We discuss some methods below that you could use when you're trying to quit. We also include tips for quitting smoking 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

Counselling

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 smoking support options are also available.

Quitline: A free, specialised support service dedicated to helping people quit smoking. Their highly skilled staff are available 7 days a week on 13 78 48.

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, 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.

Watch our counselling and support video

Nicotine replacement therapy (NRT)

Quitting smoking 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 tobacco smoke. 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.

NRT products include nicotine patches, gum, inhalers, nasal and oral sprays, and lozenges or tablets. Combining 2 forms of NRT is often 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.

Watch our video on nicotine lozenges

Watch our video on nicotine patches

Watch our video on nicotine sprays

Prescription medications

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.

Watch our video on medications

Cold turkey

When you go ‘cold turkey’, this means you quit smoking suddenly, without any support or outside help. Using this method, you rely on your own willpower—which can make it harder to stick with. For that reason, it tends to not be as successful as using a combination of methods and quit smoking 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. It can also help to focus on the benefits of not smoking, while being supported by family and friends.

Watch our video on going cold turkey

Alternative treatments

In addition to the above methods, there are other ways to quit smoking, 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.

Watch our video on alternative treatments

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.

Vaping Products

Vaping products are also known e-cigarettes, e-cigars, vape pens or personal vapourisers. They work by heating liquid, into fine vapour for inhalation into the lungs. Even though they may be labelled nicotine-free, the liquids in vaping products more likely than not, contain nicotine, as well as a range of toxic chemicals. Vaping products may include flavouring that’s safe in food and drinks but not safe when inhaled.

Scientists are still learning about vaping products, which means they can't be considered safe. Why? Even if the vaping product doesn’t contain nicotine or produce tar in the same way as cigarettes, there is concern that vaping products may contain chemicals that could increase risk of lung disease, heart disease and cancer. An example of this is EVALI (E-cigarette or Vaping Association Lung Injury).

While some people believe vaping products help in quitting smoking, there's not enough evidence to back this up. That's why the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods hasn't approved any vaping products for sale to help people quit smoking. By law, vaping products are considered the same as tobacco cigarettes, so where you can legally smoke them is exactly the same as cigarettes.

More on vaping

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.

Last updated: January 2023