same applies to using filters or filter-blocking products. There is no such thing as a safe cigarette.
Quitting smoking can be hard. You may find you try several times before you manage to give up permanently. But trying gives you practice, which can help you plan what you need to do to succeed next time. The important thing is to keep trying.
Watch our video on each quitting method
Learn more about quitting methods through our video series.