Quitting Smoking

Sometimes, the idea that you can’t quit, is what holds you back from quitting. Believe you can quit – and you’re already on your way.

Why you should quit

People all over the world have successfully quit smoking. It is a very real achievement. Research has shown that the most effective way to quit is to get some ongoing support from a health professional, such as a doctor, nurse or pharmacist, using a combination of counselling and medication. In fact, only 3-5 per cent of unaided quit attempts succeed but with counselling and support from health care professionals and the use of stop-smoking medication, your chance of success is increased to 25-30 per cent. Quitting is always going to be tough, but seeking support from your healthcare professional will give you the motivation, resources and practical quitting skills you need to support your quitting journey. Your healthcare professional can also recommend medication to ease your withdrawal symptoms and cigarette cravings. Seek help from your doctor – whether you are helping a loved one quit or you want to stop smoking yourself – you deserve to be supported.

The benefits of quitting

There are immediate benefits to quitting smoking at any age, with the largest reduction in health risks in those who quit the earliest. There are even health benefits to quitting if a person has already been diagnosed with a smoking related disease.  Stopping smoking decreases the risk of lung and other cancers, heart attack, stroke and chronic disease compared with continued smoking. Here are some more incentives:

  • You will prolong your life and feel better.
  • You will protect your loved ones from second-hand smoke. People who breathe in second-hand smoke are at risk of the same diseases as smokers. Second-hand smoke is particularly dangerous to babies and children as they breathe more rapidly and their lungs are not yet fully formed.
  • If you have an existing lung condition, the best thing you can do is quit smoking. Quitting will help you with your symptoms and potentially stop your condition getting worse. It will also improve your quality of life.
  • You will save money.
  • If a person with COPD is still smoking, the most important thing that they can do to slow the rate of deterioration of their lung function, is to quit.

In addition, the effects of quitting are immediate.

  • After 12 hours, almost all nicotine will be out of your system.
  • After 24 hours, the level of carbon monoxide in your blood will drop dramatically and you will have more oxygen in your bloodstream.
  • Within 1 month, your blood pressure returns to its normal level and your immune system begins to show signs of recovery.
  • After 2 months, your lungs will no longer be producing extra phlegm caused by smoking.
  • After 1 year, your risk of dying of heart diseases is half of what it would have been if you kept smoking.

Frequently asked questions

  • Is smoking really that bad for me?

    Tobacco smoking remains the single most preventable cause of ill health and death in Australia. It contributes to more deaths and hospitalisations than alcohol and illicit drug use combined1.

    • Tobacco smoke contains many toxic chemicals and at least 69 cause cancer1.
    • Around 40% of smoking related deaths are due to lung cancer and 27% to COPD2. Smoking also contributes to worsening of asthma and is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease and stroke.
    • Tobacco smoking kills more than 15 000 Australians each year, more than AIDS, traffic and other accidents, murders and suicides combined3.
    • About 50% of all persistent cigarette smokers are killed by their habit – 25% while still in middle age (35-69 years). On average, cigarette smokers die about 10 years younger than non-smokers4.
    • Stopping smoking at age 50 halves the hazard; stopping at 30 avoids most of it5.
    • You don’t have to be a statistic – there is help out there. Remember, it might take you a few quit attempts to finally quit for good, just don’t give up.
  • How will I cope with cravings & withdrawal?

    Everyone is different when it comes to withdrawal symptoms. The best way to cope is knowing what to expect and how to deal with them. Some symptoms can include:

    • Nicotine craving
    • Increased appetite
    • Depression
    • Restlessness
    • Poor concentration Irritability or aggression
    • Disturbed sleep
    • Feeling light headed

    Cravings are often triggered by specific situations, so it’s useful to identify your triggers and plan coping strategies. For instance, if you always smoke after dinner, you could clean your teeth straight away, wash the dishes or go for a walk. Anti-smoking medications will reduce both cravings and withdrawal symptoms. Craving and withdrawals are a common part of quitting, but they become less frequent and weaker as time goes by. The most important thing to remember is that withdrawal symptoms are temporary – they will disappear once your body stops being dependent on nicotine.

  • What if I slip up and have a cigarette?

    Mistakes are part of the quitting process. The best thing you can do is learn from the slip up to improve your future quitting attempts. While the process will be difficult, it is important to remember that even reducing your smoking to 1-4 cigarettes per day will cause you to have significantly higher risk of heart attack and lung disease compared to people who don’t smoke.

  • Will I gain weight?

    1 in 5 people who smoke will lose weight when they are quitting smoking. For those that do gain weight, the average weight gain after quitting is 2-3kg. The best advice is to eat sensibly, exercise regularly and focus on your main goal – quitting smoking.

  • How much money will I save from quitting

    A great incentive to quit smoking is to think about how much money you’ll save, not only on the cost of cigarettes but on related costs like medical, dental bills and higher insurance premiums. For example, if you quit smoking a pack of cigarettes a day you are likely to save around $6,500 per year. You can find out exactly how much you will save through the icanQuit cost saving calculator.

  • What are the treatment methods?

    Finding your own strategy for quitting is important as different methods suit different people. Choose a quitting method you feel comfortable with that suits your lifestyle needs, that way you’ll feel more in control of your quitting attempt. Going cold turkey works for some people, but research has shown that the most effective way to quit is to get some ongoing support from a health professional, such as a doctor, nurse or pharmacist, using a combination of counselling and medication. At Lung Foundation Australia, we support proven, registered, therapeutic quit-smoking methods and medicines, and most importantly, we recommend having a strategy. This strategy would include clinical counselling together with nicotine replacement therapy or other evidence-based forms of pharmacotherapy. Know your reasons for quitting, talk to a doctor, know what to expect, and get help along the way. You, along with many others, can quit together.

  • Where can I get support?

    There are many organisations and support groups that are committed to helping people quit smoking, don’t hesitate to reach out. Call the Quitline 13 78 48 or visit quitting methods for more information. For many people, when the initial feeling of achievement wears off, it can start to get harder to resist the temptation to resume smoking. Speak to your health professional for assistance and support so you can stay focussed. Visit coping strategies for some useful information on coping with withdrawal symptoms. You can do it! Talk with your GP or pharmacist first.

    • Call the Quitline on 13 78 48
    • Get a free Quit Pack
    • Sign up to QuitCoach
    • Use patches, gum or medication

    You can also call us for more information and guidance on 1800 654 301.

Anyone can get lung disease. Take 2 minutes to check in with your lungs.


1Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2012.  Australia’s health 2012.  Australian’s health series no. 13. Cat. No. AUS 156. Canberra: AIHW 2Tobacco Smoking is Harmful to Health. Treatobacco.net. (Online) March 31, 2011.  (Cited: April 5, 2011.) http://www.treatobacco.net/en/page_87.php 3Scollo, MM and Winstanley, MH.  Tobacco in Australia: Facts and Issue. 3rd Melbourne: Cancer Council Victoria, 2008. Available from http://www.tobaccoinaustralia.org.au 4Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. Australia’s Health 2006.Canberra: AIHW, 2006, cat no. AUS 73. 5Doll, R, et al.  Mortality in relation to smoking: 50 years’ observations on male British doctors.  BMJ (Clinical research ed). 2004, Vol. 328, p. 1519.