Dealing With Smoking Relapse

Written by the Healthline Editorial Team | Published on July 23, 2014
Medically Reviewed by George Krucik, MD, MBA on July 23, 2014

Dealing With Smoking Relaps

Staying smoke-free is more than just giving up cigarettes; it is a complete lifestyle change. Here are some suggestions for making your new life smoke-free, as well as strategies to help you get back on the wagon if you fall off.

Identify Your Triggers

People relish the time they spend with their friends, like watching a game at the sports bar or relaxing by the lake. But if that time means being around friends who smoke, you may be encouraged to let your guard down and light up.

Working with an accountability partner or quit-smoking coach, identify situations in which you may feel inclined to smoke. Then lay out a plan to deal with those situations—whether it is stepping away for a minute, going over a rehearsed pep talk in your mind, or texting a friend as a distraction.

It might take some time to identify your triggers and form a strategy. In the meantime, you might slip up and relapse. If you do, learn from your misstep and come up with a plan to avoid similar situations in the future.

Forgive Yourself

Relapse is common. That may not be the news you want to hear when you are determined to quit and stay quit, but it is true. Many smokers relapse, and many people try more than one time to stay quit. But here is the good news: You can learn from past quitting experiences. And because you know what it is like to be on the other side already, you are better prepared to tackle the ups and downs of quitting again.

Think About the Benefits

In the short-term, the benefits of not smoking can include having whiter teeth and better breath. It can also mean having more spending money, and not having to step outside to light up when you’re out with friends.

But the long-term benefits are even better. They can include increased life expectancy, reduced risk of disease and cancer, lower health-care costs, and better health for your friends and family members.

Make a mental list of these—or jot them down on a piece of paper—to remind yourself why quitting is so important. If you slip up and start smoking again, let this list serve as a reminder of why you made the decision to quit in the first place.

Start Over

You slipped up, and you’re smoking several times a day again. Quit again, immediately. Don’t wait for tomorrow or for the start of a new week. The longer you wait, the more time you give your body to build up its addiction to nicotine again.

Stopping now gets you started and working through the process again. The sooner you restart, the sooner you can call yourself a former smoker.

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Show Sources

  • CDC - Coverage for Tobacco Use Cessation Treatments - Benefits Summary - Smoking & Tobacco Use. (n.d.). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved October 15, 2012, from
  • How to quit. (n.d.). American Cancer Society | Information and Resources for Cancer: Breast, Colon, Lung, Prostate, Skin. Retrieved October 15, 2012, from
  • Quit Guide: Medicines That Help With Withdrawal. (n.d.). Retrieved October 15, 2012, from

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