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Tips on How to Avoid Smoking Relapse (And What to Do If It Happens)

cigarette laying on a table

cigarette laying on a table

Congratulations, you've quit smoking! I'm not writing this article to lecture you or explain how bad it is for your health (not to mention the people and pets you live with). Everyone knows by now what smoking does and how it affects everyone's health. I am only writing this to make you stop and think before you pick up another cigarette and to share with you how I am coping in hopes that it will help someone else from relapsing.

Don't Light That Cigarette

So you've quit smoking but that urge is still there. You think to yourself, just a few drags won't hurt me, after all, it's been three days, three weeks, three months or maybe even three years. I can handle it.

Stop right there. Think about why you quit. Think about how darn proud you are of yourself for quitting this addiction. Think of how strong you are for being able to finally give up the habit. All it takes is one drag, and you'll be lured back into that smoky pit of no return.

Do not...I not give in to that nagging urge to light up. You may think you can handle just a few drags but trust me, you will regret it. I know, I've been there. I had quit for an entire year and one day felt that I really, really needed a smoke. I gave in, lit up and three years later I quit again. Even though it's only been two months, I know if I ever have that one drag, I'll be back at it, smoking a pack a day.

Make a List of Why You Quit Smoking

If you've already made a list of why you wanted to quit smoking, take it out and have a look. If you didn't make one, grab a piece of paper and list all the reasons why you quit. Your reasons may be different than mine, but I'll share my list with you. Chances are our reasons are very similar, if not the same. Add a second column to the list and write out how quitting has made a difference in your life.

Write or type up a list and keep it close by.

Reasons to Quit SmokingThree Weeks After Giving Up Cigarettes

I am tired of coughing and hacking all the time.

The coughing has stopped.

I cannot walk up the street without getting out of breath.

I can walk farther without getting out of breath.

I cannot laugh without hacking.

I can laugh again and not cough.

The cost of cigarettes is getting ridiculous.

Smoking cost 84.00/week and increasing all the time Nicorette gum 40.00.

Every time I go somewhere I have to excuse myself to go outside to have a smoke.

Being around non-smokers has become a treat.

Tired of having to run to the store everytime I run out of smokes

So many less trips to the convenience stores.

Cannot make it through a movie at the Cineplex without having a nicotine fit.

I can now sit and enjoy an entire movie and no need to leave the theatre half way through for a smoke break.

I want the house, my hair and my clothing to smell better.

Mission accomplished.

Scatter these handy little no smoking signs all over your house. Or maybe a big one on your front door.

Scatter these handy little no smoking signs all over your house. Or maybe a big one on your front door.

How to Reduce the Risk of Relapsing

The following is a list of tips that work for me and hopefully will help you too.

  1. Make sure that you don't have any dirty ashtrays kicking around the house. Get rid of them.
  2. Make it a rule that there will be no smoking in your home by anyone, and stick to your guns.
  3. My husband and I quit at the same time, which can be very helpful. If one of us is having a hard day and an urge to smoke, we call the other person and in turn talk them out of lighting up. Teaming up with a friend that has just quit can work the same way.
  4. I used to drink coffee all day long and light a cigarette to go along with the coffee. Rather than drink coffee now, I've switched to green tea, and for some reason, the tea does not make me think of cigarettes.
  5. Go to places that are smoke-free such as libraries and restaurants, visit a sick friend in the hospital, or go to a movie theatre. Just about every public place where I live is smoke-free, which helps immensely.
  6. If drinking alcohol makes you want to smoke, avoid drinking.
  7. Tell people that you've quit smoking. You'll find you have a huge support system.

What to Do When You're About to Smoke Again

  • Get up and go for a walk. It's a good way to get in more exercise too.
  • Walk into the kitchen and grab a small snack. Make it healthy, though, as weight gain tends to happen when you quit smoking.
  • Chew gum, suck on sugarless candy, or eat celery sticks.
  • Grab a bottle of water.
  • Avoid people that smoke until you feel you can be around smokers and not have it bother you.
  • Clean the house.
  • Go cut the lawn or tend to your garden, if you have one.
  • Do things that normally, when you smoked, you couldn't smoke while doing them.

What If I Relapse?

  • Set a quit date.
  • Rewrite or make a new list.
  • Decide if you want to quit cold turkey or if you are going to try a quit-smoking aid.
  • Never give up trying to quit.

My dad smoked three packs a day. He started smoking when he was 20 and smoked until he retired. He had tried several times during his life to quit. Then one day he said, "I can't afford this anymore". He finally quit for good.

I've smoked most of my adult life, and this is the second time that I've been serious about quitting. I am determined to never smoke again.

