How to quit smoking - the best ways to quit

You’re more likely to quit smoking if you have help from friends, family, or a stop smoking adviser.  Find out about the different ways to help you quit smoking.

What’s the best way to quit smoking?

The best way to quit smoking is by using specialist help and stop smoking treatments together. You’re around three times more likely to quit if you use treatments alongside stop smoking support. For example, using a local stop smoking service and using nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) or e-cigarettes.

You’re also more likely to be successful with the support of friends, family, and your doctor or stop smoking adviser. 

Stop smoking services

Local stop smoking services give you free expert advice and support to stop smoking.

Your GP will be able to refer you. You can also contact your local stop smoking service yourself, for support.

If you have a long-term lung condition, like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), asthma, or pulmonary fibrosis, your doctor should offer you support in stopping smoking every time you meet them.

The NHS has information about what to expect from a stop smoking service. Depending on where you live in the UK, sessions may be by phone or video call, or in person at GP surgeries or pharmacies.

You may be offered support through an app, text messages or another digital platform in addition to help you stop smoking. There are plenty of apps available to help you stop smoking – search online for one that suits you. You may want to try the Smokefree app. It’s a four-week programme of practical support, encouragement, and tailored advice.

Nicotine replacement therapy (NRT)

Nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) comes in different forms and helps you to control the urge to smoke. It’s available on prescription from your GP or local stop smoking service, or to buy from a pharmacy.

All the therapies give you a source of nicotine to reduce withdrawal symptoms, without the tar, carbon monoxide and other poisonous chemicals that are in tobacco smoke. Over time you can slowly reduce the amount of nicotine you get, and eventually stop using NTR completely.

Therapies include:

  • patches 
  • gum
  • sprays
  • lozenges
  • inhalators.

It works better to combine two types of NRT. This is usually a nicotine patch to provide a background level of NRT and a faster-acting product, such as gum, inhalator, or nasal spray, to use when you get cravings.

People usually take NRT for 8-12 weeks before slowly reducing the dose and stopping. Ask your GP, pharmacist or stop smoking service for help in choosing the right NRTs for you.

Talk to your GP or nurse if:

  • NRT inhalators irritate your throat or make you cough 
  • NRT nasal sprays make you cough.  

Stop smoking medicines

Your GP can prescribe you medicine to help you stop smoking. The current options that are licenced in the UK are:

  • Buropion (Zyban) 
  • Cytisine 

If you’re prescribed Zyban, you’ll need to take the tablets for around 7 to 9 weeks. If you’re prescribed Cytisine, you’ll take the recommended dose of tablets for 25 continuous days, though some people find that a longer treatment course is effective. 

Talk to your GP or nurse if:

  • it’s harder to breathe 
  • you’re wheezing more.

This is because Zyban can cause allergic reactions.

Should you use vapes and e-cigarettes to help you quit smoking?

E-cigarettes are also a form of nicotine replacement therapy, as the vapour usually includes nicotine. Evidence suggests that they are an effective way to help people quit smoking and may be more effective than other NRT products.

Find out more about vaping and e-cigarettes

Hypnotherapy and other ways to quit

Some people find complementary therapies, such as acupuncture, hypnotherapy, or meditation help them quit smoking.

However, there's no clear evidence to prove they can help people quit, and they’re not available on the NHS as part of a stop smoking plan.

Alongside licensed stop smoking treatments and expert support, there’s nothing to stop you trying complementary therapies too. They could support your overall stop smoking plan. Lots of complementary therapies also help with stress.

Make a plan to quit smoking

Having a plan to quit smoking will help you to stay motivated and eventually, quit for good. Always remember the reasons why you want to quit. Don’t quit quitting – try our three step plan:

1. See your GP for support

  • Ask for a prescription for medication to help you quit. 
  • Ask for a referral to a stop smoking service. 
  • Download a stop smoking app for extra support.

2. Set a date to quit

  • Tell your friends and family when you plan to quit. 
  • Tell yourself you are a non-smoker.  
  • Find someone else to quit smoking with you.

3. Distract yourself from cravings

  • Leave the room if your friends are smoking.
  • Keep your hands and mouth busy. 
  • Get outside for some fresh air.

If the method you’re using isn’t working for you, try something else. 

Get a personal quit plan

Quit smoking with a personal quit plan from the NHS. It’s free and easy to do. Quit smoking today!

Benefits of quitting smoking

Quitting smoking will save you money and your health will start to improve straight away. Use the NHS inform calculator to work out how much money you could save if you quit smoking today.

After 20 minutes Your pulse returns to normal
After 8 hours Nicotine and carbon monoxide levels in your blood fall by half. Your oxygen levels begin to return to normal. 
After 24 hours Carbon monoxide leaves your body. Your lungs start to clear. 
After 48 hours Your sense of smell and taste improve.
After 72 hours Breathing becomes easier. Your energy levels increase.
Between 2 and 12 weeks Your blood circulation around your body improves.
From 3 to 9 months Your lung function increases by up to 10% - making breathing easier.
After 1 year  Your risk of having a heart attack is half of someone who still smokes.
After 10 years Your risk of lung cancer falls to half of that of a smoker.
After 15 years Your risk of a heart attack is the same as someone who has never smoked.

Information from Better Health: Quit Smoking 

More support to quit

England – Better health: Quit smoking
0300 123 1044 Lines are open 9am-8pm weekdays, 11am-4pm at the weekend.

Scotland – Quit your way
0800 84 84 84 Lines are open 8am-10pm weekdays, 9am-5pm at the weekend.

Wales – Help me quit
0800 085 2219 Lines are open Monday to Thursday, 8am-8pm, Friday 8am-5pm and Saturday 9am-4pm.

Northern Ireland – Want to Stop for advice or to find your local stop-smoking service go to their website or text ‘Quit’ to 70004.

Get support

Call our Helpline for support with your condition. Get advice on your medicines, symptoms or travelling with a lung condition, or just call us to say hello.

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