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Quitting smoking and vaping

12-minute read

Key facts

  • Quitting smoking and vaping has many benefits, including improving your health and reducing health risks, such as cancer.
  • From the moment you stop smoking, your body begins to repair itself.
  • There are several ways to quit smoking and vaping.
  • Research on quitting shows that if you have support to quit, you will have a better chance of quitting.
  • Make sure you have a personal ‘quit plan’ that you can refer to when you need.

Why should I quit smoking?

Tobacco smoke contains more than 7,000 chemicals and many of them can cause cancer. Smoking harms nearly every organ of the body. Every cigarette is doing you harm.

Quitting smoking can be tough. But when you stop smoking, you will start noticing the benefits quickly.

If you give up smoking, you will:

  • improve your health
  • reduce your health risks
  • make it easier to fall pregnant if you’re trying
  • reduce any health impacts on your friends and family if you smoke near them
  • reduce your impact on the environment
  • have more money — use the iCan Quit calculator to see how much you could save
  • benefit socially — for example, you won’t need to leave a restaurant halfway through a meal to smoke

Health benefits of quitting smoking

From the moment you stop smoking, your body functions will begin to improve.

  • 20 minutes — resting heart rate starts to decrease (this is a sign of overall fitness level)
  • 12 hours — blood oxygen levels start to improve, and the amount of carbon monoxide in your body begins to decrease
  • 5 days — most of the nicotine has left your body
  • 1 week — sense of taste and smell improves
  • 2 to 12 weeks — risk of heart attack is reduced, circulation is improved, exercise is easier to manage and lung function is more effective
  • 1 to 9 months — less coughing and being short of breath
  • 1 year — risk of heart disease has decreased to about half of what it would have been if you had continued to smoke
  • 5 years — reduced risk of having a stroke or developing mouth, throat or oesophagus cancer
  • 10 years — risk of developing lung cancer has decreased to about half of what it would have been if you had continued to smoke, and risk of developing bladder, kidney and pancreatic cancer has decreased
  • 15 years — risk of heart attack and stroke is almost the same as a person who has never smoked

ARE YOU AT RISK? — Are you at risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease or kidney disease? Use the Risk Checker to find out.

Filtered cigarettes, cigars and shisha

Filtered cigarettes, cigars and shisha all contain tobacco and there is no safe level of tobacco use.

Cigars are as dangerous as cigarettes and sometimes more so. Some brands of cigars contain at least 10 to 20 times more nicotine (which is highly toxic and dangerous) than cigarettes.

Shisha is not safer than tobacco cigarettes. Shisha tobacco contains large amounts of nicotine, carbon monoxide, tar and other toxins. The water in the pipe does not filter harmful chemicals. Even tobacco-free or herbal shisha products are harmful and contain cancer-causing chemicals.

Why should I quit vaping?

Vaping can cause harm to your health. Vapes can contain dangerous chemicals that are known to cause cancer. Vapes can also contain nicotine, which is a highly addictive, toxic drug.

Quitting vaping can be hard. But if you give it up, you will:

  • improve your physical and mental health
  • be free from nicotine dependence
  • have more money
  • make it easier to fall pregnant if you’re trying
  • help to protect your baby from serious health risks if you are pregnant
  • reduce any health impacts on your friends and family if you vape near them
  • reduce your impact on the environment

How will I feel when I quit smoking or vaping?

When you stop smoking or vaping, you may have nicotine withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms can last from a few days to a few weeks.

Common withdrawal symptoms include:

The first week is often the most challenging. As your body adjusts and recovers from the addiction of smoking or vaping, you will start to feel better.

How can I increase my chance of quitting smoking or vaping?

You can increase your chance of successfully quitting smoking or vaping by changing your smoking- or vaping-related routines and behaviours. This might include:

  • identifying and avoiding situations that will trigger your desire to smoke or vape
  • distracting yourself with new activities
  • finding a support system among friends and family or a support group
  • reminding yourself of the benefits of quitting smoking or vaping

What methods can help me to quit smoking or vaping?