Treatments to Help You Along the Way

  • Nicorette: Offers a wide product range of products to aid you in quitting smoking and to help you handle those nicotine cravings along the way. All of the following can be purchased without a prescription: gum, patches, lozenges, inhaler, and mouth spray. Before starting with any of these products, be sure to check with your doctor.
  • Zyban and Chantix: These are two medication pills available through a prescription from your doctor that may help you quit smoking. Many people have had success with these. Be sure to ask your doctor about the side effects of these drugs before taking them.
  • Counseling or quit-smoking hotline: This may be another option for you to consider.
  • There are many online support groups that you can join for free.
  • Get in touch with your local cancer society for help.
  • Some people have found hypnosis or laser therapy the best route to go.
  • Others have used acupuncture.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

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© 2012 Susan Zutautas


Susan Zutautas (author) from Ontario, Canada on August 29, 2013:

Koralee, I think that's great that you can go for that many days without it bothering you. Try a little harder to make it past that time:). Good luck to you. You can do it!

Koralee Phillips from Vancouver British Columbia Canada on August 28, 2013:

Great tips for not starting up after quitting. I'm really good at not smoking for 10 days lol. After that I start up, and I'm not sure why. For the most part the ten days is easy, but on the 11th or 12th day I always cave.

After reading your Hub, I will use your suggestions to help, and I'll start preparing on the 8th or 9th day to get me over the hump.

What I find most effective for quitting is the nicorette mini lozenges because they are fast acting.

Thank you so much for sharing your experience of not smoking with us. I am voting up, useful and tweeting :)

Susan Zutautas (author) from Ontario, Canada on January 11, 2013:

Mark, I find as each month goes by it gets easier and easier. Thanks for reading and for commenting.

Susan Zutautas (author) from Ontario, Canada on January 09, 2013:

teaches, Thanks so much. It has now been almost 7 months now since I quit.

Curiad on January 08, 2013:

These are good tips and good comments. As a couple mentioned, it is as much or more so a mental addiction as it is a physical one. If you can make the honest decision to quit, the physical part is much easier.


Dianna Mendez on January 08, 2013:

I don't smoke but I know people who have experienced this in quitting cigarettes. Great advice and voted way up!

Susan Zutautas (author) from Ontario, Canada on December 11, 2012:

moonlake, Not a problem. I do that all the time :) Have a great day!

moonlake from America on December 11, 2012:

Sorry about the bad spelling quite instead of quit.

Susan Zutautas (author) from Ontario, Canada on December 10, 2012:

moonlake, 2 heart attacks by the age of 38 .... oh my goodness. Glad to hear that you quit smoking. I got to the point where I walked up the stairs in my house and was out of breath. The couching and hacking got to be terrible. I do hope that your husband quits soon and yes it's a decision he has to make on his own no matter who says what to him.

Thanks so much for sharing what you went through, and Cheers to quitting :)

moonlake from America on December 09, 2012:

I was a smoker and knew I was not feeling good. I just ask God let me make it through my son's wedding and I will quite smoking. The next day after the wedding I never picked up another cigarette. I wasn't feeling good and I thought if I quite it would help me feel better. Nine months after I quite smoking I had 2 heart attacks at age 38. That explained why I wasn't feeling good. I was so glad I had quite smoking it was one less thing I had to do when it came to my heart.

I know exactly where my husband is in the store all I have to do is following the cough. His sister died two years ago from lung cancer. Still he doesn't stop. I wish he would. Our doctor said to me one day "you need to get him to stop smoking." I can't do that, it's completely up to him to stop.

I don't think the craving ever goes away you just have to live with it. You have good ideas congrats for quitting. I left a pack on the counter., where I could get to it, that's how I quite, 29 years ago.

Susan Zutautas (author) from Ontario, Canada on December 09, 2012:

Paul, Thank you so much for your very encouraging words.

Susan Zutautas (author) from Ontario, Canada on December 08, 2012:

Pollyannalana, I just recently learned that in some of the Canadian provinces the government here is now offering to help people to quit by offering them free counselling along with Nicorette gum, inhalers and patches. I think this is wonderful.

I'm looking forward to the day that I no longer have any urges to smoke.

Thanks for reading and leaving a comment.

Susan Zutautas (author) from Ontario, Canada on December 07, 2012:

Nell, I love the fact that I can walk around the block or just walk up a long set of stairs and not hack and cough. Breathing is so nice isn't it :)

Susan Zutautas (author) from Ontario, Canada on December 07, 2012:

Rebecca, I keep meaning to pick up some sunflower seeds. I'm putting them on the shopping list for this week. Thanks!

