Quitting smoking

It is never too late to quit smoking. Even smokers who quit at the age of 70 can reduce their risk and improve their health.

Find out more about:

Explore the reasons why you should quit:

Benefits of quitting

You will experience health benefits as soon as you put out your last cigarette, even if you already suffer health problems.

12 hours:  The level of carbon monoxide in your blood drops dramatically.
72 hours: Your sense of taste and smell improves.
2 weeks: Lung function and circulation improves.
1 month: Coughing and shortness of breath decrease.
1 year: Risk of coronary heart disease is halved compared to continuing smokers.
5 years: Risk of stroke is reduced and the risk of mouth and throat cancer decreases.
10 years: Risk of lung cancer death is halved.
15 years: Risk of heart disease is the same as someone who has never smoked.

How to quit smoking

Quitting smoking is hard, but there is a lot of support to help you. When you are ready to quit, contact Quitline 13 QUIT (13 7848) or speak to a health professional. These services can help you:

  • better understand why and when you smoke
  • choose a quitting method that is safe, effective and suits you
  • learn more about what to expect after quitting, including coping with withdrawal symptoms.

Many smokers need to practise quitting several times before they give up for good. Nicotine is highly addictive and while various products can assist a person to quit smoking, there is no easy fix. Keep trying – practice helps smokers plan what to do the next time they get an urge to smoke, and ultimately, the benefits of quitting will be worth it.

The first few days of quitting can be the hardest. You may feel tired, irritable and tense. You will probably experience cravings. Over time, these symptoms will disappear.

Make a plan for how you will cope in tricky situations after you have quit. You might also consider using one of the nicotine replacement products available to help reduce withdrawal symptoms.

Quitting methods

Nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) and other medications

Many smokers find using nicotine gum, patches, lozenges, tablets or inhalers helps them to quit. Your doctor or pharmacist will explain how to use these products. There are also non-nicotine medications, such as Champix and Zyban, available to help people quit. Some products are available at a reduced cost on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme. Speak to your doctor about obtaining a prescription for the right product for you.

Cold turkey

Going cold turkey involves stopping smoking completely, without using any form of help. The research shows that you are more likely to quit successfully if you seek support and try nicotine replacement therapy or other medications.

Alternative therapies

While there is often interest in herbal remedies, spiritual healing, e-cigarettes or other alternative therapies, the evidence to support the effectiveness of these methods is limited. Always be wary of methods or products that promise success without you having to do anything or that make exaggerated claims of success rates.


  • Set a quit date so you can become mentally ready to become a non-smoker – record your smoking behaviour in the few weeks leading up so you have a better understanding of how many cigarettes you smoke and what your triggers and habits are.
  • Write down your reasons for quitting – keep these in your wallet and refer to them when you have strong cravings.
  • Stay busy – occupy yourself with a task when a craving strikes.
  • Get rid of anything that might make you want to smoke – throw away cigarettes, lighters and ashtrays in your home.
  • Get plenty of support – ask your friends and family to support you and keep you on track. If you live or work with other people who smoke, ask them to quit with you. Contact Quitline 13 Quit (13 7848) 7am–10pm,
  • 7 days a week for support and encouragement to quit or visit quitnow.org.au

Cigarettes are poison

  • Cigarettes are a cocktail of more than 7000 chemicals, including over 70 known carcinogens, or cancer-causing agents.
  • Carbon monoxide, a poisonous gas produced by burning tobacco, decreases the amount of oxygen available to your body, forcing your heart to work harder. Carbon monoxide is also found in car exhaust fumes.
  • Nicotine is the addictive drug in tobacco which increases the smoker’s blood pressure and heart rate. Concentrated nicotine is a deadly poison and is widely used as an insecticide. Nicotine is more addictive than cocaine or heroin.
  • There are at least 30 metals in tobacco smoke including nickel, arsenic, cadmium, chromium and lead. Evidence suggests that many of these compounds may be carcinogenic.
  • Other chemicals found in cigarettes include:
    • Turpentine – commonly used as paint stripper.
    • Butane – a key ingredient of gasoline.
    • Ammonia – a component of toilet and floor cleaner.
    • Acetone – more commonly used as nail polish remover.
    • Formaldehyde – a chemical used by embalmers to preserve dead bodies.
    • Methoprene – a flea repellent for your pets.

Smoking harms others

If you smoke, you may be harming those around you through the smoke you exhale. This is known as second hand or passive smoke.

If you do not smoke, but spend time in the close company of smokers, you still have an increased risk of cancer. There is no safe level of tobacco smoke exposure.

Babies and children are particularly susceptible to the health effects of passive smoking, as their lungs and immune systems are still developing. To protect your family, keep your home and car smoke-free.

More information and support

For more information about quitting smoking and for support to quit, contact the Cancer Council on 13 11 20; or contact Quitline 13 QUIT (13 7848) or visit quitnow.info.au