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 seek ongoing support from a health professional, such as a doctor, nurse or pharmacist, and use a combination of counselling and medication. In fact, only 3-5 per cent of unaided quit attempts succeed. With counselling and support from health care professionals and the use of stop-smoking medication, your chance of success is increased to 25-30%. Quitting is always going to be tough, but seeking support 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 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 you have already been diagnosed with a smoking related disease. Stopping smoking decreases the risk of lung and other cancers, heart attack, stroke and chronic disease. 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.

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?

    Every cigarette is doing you damage. There is no safe level of smoking. Smoking causes significant changes in your lungs and airways.  In the short term, it can cause irritation and coughing, and over time it damages key structures in your lungs. This not only reduces your natural defense mechanisms protecting you against infection, but also leads to chronic cough, shortness of breath and excess mucus in your lungs.

    Tobacco smoke contains many toxic chemicals which can damage your body in many ways 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. 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 risk; stopping at 30 avoids most of it5. Even if you already are experiencing smoking-related health problems, quitting smoking will result in immediate and longer-term health benefits.

  • How will I cope with cravings and withdrawal?

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

    • Nicotine craving
    • Changes in appetite
    • Feelings of depression or sadness
    • Restlessness
    • Poor concentration
    • Feeling tense or irritable
    • Disturbed sleep
    • Feeling light-headed

    Cravings are often triggered by specific situations, so it’s useful to identify your triggers and use your 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. The most important thing to remember is that withdrawal symptoms are temporary – they will decrease once your body stops being dependent on nicotine.

    Talk to your GP or healthcare practitioner about different options to minimise the impact of your cravings and get the support you need to quit for good and improve your lung health.

  • 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 just reducing your habit still leaves you at higher risk of heart attack and lung disease compared to quitting.

  • 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. 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 and 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. Seek support from your GP, healthcare practitioner or Quitline.  You do not have to do this on your own. Going cold turkey works for some people, but research has shown that the most effective way to quit is to get ongoing support from a health professional, such as a doctor, nurse, pharmacist or a Qutiline counsellor. At Lung Foundation Australia, we support safe, proven, registered, therapeutic quit-smoking methods and medicines, and most importantly, developing a personalised quit plan. This strategy may 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 can quit for good and experience the many health benefits.

  • Where can I get support?

    Alongside your GP, nurse of pharmacist, there are many organisations committed to helping people quit smoking. Don’t hesitate to reach out. Call Quitline on 13 78 48 for more information. The path to giving up smoking for good can be difficult, particularly as you learn how to resist the temptation to smoke. Stay in contact with your support team to help you remain focused and on track with your personalised plan. You can do it!

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.