Paul Richard Kuehn from Udorn City, Thailand on December 06, 2012:

I quit smoking more than 17 years ago, and believe it or not, I haven't had a craving for a cigarette since I quit. When I quit, I had been smoking at least a pack a day for 28 years. What made me stop smoking was a deadly fear that I would get lung cancer. Whenever a thought does come to me about smoking, I think about getting lung cancer and the thought disappears. I have also limited my contact with smokers and places where smoking goes on. Perhaps something like my experience will help you. Good luck. Being a smoker is just like being an alchoholic in many respects. I'm all in favor of having something like a "Smokers Anonymous." Voted up and sharing.

Pollyannalana from US on December 06, 2012:

Quit for over ten years now and I agree with Wayne, it is the habit of having that cigarette in your hand all the time that is sooo addicting and yes a straw, even cut cigarette size will help tremendously. I still wanted a cigarette a couple years ago but finally all those urges are gone and I could not be paid to pick up another one. Oh and I smoked menthol ones and I used menthol drops to help with that urge for a couple years, just thought that may help someone.

I think cigarette companies should be forced to pay for anyone fighting this battle to quit since they admit to getting us hooked with additional ingredients!

Nell Rose from England on December 06, 2012:

I have given up for good purely because I scared the pants out of myself by having really bad bronchitis for nearly two months! I know I have suffered with it since I was a kid, but my thoughts were that my body is getting older, and not healing so quickly, its great, I can breath at last! never ever again! lol!

Rebecca Mealey from Northeastern Georgia, USA on December 06, 2012:

Great tips! I have one more to add...munching on sunflower seeds. That really helped me.

Susan Zutautas (author) from Ontario, Canada on December 02, 2012:

RH, It's been five months now. Confession I did have a couple of drags about 2 weeks ago and happily it tasted terrible. If you really have a strong enough desire to quit you'll do it. Now if I could only stop chewing the Nicorette gum :)

Kelly Umphenour from St. Louis, MO on November 30, 2012:

So how's it going anyhow? I'm still on my "in two weeks" phase of denial...that two weeks has really dragged out huh? Lol

Susan Zutautas (author) from Ontario, Canada on October 06, 2012:

jellygator, Good luck and if may we both beat this habit for good :)

jellygator from USA on October 06, 2012:

Yeah... in the process of quitting now. Grrr!

Susan Zutautas (author) from Ontario, Canada on October 05, 2012:

Judi, I hope this helps.

Judi Brown from UK on October 05, 2012:

I used to smoke when I was in my 20s. I'm one of those irritating people who found it easy to stop - my husband, on the other hand, hasn't, although he has tried. Will try some of this out with him.

Susan Zutautas (author) from Ontario, Canada on September 25, 2012:

Wayne, Thank you for adding this. You've reminded me of Telly Savalas, who played the detective Kojak, that always had a sucker in his mouth. I agree needing to and wanting to are very different.

Susan Zutautas (author) from Ontario, Canada on September 25, 2012:

B. Leekley, It's only been a little of three months and I'm still finding it hard especially when I smell smoke from cigarettes lately. I do have determination this time round and at 12.00 - 12.50 per pack now here I don't think I could afford it any longer. I do like getting up in the morning and not having to hack my way through the first hour of the day.

Thank you so much for such a lengthy comment and it is very nice to meet you.

Wayne Brown from Texas on September 24, 2012:

Based on my experiences as a long reformed smoker and what I have witnessed from others around me, I would add that smoking is a physical addiction as well as a mental one. Some are heavily addicted to the nicotine while others are more addicted to physically having something to occupy their hands at the more nervous times. I found that for many years (and somewhat still today) I would hold a drinking straw between my teeth or keep a toothpick in my mouth occasionally reaching to remove it with my hand. My most difficult part of quitting was the hands thing in the end so I still immulate that action at times. As for the mental aspect....that really is important at the time of quitting and afterward. One cannot beat smoking simply by defeating the addiction to nicotine. One has to understand why they need to quit and also why they want to quit. Needing to and Wanting to are different. Even though you may need to, you may not Want to. You have to "want to" if you are to be successful at the effort. Your mind has to be ready for it will be the element which sustains your resolve over time. That's my two cents. Good Hub! ~WB

Brian Leekley from Bainbridge Island, Washington, USA on September 24, 2012:

Up, Useful, Interesting, and shared. This hub is all good advice, Susan. When back when I was trying to quit and finally after many relapses succeeded, I had a list of reasons to not smoke and a list of reasons to continue smoking. The latter list had only one item on it -- relief from nicotine fits. To rebel? Not since I was a schoolboy. To emulate addicted, self-destructive writers, artists, and musicians? I figured out that it made better sense to get inspiration from those who continued to do great work into healthy old age. What I put on the not like about smoking was being self-destructive and knowing I was wrecking my health, being dependent, the sore throat, the money drain that kept getting worse as the prices went up, and having to beg for a light or a smoke when I ran out after store hours or when broke.