There are several ways to quit smoking and vaping. What method you choose to quit smoking and vaping may depend on what makes you want to smoke or vape.

Professional support and counselling

Research on quitting shows that if you have support to quit, you will have a better chance of quitting.

There are different support services available:

FIND A HEALTH SERVICE — The Service Finder can help you find doctors, pharmacies, hospitals and other health services.

Quitting ‘cold turkey’

Going ‘cold turkey’ is when you quit smoking or vaping suddenly without any support. You will need willpower and mental strength to manage cravings and withdrawal symptoms if you use this quitting method.

Although this is a common method, it is less effective than using nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) or other quitting medication.

Gradually cutting down to quit

Gradually cutting down means slowly decreasing the number of cigarettes you smoke or how much you vape every day, until you have quit completely. It is a good way to start if you are not ready to stop smoking or vaping right now.

It helps to use fast-acting nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) while you cut down.

You can gradually cut down by:

  • increasing the time between smoking or vaping
  • reducing the number of cigarettes in your packet each day
  • leaving vapes at home when you go out

Nicotine replacement therapy (NRT)

NRT helps to decrease your physical withdrawal symptoms that can occur when you stop smoking and vaping. This can help you to quit smoking or vaping successfully.

NRT is available from pharmacies and some supermarkets. It is found as patches, gum, nasal and oral sprays, inhalers, lozenges or tablets.

Speak with your pharmacist or doctor to work out which methods will work best for you and how to use them effectively.

Prescribed medicines for quitting smoking

There are other medicines, available on prescription from your doctor, that don’t contain nicotine. They work by blocking the nicotine receptors in your brain so smoking or vaping becomes less enjoyable.

These medicines are not suitable for everyone so speak with your pharmacist or doctor about whether they are right for you.

Alternative ways to quit smoking

Some people try alternative methods to quit smoking or vaping, such as acupuncture or hypnotherapy. While there is no clear evidence to show that these methods work, some people find them helpful when trying to quit.

Can vapes be used to help quit smoking?

There is limited evidence that vapes are effective in helping you to give up smoking in the short- or long-term.

In Australia, the safety of vapes for anyone’s use has not been assessed by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA, the Australian Government medicine regulator). Because of this, vapes are not first-line treatments to help you to quit smoking. There are medicines to treat nicotine dependence (nicotine replacement therapy) that have been assessed and approved by the TGA, which are proven to help you quit and are safer than vapes.

To give up smoking or vaping, you should speak with your doctor first. They can advise you on how to quit according to your circumstances.

How should I plan to quit smoking or vaping?

Everyone has a different experience before successfully quitting smoking or vaping. Some people find it easy while others will find it more challenging. The good news is that there are many ways to stop smoking and lots of resources to support you along the way.

Make sure you have a personal ‘quit plan’ that you can refer to when you need. Your quit plan can include:

  • a quit date
  • the reasons why you want to quit
  • a plan to deal with cravings and withdrawal symptoms
  • a list of your smoking or vaping ‘triggers’ and how to manage them
  • a plan to transform your home and car into a ‘smoke- or vape-free zone’
  • your method of quitting smoking or vaping

How can I stay smoke- or vape-free?

Quitting smoking and vaping is hard, and it may take a few attempts before you quit for good. Every time you try to quit, you will get a little better at it. Most people who smoke or vape will attempt to quit many times before they are eventually successful.

If you are trying to quit and are having cravings, try to:

  • delay acting on your cravings
  • take deep breaths
  • find ways to distract yourself, such as by slowly sipping water
  • make sure you are using NRT or prescription medicines as directed

It is important to identify your personal smoking or vaping triggers. Make a note of them in your quit plan. That way, you can be ready for them when they appear next time. Visit the Quit website for more tips on how to stick with quitting.

Resources and support

State-based quit resources:

For more information and support:

Other languages:

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: February 2024


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