The quitting journey

Giving up smoking is a process. Knowing where you are in that process can help you decide what to do next to stop smoking.

The quitting smoking cycle has many stages. Some smokers move through the cycle faster than others. Ask yourself where you fit in the cycle outlined below and then see what you can do to move forward.

Cycle of Change – where do you fit in?

1. Not ready to stop

You may not have considered stopping and may be unaware in a specific sense of the health risks and consequences of smoking.

2. Thinking about stopping

You are no longer happy to be smoking. You know you should stop but still feel drawn to cigarettes. If you’re at this stage, write down your reasons for smoking and your reasons for quitting. For example, you might think that smoking might help you relax or give you something to do with your hands. Weigh these up against the reasons for quitting, like better health, whiter teeth, fewer wrinkles and major cost savings.

3. Preparing to quit

You are getting ready to stop and are motivated enough to make some changes to your lifestyle. Smoking is often linked to certain situations, such as drinking coffee, walking the dog or watching a sporting event. We can call these ‘trigger’ events. Keep a diary of the cigarettes you are smoking and what your triggers for smoking are. Then work out and plan how you are going to cope in these situations. Plan new activities to replace smoking.

Finally, pick your date to stop, a day that you are not under too much stress. Get rid of all your cigarettes from the house. Clean ashtrays and clean your home in preparation for its new smoke free life. See more tips for quitting.

4. Quitting

Put your plans into action. Changing routine is one of the key elements to successful quitting, for example:

  • Change your usual drink from coffee or tea to fruit juice or water.
  • Get up from the table once you’ve finished your meal.
  • Instead of smoking at night while watching television, keep busy by going to the cinema or for a walk.
  • Avoid the triggers for the first couple of weeks until you’re comfortable with your new no-smoking routine.

To help them quit, some smokers use medical smoking cessation aids, most of which are based on nicotine replacement therapy, to take the edge of cravings.

It is important to stay motivated and believe that you can succeed. Remember, hundreds of people every year successfully give up smoking – people just like you.

5. Being a non-smoker

You become more comfortable with the changes you have made in your lifestyle. For successful quitters these changes become a new way of life. You are no longer thinking about smoking.

6. Relapsing

Having a drink socially, being with friends who smoke or coping with stress can make you slip. But all is not lost if this occurs. Remember many smokers relapse before they quit for good. Return to the reasons you wanted to stop smoking in the first place and prepare to quit again. (What if I relapse?)

Contact the Quit Team

For information and support on how to quit smoking, call the HSE Quit Team on Freefone 1800 201 203 or visit