You are right about not taking that just one puff. One time, a few years before I quit for good, I quit for 6 months. When an employment change made my life stressful, I gave in to the urge to smoke. That first drag nauseated me, and I couldn't finish the cigarette, but I was hooked again.

i sure hope that you and your husband are able to stay quit. You have an excellent plan for achieving that, and for what to do in case of a relapse. You may appear to be walking, nibbling, panting and gasping, staring at a wall, skimming light reading novels and magazines, sucking a pencil, or doing routine tasks, but know that you are doing what is right for you if it is helping you to be not smoking.

And I have heard of a "seven year itch" that former smokers get. I did have times of temptation for quite a few years after I quit, but quitting had been too difficult and the rewards of quitting too substantial and my lessons too hard learned to be willing to give in and take that puff.

Susan Zutautas (author) from Ontario, Canada on September 21, 2012:

carozy, Thanks so much, and I hope it helps them.

carozy from San Francisco on September 21, 2012:

Great hub. I'm so glad I never started smoking but I have some friends who struggle to stop. I'll share this with them.

Susan Zutautas (author) from Ontario, Canada on August 23, 2012:

Jenna, Thank you. Six six ago that's great!

Carol, Thank you.

Susan Zutautas (author) from Ontario, Canada on August 23, 2012:

Sharon, I found anytime I slowed down on smoking (with the intent to quit) I would always end up back up to a pack or a pack and a half a day. Not smoking in the house is a good start though. If I can quit I know that you can too. Set a start date to quit and take it one day at a time. Thanks for sharing this, I appreciate it.

carol stanley from Arizona on August 23, 2012:

Though I don't smoke I know a few people who still do. You did a great hub here and provided solutions for those wishing to quit.

Jenna Pope from Southern California on August 22, 2012:

Wow! This is SUCH great advice. I quit smoking 6 years ago and it was a horrible process. But I don't smoke anymore! Voted up.

Sharon Smith from Northeast Ohio USA on August 22, 2012:

EXCELLENT information. I can't think of anything that you've missed here. Now if I could just do it! I am SO proud of you SZ. I was doing really well there for awhile and now kinda back to normal but still not smoking in the house which is good. I really need to do this. I appreciate all these great tips and will bookmark and share too.

Susan Zutautas (author) from Ontario, Canada on August 12, 2012:

Hi Kevin, Nice to meet you. Thanks, glad you liked the hub.

KevinC9998 on August 12, 2012:

Just Ask Susan: Great hub with a ton of great advice except..... clean the house! I am drawing the line at that. :) Only kidding, Thanks and voted up, Kevin

Susan Zutautas (author) from Ontario, Canada on August 07, 2012:

Relationshipc, Thank you for your comments. I think I'll add Allan Carr's book to the hub since it does work for some people. Thank you again.

Kari on August 07, 2012:

Good hub. I can remember all the times that I said "just one" and then started smoking again.

Although, I don't think that using nicotine replacement products is a good idea to quit because you are still pumping nicotine into your body (the main reason you are addicted to cigarettes). But because the nicotine is so low - you eventually want a bigger shot and give in to smoking. My opinion, but I spent a lot of years trying to quit so I feel it is a good one.

I finally quit after reading Allan Carr's the easy way to quit smoking. And I don't have any urges to smoke again. Highly recommend it!

Susan Zutautas (author) from Ontario, Canada on August 07, 2012:

KDu, Nice to meet you. It is one of the hardest things I've ever tried to do and hopefully this time it will work. I wish you all the best and success in quitting. Let me know how it goes.

KDuBarry03 on August 07, 2012:

These are great tips, Susan. You are spot on. Nowadays, in my generation, smoking is the repeat of being "with the crowd" and it is costly and ridiculous. I have cut back on my smoking ever since I resigned from my old job; however, it is still difficult for me to do so. When I wake up tomorrow morning, I will definitely take your advice and not give in to the urge :)

Thank you so much, Susan!

Susan Zutautas (author) from Ontario, Canada on August 06, 2012:

tilsontitan, Thank you. I am determined this time and hope that I don't go back. Smoking does become so much a part of your life and I still miss it. At the same time I love that I can get up in the morning and not be hacking and coughing through that first smoke of the day. I wish you all the best when you do decide the time is right.

Susan Zutautas (author) from Ontario, Canada on August 05, 2012:

Thanks Frank :)

Susan Zutautas (author) from Ontario, Canada on August 05, 2012:

Ruby, I will have to go and have a look at ( . Glad to hear that it's been almost nine years for you and that the desire to smoke has left you.

Mary Craig from New York on August 05, 2012:

First, congratulations to you and your husband! Keep going, don't go back.

Second, I had to laugh at ThoughtSandwiches' comment because I think the same thing. I too know its ridiculous but you here it so often you have to wonder. (I've been smoking for 50 years and my lungs are starting to rebel.)