The following information applies to quitting tobacco products including cigarettes, chewing tobacco, snuff tobacco, water pipes (hookahs), and more.

The list of health risks from smoking is long, but the benefits of quitting are immediate. Here is what research shows:

  • 20 minutes after quitting: your heart rate drops.
  • 12 hours after quitting: carbon monoxide level in your blood drops to normal.
  • 2 weeks to 3 months after quitting: your heart attack risk begins to drop and your lung function begins to improve.
  • 1 to 9 months after quitting: your coughing and shortness of breath decrease.
  • 1 year after quitting: your added risk of coronary heart disease is half that of a smoker's.
  • 5 years after quitting: your stroke risk is reduced to that of a nonsmoker's.
  • 10 years after quitting: your lung cancer death rate is about half that of a smoker's and your risk of cancers of the mouth, throat, esophagus, bladder, kidney and pancreas decreases.
  • 15 years after quitting: your risk of coronary heart disease is back to that of a nonsmoker's.
Creating a quit plan

If you are thinking about quitting, you will need to: 

Get ready

  • Set a quit date and stick to it.
  • Make a list of your reasons for quitting.
  • Think about past quit attempts (what worked and what did not work).
  • Understand why you smoke and recognize what the triggers are; track this information for a few days by using a simple tracking sheet. 

Get support and encouragement

  • Tell your family, friends and co-workers that you are quitting.
  • Talk to a health-care professional (e.g. nurse, nurse practitioner, physician or pharmacist) about quitting strategies.
  • Find out about quit counselling available in Waterloo Region.
  • Check out the ways to quit smoking.
  • Visit the Smoker's Helpline.
  • Call Health Connect Ontario for free 24/7 phone support at 811 or TTY at 1-866-797-0007.

Learn new behaviours

When you first try to quit, you will need to change your daily routine (e.g. cut down or avoid caffeine and alcohol; stay away from people who are smokers; avoid places where you used to smoke).

You should also decide what to do to cope with trigger situations or cravings. Try the "four Ds":

  • drink water
  • delay smoking - the craving will pass
  • distract yourself by doing something else
  • deep breathing for three to five minutes

Be prepared for relapse or difficult situations

  • If you slip and have a cigarette, don't worry; remind yourself of the reasons for quitting and stick with them.
  • Plan for withdrawal symptoms; these are signs that your body is becoming healthier.
  • Practice the four "D"s mentioned above.
  • Use your experience from previous quit attempts to help you cope.
  • Stay connected with your support networks (e.g. Smoker's Helpline, a quit buddy, family and friends).

Ways to quit smoking 

There are different ways to quit smoking and the choice is yours. 

Individual counselling

Talk to a health-care professional (a nurse, pharmacist or physician) or connect with an Employee Assistance Program about quitting smoking. You can go online or check the Yellow Pages for names of psychologists, social workers, psychiatrists or health consultants who can help you quit smoking. Services may be covered under some insurance plans. Costs will vary.

Telephone support from Health Connect Ontario at 811 or TTY at 1-866-797-0007 provides one-to-one telephone support to help you quit smoking. Service in Ontario is available in over 300 languages through interpreters.

Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT) and other quit smoking medications

The most effective way to quit smoking is to use a combination of counselling, nicotine replacement therapy and/or pharmacotherapy (quit smoking medication). Check the Nicotine Replacement Therapy and other Quit Smoking Medications page to learn more.

Online quit support

The Smokers' Helpline Online offers tips, tools and support. This 24/7 service is free. You can share your experiences, gain inspiration and support others in the online forums. Once you are registered, you can post to the forums, ask questions or just read what others are posting. 

You can also sign up for text message support from Smokers' Helpline. Text message rates may apply.

Self-help materials

The following organizations provide self-help materials and information on quitting smoking:

Other options

  • Hypnotherapy
  • Acupuncture
  • Related therapies (e.g. acupressure, laser therapy, electrical stimulation)

There is not enough evidence from quality research studies to show that these therapies can help people quit smoking or have increased the number of people who successfully quit smoking.

Quitting before or during pregnancy 

If you are thinking of having a baby or are already pregnant and you smoke, you may want to check out the Pregnets and the Prenatal and Postnatal Smoking Issues site. These Canadian websites are designed to provide support to women making the decision to quit for their own health and the health of their baby.

Check the Healthy Pregnancy page for information about smoking and pregnancy.

Related pages 

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