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Staying Quit

Congratulations! You’ve quit! Now it’s time to stay tobacco free.

Make sure you’re prepared to deal with:

Many ex-smokers and ex-tobacco users are also concerned about:

Planning ahead will help you get through the worst parts about quitting.

Use your quit smoking plan to get you through the tough times.

Tobacco Free Nova Scotia offers free, confidential and non-judgemental support about how you can stay smoke free. A caring counsellor can work with you, at your pace, to help you follow your plan.


You’ll have some unpleasant feelings when you stop smoking. This is your body telling you that it’s unhappy that you aren’t giving it nicotine anymore.

Nicotine withdrawal begins quickly, often within 30 minutes to one hour after your last cigarette. Withdrawal is a bit different for each person and it depends on your smoking patterns.

Common symptoms of nicotine withdrawal include:

  • Cigarette cravings
  • Irritability, frustration or anger
  • Anxiety or nervousness
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Restlessness
  • Increased appetite
  • Headaches
  • Insomnia
  • Tremors
  • Increased coughing
  • Fatigue
  • Constipation or upset stomach
  • Depression
  • Decreased heart rate






Symptoms are at their worst 2-3 days after quitting. Some can last a few weeks and occasionally up to a few months.

Nicotine withdrawal can cause negative moods. If you find that you are feeling depressed or lonely after more than two weeks, talk to someone. You could be experiencing depression. This is even more important if you have suffered depression in the past.

Coping with withdrawal

There are different ways to cope with the withdrawal. Here are some that work well.

  • Use quit smoking aids. Nicotine replacement therapies or pharmacological quit aids can reduce nicotine cravings. This lets you focus on breaking your habits.
  • Drink lots of water. This will help your dry throat, make it easier to cough and keep your appetite down.
  • Eat healthy snacks. It’s normal to be hungry after you quit. Stock up on healthy snacks like fresh fruit, vegetables, nuts and raisins. The extra water and fibre will also help with constipation.
  • Get plenty of rest. Extra sleep will help reduce your headaches and give you more energy to fight cravings.
  • Exercise. Walking, some light jogging, or biking can boost your energy and keep you distracted from wanting to smoke.


Do you connect smoking with certain people, situations, feelings and places? These are smoking “triggers”.

All smokers have triggers. You’re be more in control of quitting when you understand yours.

Some common smoking triggers are:

  • drinking coffee
  • finishing a meal
  • social gatherings
  • drinking alcohol
  • going to a bar
  • being around other smokers
  • having sex
  • breaktime at work or school
  • working on a computer or watching TV
  • stressful situations

What are your triggers?

Think about when, where and why you smoke.

At first, you might want to avoid triggers. If you usually smoke after a meal, ask a friend to come by for a walk instead.

You won’t be able to avoid all smoking triggers. Knowing what they are and planning how to deal with them puts you in charge, and not your addiction.


You will have a strong desire to smoke after you quit. This is a craving and it is normal.

The one thing you can count on about cravings is that they will pass. They only last about 5-10 minutes. Try to wait them out.

Here’s how some ex-smokers dealt with cravings:

  • Call or text someone. Lean on the people you trust to distract you.
  • Call Nova Scotia Tobacco Free to talk about how you are feeling.
  • Put on a timer and wait 10 minutes, then read a magazine, listen to music, or walk around the block.
  • Go for a walk. Exercise, even a little, can boost your energy and beat a craving. (Don’t have time? Go up and down the stairs a few times.)
  • Review your reason for quitting. Just one puff will feed your craving and make it stronger. Remind yourself why you quit.
  • Go to a smoke-free zone. Most public places don’t allow smoking.
  • Keep your mouth busy: chew gum, suck on a candy, drink water.
  • Do something else. When a craving hits, stop what you’re doing immediately and do something else. Simply changing your routine can help you shake off a craving.
  • Take deep breaths. Breathe through your craving by inhaling (through your nose) and exhaling (through your mouth). Repeat this 10 time or until you’re feeling more relaxed.

Cravings come and go in a few minutes. Let them pass.

Don’t smoke. Not even one puff!

When a strong craving hits, it can be easy to forget why you are quitting.

Read your list of reasons to remind yourself why you are quitting.

Gaining Weight

Many people worry about gaining weight after they quit smoking. Food is a natural thing to put in your mouth instead of a cigarette.

It’s true that many smokers gain some weight. The average gain is between 7 to 10 pounds. Some people don’t put on weight.

Smoking is harder on your health than gaining a few pounds. So pat yourself on the back and give yourself a break. Focus on quitting.

To reduce weight gain, make exercise and healthy eating part of your quit plan. Start walking or going to the gym as a way to distract yourself from cravings and triggers. Learn how to cook new recipes that are tasty and healthy.

Alcohol and Social Situations

Alcohol is a big trigger for many smokers. Here’s how you can deal with it:

  • Avoid alcohol when you first stop smoking. After a few weeks the nicotine cravings will pass and you’ll be more in control.
  • Drink less. This lets you think clearly and stay focused on quitting.
  • When you are ready to be in social situations, start with friends that don’t smoke or who won’t smoke around you. Avoid people who still smoke and who may offer you tobacco.
  • At a party, give your hands something to do. Have a drink (non-alcoholic) in one hand and your phone or something else in the other.
  • When you start to feel a craving, leave the party. Go for a walk or go home. Congratulate yourself for getting through the party without smoking.

Being Around People Who Smoke

You will find yourself next to someone smoking at some point. This can trigger a craving. Here are some ideas on what you can do:

  • If you know them, speak up. Tell them you are trying to quit. They might put their cigarette away. If they don’t, they’ll understand why you walk away.
  • Walk away. Let the craving pass. Review in your mind why you are quitting. Tell yourself you are in charge.
  • Remind yourself that you have been smoke free for _____ weeks, days or minutes. Be proud of yourself.
  • Keep your hands busy. Take your phone out of your pocket. Suck on a candy or chew gum. Distract yourself.
  • Avoid places where you know there will be smokers. Don’t go outside with your friends or co-workers when they are taking a smoke break. Stay clear of smoking areas at bars and restaurants.


Being in a stressful situation can trigger a craving. In fact, stress is one of the reasons why many smokers started in the first place.

You’ll need to find new ways to deal with stress. Here are a few ideas:

  • Get more sleep
  • Exercise more
  • Eat healthy foods that nourish your body
  • Try a yoga or meditation class
  • Practice deep breathing
  • Talk to a counsellor or a friend before you start to feel overwhelmed with stress.