How to Prepare for Your “Quit Smoking Day”

Choosing to quit smoking is a decision that can improve your health as well as reduce cancer risk. One out of every three cancer deaths in the U.S. are related to cigarette smoking; smoking causes 12 types of cancer; secondhand smoke can also cause cancer. In current cancer patients there are many benefits to quitting during and after treatment including better quality of life and improved prognosis and treatment response. Studies have shown that smoking cessation is associated with improvement in health-related quality of life.

Smoking cessation, while often celebrated by those around you, can also create fear and anxiety. Quitting is oftentimes not easy and may take several attempts before being successful. There is no timeline that fits each person; the number of years you have smoked, the type of tobacco products you use, and access to support are just a few key factors that contribute to success. Nicotine is the chemical in tobacco that makes it hard to quit, and nicotine dependence occurs when you need nicotine and can't stop using it. It can be very challenging to stop smoking, even with great willpower. Many patients feel a strong connection to smoking both physically and emotionally which can make quitting difficult.  

It may help to reflect on what smoking has represented for you. Has smoking been a way to cope? You may feel that smoking is a strategy you use to deal with stress, especially when you are feeling worried or facing hardship. Is smoking a part of your daily behaviors and patterns? You may feel that smoking is a habit connected to your daily activities. For example, you may smoke every morning with coffee, while reading the newspaper or driving to and from work. You may not have recognized that some daily activities are directly connected with your smoking patterns. You may couple it with social activities, especially if the people you spend time with also smoke. Discovering what smoking has been to you or what attitudes or thoughts you have around your smoking behaviors can help you with finding the motivation to quit and planning around being smoke-free.  

Quit Day Preparations: 

Preparing for quit day can be exciting as you begin to picture your life smoke-free. There will be many changes to come and benefits to your health as you approach quit day. As with any major life change, it may be helpful to plan around your goal to quit; the more strategies you can implement to manage triggers, cravings and any other factors that lead to the desire to smoke, the more likely you are to resist smoking. Here are a few ideas on how to prepare for quit day: 

  • Choose a quit date- choosing an official date that you will quit is important; being deliberate about your first day tobacco-free may help to make the experience more real and increase your potential for success. When you don’t choose a date, you are more likely to continue smoking or pushing your quit date back repeatedly. 

  • Dispose of tobacco products- once you have made the decision to quit, reducing the means to smoke is important; consider walking through your home, car, etc. and disposing of all tobacco products. You may find that cravings are reduced simply by the lack of easy access to tobacco products. You might find getting rid of these products difficult; consider having a celebration or goodbye party for yourself as you start this new journey. 

  • Address your emotions- for some people choosing to quit smoking can be emotional; there can be feelings connected to smoking, as it may seem almost like a friend being there during your time of need, or the only activity that helped you to cope. It may feel like a relationship has ended, causing feelings of sadness or frustration. Like ending a relationship with a person, it may help to approach ending your relationship in a similar fashion. If you are feeling emotional or finding this experience difficult, consider writing a goodbye letter to your cigarettes or tobacco products, or some other special activity to indicate the end of this relationship.  

  • Clean and repurpose space- you may have a certain spot in your home or outside the home where you would typically smoke. You may go to the same room, a patio or smoke in your car. If there is a spot typically used for smoking, you may find it helpful to clean the space. Consider repurposing the space once it is clean; you may want to use it as a meditation area, family fun room, or for any other purpose that may support your quit goal.  

  • Restructure thinking patterns- for many individuals, smoking has served as a coping strategy. You may be able to reduce the urge to smoke by restructuring your thinking patterns connected to smoking. You may find it helpful to challenge your feeling that smoking is the only thing you can do to manage stress. You may consider the exception to this belief, for example: have you experienced moments when you were stressed but found that other activities helped? If there have been moments when other activities helped, consider utilizing those when you are feeling stressed rather than smoking.  

  • Plan for urges- consider making a contract or plan for yourself around the goal to quit; write down the strategies you will use when you feel the urge to smoke. Create a list of things you might want to do that are healthier, as well as strategies to minimize the likelihood that you will smoke. For example, if you typically shop at the same store for tobacco products, consider driving a different route to avoid that store, or address urges by going for a walk, chewing gum, eating a healthy snack, or squeezing a stress ball. You are free to choose any strategies that will work best for you. Consider placing this list around your home, car, or any other location you pass frequently to remind yourself of what to do when it is difficult.  

  • Find Support- having access to resources can help you to feel less alone in your efforts to quit smoking. Your clinic may know of resources in your community to assist in your efforts including peer support groups, mindfulness classes or free state programs to support your efforts to quit. It may help to seek the support of friends and family; you might identify someone in your personal circle who is supportive of your efforts and may be willing to help keep you on track and hold you accountable.  

  • Talk with your provider- your doctor may be able to provide additional information on the physical improvements of smoking cessation. They may also be able to prescribe nicotine replacement therapy or tobacco cessation medications to help support your goal of quitting.  

Making the decision to become tobacco free is exciting but may also be challenging and bring out emotions and beliefs you did not realize were present. Being successful at quitting requires motivation, readiness to quit and a plan that feels best for you. Consider potential roadblocks you may experience and how to address them. Even with a plan there may be times when you return to old habits. Try being kind and not being too hard on yourself if you have a set-back; it can often take several attempts before you are successful at quitting. Remember that even a reduction in tobacco can reduce the risk of certain diagnoses and improve your overall health.  For individual support around smoking cessation ask your nurse for a referral to our Iris smoking cessation specialist.  

Cancer Care Settings and Smoking Cessation. (2022, July 21). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Hersi, Mona & Traversy, Gregory (2019). BioMed Central. Effectiveness of stop smoking interventions among adults: protocol for an overview of systematic reviews and an updated systematic review.

Nicotine dependence - Symptoms and causes - Mayo Clinic. (2022, April 19). Mayo Clinic.