Staying smoke-free one day at a time.

Stay strong and focus on why you quit, not why you want to smoke. It can also help to view yourself as a non-smoker 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.

Preparing for what’s to come can also help make the process easier. Understanding the potential withdrawal symptoms of quitting smoking—and the various side effects that can happen when you quit—will make it easier for you to deal with them.

Recognising and coping with withdrawal symptoms.

When you quit smoking, 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:

Irritability
You 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 concentrating
You 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 appetite
You may find yourself eating more, either because of replacing eating with smoking or because you 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 issues: You 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 symptoms
You may develop a cough, dry throat and mouth, or a nasal drip. Drinking plenty of fluids should help.

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

Depression
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.

Insomnia
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.

Common side effects of quitting smoking may be feeling stressed and your weight increasing.

Understanding and managing stress

It’s easy to get into the habit of smoking when you feel stressed. However, the relief you feel when you have a cigarette 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 or stressed or perhaps experiencing anxiety as a result 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 imagine 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 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. The most challenging time is a week or 2 after quitting. So stay strong it'll be worth it.

Avoiding weight gain

Weight gain when you quit smoking can be a common concern among those considering quitting. 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

  • 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.

  • Healthier. Happier is a excellent website with free workouts, 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. You should find that after 5 minutes, the urge to smoke 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 push away will make it easier to deal with the next one until you stop noticing them at all.

Last updated: January 2023