Tips to help you cope with setbacks after you quit smoking

We look at some common setbacks people may face when quitting smoking and give you some tips to help. 

Congratulations - you’ve given up smoking! It’s a tough journey that can often take several attempts, as it’s easy to stumble and slip back in to old habits. 

Dr Rob Grenfell, National Medical Director of Bupa, warns that stepping back into old habits can often weaken your determination to quit. 

“The latest studies demonstrate a very linear response to cigarettes – you’re either in or you’re out.” Keeping this in mind is very important, especially when it comes to kidding yourself that the occasional cigarette won’t matter. 

Some set-backs that quitters commonly face are:
  • Having a cigarette to reward yourself for quitting: Phew, you’ve made it to Friday without having a cigarette. Surely you can have one sneaky one to celebrate? 
  • Having a drag of a friend’s cigarette: You justify one puff because you didn’t actually buy the cigarette. 
  • Smoking socially on weekends or on special occasions: You’re trying to go from being a ‘real smoker’ to being a ‘social smoker’. Surely having the occasional one isn’t going to hurt? 
  • Habitual smoking: You associate certain things with smoking. Maybe you smoked to pass time when waiting for public transport, or really enjoyed having a cigarette with a glass of wine or coffee.  
  • High-stress situations: A stressful situation – such as a bad day at the office, an argument at home or with a friend, or even worse, the death of someone close to you – may have you lighting up again as you use smoking to deal with stress or being upset. 

contemplative woman
But being prepared for these common challenges and having strategies in place to deal with them can help you continue when the going gets tough.

Tips to help:
  • If your social life revolves around drinking and smoking, it’s a good idea to take a break and find a new way to spend time with friends until smoking is well and truly behind you. If a smoky beer garden holds too much temptation, see a film or go shopping indoors.
  • Be open with friends so they know you’re finding it tough. If you’re spending time with smokers, ask them not to smoke around you, most people will be very supportive.
  • Be prepared for triggers and try distracting yourself: phone a friend, eat an apple, chew some sugar-free gum, and check out social media or do a mindfulness exercise. List all the triggers that are likely to urge you to smoke and brainstorm some strategies to help.
It’s important to remember that a setback is not a failure. “Nicotine addiction is a social addiction as well as a physical addiction, so people shouldn’t beat themselves up when they have setbacks,” says Dr Grenfell. “But, equally, they shouldn’t lose their resolve to give up, for the sake of themselves as well as family and loved ones.”
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