What is an effective plan to quit smoking?

Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiologist (Heart Specialist)

Here's an effective plan I recommend to stop smoking:

First 30 days: Don't try to stop yet; establish another behavior in its place. Walk 30 minutes a day, every day. When you're done, report to another person that you've completed it (use the same person every day). Walking 30 minutes a day will help prevent weight gain for when you do stop, but it also proves to yourself that you have the discipline to stick with a plan. Only one rule: You can't act like an 11th grader who blew off his chemistry homework. No excuses. Tired? You walk. Hurricane swirling outside? You walk for 30 minutes, taking laps around the dining room table. Want to watch Law &Order reruns? You buy a treadmill and walk while you watch. You walk every day.

Day 31 and 32: Start taking 100 milligrams of bupropion once a day in the morning. An anti-craving drug (it's also an anti-depressant if you take much more of it) can help you make the transition from being a smoker to being a quitter. Check with your doctor if you have high blood pressure or seizure disorders, because bupropion can have side effects when taken with other medications. Keep walking 30 minutes (or more) every day, no excuses, and keep checking in with your support person.

Day 33: Quit. Throw away all your cigarettes, cigars, tobacco, ashtrays, lighters, and pipes. Put on a nicotine patch as prescribed by your doctor (usually about 7 to 10 milligrams if you smoke less than half a pack a day, 14 milligrams if you smoke between a half and one pack, and 20 to 22 milligrams if you smoke more than one pack a day). Also, increase your bupropion to two a day-100 milligrams in the morning and the same dose in the evening. Keep walking.

The toughest days will be three to five days after you quit, but if you can make it to day 40-seven days after you quit, you'll have crossed the desert and made it past the most difficult part of the quitting cycle. You'll decrease the size of the nicotine patch after two months, and again after four months, and you'll also gradually come off the pills so that you won't be taking any after six months. Walking? You do that as long as the Rolling Stones keep selling albums. In other words, forever.

After 30 days off cigarettes (day 63 or so), you begin lifting weights 10 minutes a day.

Watch this video for tips from Dr. Oz on ending the nicotine habit.

An effective plan to quit smoking starts with the decision to quit. Set a date for when you are going to put down cigarettes for good and stick to that date. Get rid of your packs of cigarettes, ashtrays and lighters, and let other people know about your decision so they can support and encourage your efforts.

Change your routine by avoiding the places where you used to smoke, avoid triggers that created the urge to smoke and find new ways to occupy your time. You can fight nicotine withdrawal symptoms with prescription medications, and with nicotine replacement products. No matter what method you use to help you quit smoking, counseling or support groups can boost your chance of success. Celebrate every day you don't light up.

Dr. Joseph I. Miller, MD
Cardiothoracic Surgeon

For an individual to stop smoking the first step is deciding to quit. After the decision is made to quit then the process must be individualized. Discussion should take place with their physician to help decide the best individualized approach. For some individuals this might be a support group-either formal or a friend. Others might benefit from a nicotine analog which helps suppress the urge of the nicotine withdrawl. Some medical choices include drugs which act on the brain to help suppress the urge to smoke. Regardless of the plan, patients need to know it is ok to fail. Most people fail 6-8 times on average over their life before they truly stop smoking. So if someone has failed once they must not hesititate to try again.

As it relates to handling addiction, I defer to the fantastic group of medical experts that Sharecare brings to your doorstep. I do know that one of the major side effects to quitting is weight gain.

Sharecare has created a network of like minded fitness professionals that can help you manage the quitting process and build a plan for you that will give you long term success and create healthy habits.

Smoking is very addictive not only because of the chemical addiction to nicotine but also because of the social and behavioral factors that play a role. For example, if you hang out with people who are smoking and you are trying to quit, chances are slim that you will be successful. Also, picking up a cigarette is a behavior that relieves anxiety. These are things you need to take into consideration if you are trying to quit. There are many options out there to help with quitting, but the most successful way is to pick a quit date and prepare to quit at that time. Support is always needed and helps to be successful. Staying away from situations in which you would smoke is important too. There are medications out there such as Chantix or even just nicotine patches, gum, and lozenges that you can discuss with your doctor. The important thing to remember is not to be discouraged if you make a mistake but to just start again.

