Staying smoke- or vape-free one day at a time

Stay strong and focus on why you quit. It can also help to view yourself as a non-smoker and non-vaper from the moment you quit. This will give you the best chance of quitting forever.

Smoking is a physical and mental addiction so it’s ok to seek help when you’re having a tough time. We've highlighted below some tips and tricks to help with cravings or doubts. If you need to talk to someone, call Quitline on 13 78 48, or you can request a call back at a later time.

Preparation is key.

Understanding the potential withdrawal symptoms of quitting smoking or vaping, and having a plan for when you experience them, will make the process easier.

Recognising and coping with withdrawal symptoms

When you quit smoking or vaping, you may experience withdrawal symptoms. These can last a few days to a few weeks, but it’s important to remember they're temporary.

Most people find the first week the hardest. However, any symptoms you experience will reduce over time.

Read below about some common symptoms and ways to deal with them:

IrritabilityYou may feel tense, irritable, panicky or anxious. You may feel angry and snap at those around you. To combat this, try taking deep breaths, meditating, exercising and stretching. You could also soak in a warm bath or go for a walk.

Difficulty concentratingYou may find it harder than usual to focus. If you’re having trouble concentrating, take regular breaks, and break larger projects into smaller tasks.

Change in appetiteWhen you stop smoking your appetite will return to normal so you may find yourself eating more. You may also enjoy the smell and taste of food more. It can help to plan meals, including plenty of healthy, low-fat snacks to choose from.

Digestive issuesYou may experience constipation, gas, or stomach aches. To ease these symptoms, drink plenty of fluids, and eat lots of fruit, vegetables, and high-fibre cereal.

Flu-like symptomsYou may develop a cough, dry throat and mouth, or a nasal drip. Drinking plenty of fluids should help.

As your body gets more oxygen, you may feel a bit light-headed. If this happens, sit down and rest until it passes.

You may feel down or sad, perhaps experiencing a sense of loss or grief or a lack of self-confidence. It can help to speak to a friend or family member or to use positive self-talk regarding why you’re quitting. If your feelings of depression are intense or don't go away, speak to your GP or call Lifeline.

You may find it hard to get to sleep or stay asleep. Avoid caffeine, alcohol, and spicy or fatty foods during the hours before bed. Try relaxation exercises or a warm bath.

Other common side effects of quitting smoking or vaping may be feeling stressed and your weight increasing.

Understanding and managing stress

It’s easy to get into the habit of smoking or vaping when you feel stressed. However, the relief you feel when you have a cigarette or vape is not actually a relief from stress. Instead, it's a relief from the nicotine withdrawal symptoms you're experiencing. Addiction to nicotine means you experience that stressed feeling whenever you crave nicotine.

If you're feeling down, stressed, or perhaps experiencing anxiety because of quitting smoking, there are lots of ways to help you manage.

Some things to try could include:

  • using nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) such as nicotine patches
  • taking deep breaths
  • closing your eyes and imagining that you’re in a peaceful place
  • exercising to feel happier naturally
  • relaxing with a massage
  • having a warm bath or stretch
  • talking to friends, family or a counsellor
  • focusing on what you’re doing or doing some work with your hands
  • cutting back on caffeine to feel calmer
  • helping someone else to take the focus off cravings and feel happier
  • accepting that you’ll have good days and bad days, but you’ll be healthier and happier for quitting.

Those who've successfully quit report an improvement in their mood long-term and experience lower levels of depression, anxiety, and stress compared to those who continue to smoke. The most challenging time is a week or 2 after quitting. So stay strong—it'll be worth it.

Support when you’re feeling stressed

It’s important to look after your mental wellbeing, especially when going through something stressful like quitting. The Dear Mind website has practical tips and advice for small things you can do each day to support your mental wellbeing and help you cope more easily with difficult situations. By taking time for yourself, you can be a happier, more resilient you. If you feel you need more support, speak to your GP, or contact Quitline.

Avoiding weight gain

Weight gain can be a common concern among those considering quitting smoking or vaping. While some people gain a little weight when quitting, it’s important not to be discouraged if it happens to you.

The average weight gain one year after quitting smoking is 5 kg. Research has shown that the average body weight of ex-smokers is similar to those who've never smoked. And remember, quitting makes you look younger and healthier.

Reasons for weight gain when quitting smoking

  • Nicotine withdrawals sometimes feel like hunger pains, so you may think you’re hungry even when you’re not.
  • Nicotine speeds up your metabolism.
  • Nicotine suppresses the appetite, so when you quit, you may feel hungrier, and food will taste better.

How to avoid weight gain

  • Use nicotine replacement therapy to reduce nicotine cravings.
  • Limit the number of snacks you have.
  • Plan meals ahead of time and focus on fresh fruit, nuts and veggies.
  • Drink plenty of water.
  • Be active. Successful quitters report higher energy levels, making exercising easier.
  • Try not to skip meals, as this can stop your body from using energy as it usually would.
  • Avoid strict or unpleasant diets and treat yourself sometimes.

Support to manage weight gain

Plenty of support is available, both in person and online, to manage weight gain as you quit smoking or vaping.

  • Health and Wellbeing Queensland has excellent advice with ways to ‘boost your healthy’, along with tips, recipes, and tools to help you meet your health and fitness goals.
  • Queensland Dieticians will help you find a dietician to help you with healthy eating and provide professional, face-to-face advice.

Coping with cravings

To help you cope with cravings in the days after you quit, try the 4 'D's:

  1. Delay acting on the urge to smoke or vape. You should find that after 5 minutes, the urge to smoke or vape lessens.
  2. Deep breathe in and out slowly and deeply and repeat 3 times.
  3. Drink water, taking slow sips and holding it in your mouth a little longer to savour the taste.
  4. Do something else. This could mean talking to a friend, going for a walk, listening to music or anything else that will take your mind off your craving.

Above all, try to remember that you're doing a great job. Every craving you get through will make it easier to deal with the next one. Remember physical cravings are only temporary.

Last updated: May 2023