In the 31 days before your quit date, use these tactics to start disrupting your smoking habit. With a little more breathing room, you'll be in a better position to give up for good—when the time comes.

  • Be selective. Cut out smoking in two or three situations that usually prompt you to light up.
  • Scale back. Reduce the number of cigarettes you smoke a day to one pack or less.
  • Go cheap. Switch to a cheaper brand of cigarettes—one you don't like as much as your regular brand. 
  • Get rid of your lighters and matches.
  • Misplace your smokes. Carry your cigarettes in a different place than you usually do.
  • Role play. Spend a little time each day imagining yourself not smoking in stressful situations.

Take the RealAge Test!

Cigarettes are addictive. If you smoke, you are addicted. This has created a CHANGE IN YOUR BRAIN which makes you CRAVE nicotine. So when you find that quitting smoking is hard, it isn’t that you’re weak or don’t have willpower. The problem is that you’re addicted. It isn’t your fault. Quitting is really hard. The approach has to be to get as much help as you possibly can. This is the only way you’ll be able to overcome those times when your brain is attacking your willpower. Always work with your doctor on the medical things you can do. All the different nicotine products will help. It turns out that nicotine itself isn’t bad for you (unless you have another medical condition like high blood pressure). So chewing the gum, sucking on the lozenges, or wearing the patches is something you can do forever if you want. The “pills” will help as well: for these you have to see you doctor. Have your family and friends help. You can’t be around other smokers. Don’t go to places where people smoke. Make your smoking spouse get the cigarettes out of the house. There are lots of programs that can help. Online ones work for some people, others involve groups. Hypnosis and acupuncture have helped some people.

So the message is, be prepared for something REALLY HARD. You’re not weak: you’re just human. Use every single resource you can find. And one last observation: thinking about having “just one cigarette” never really goes away. It just gets easier to live with. I know. I quit 35 years ago, and still wish I could have one.

Dr. Sanjay M Lall
Cardiologist (Heart Specialist)

Set a target date for when you want to quit. Learn about the triggers that cause you to smoke and educate yourself about the health hazards of smoking. Seek support and counseling or read self help books. Talk to your doctor about potential medications that can help you quit the habit.

Dr. Joanne M. Foody, MD
Cardiologist (Heart Specialist)

The most effective plan to quit smoking is one that is personally tailored to your specific unique needs. An easy 6 step approach can help you to START your stop smoking plan:

S = Set a quit date. Let everyone you know what that date is and stick to it!

T = Tell family, friends, and co-workers that you plan to quit. It is much easier to quit with a large support group.

A = Anticipate and plan for the challenges you'll face while quitting. Take time to understand why and when you smoke, what your triggers are for smoking and how much you smoke. Many people smoke with meals, alcohol or socially with friends. Try to anticipate these settings and have an alternative plan that does not involve cigarettes.

R = Remove cigarettes and other tobacco productsfrom your home, car, and work. Try replacing these products with a list of all the reasons why you are quitting whether it be for your own health, the health of others, or just to have whiter teeth!

T = Talk to your health care provider about getting help to quit. There are a large number of resources and treatment approaches to aid you in your stop smoking plan.

And the good news is that it’s never too late to START your plan to quit smoking. If you stop smoking, you’ll improve your health and reduce your long-term risks—and you’ll see immediate benefits, some within just a few hours! And the benefits don’t stop there. Within several years your stroke and heart disease risk can equal that of a non-smoker’s and your risk of cancer will be dramatically reduced as well.

The current ways to quit smoking include medications that help with oral fixations, nicotine cravings, and depression.

Continue Learning about Smoking Treatment

New Info About Risks of Smoking Anything
New Info About Risks of Smoking Anything
We weren’t blowin’ smoke when we warned (over and over) about the health risks of smoking—anything! We know you want to kick the habit: Over 80 percen...
Read More
Do insurance companies cover nicotine gum for smoking cessation?
Many do but you need to check with your insurance company on that. If they do, they will not usually...
More Answers
What habits should I change if I want to quit smoking?
Dr. Michael Roizen, MDDr. Michael Roizen, MD
It helps to avoid not just the cigarettes, but anything you associate with smoking. For some peo...
More Answers
The Best Time to Quit Smoking
The Best Time to Quit Smoking

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.