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Stopping Smoking

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Smoking has a huge effect on your health. It can cause, or worsen, several different chest, heart and stroke conditions including:

Why give up smoking?

Stopping smoking is one of the best things you can do for your health.

If you smoke 20 cigarettes a day, you’re 6 times more likely to have a stroke than a non-smoker. It also doubles your risk of having a heart attack, and 1 in 4 long-term smokers will develop the chest condition COPD.

Cigarette smoke contains thousands of harmful chemicals. These chemicals make the walls of your arteries rough and sticky. As a result, fatty material in your blood sticks to the walls of your arteries and builds up over time. This leads to increased risk of stroke or heart problems.

The chemicals in smoke destroy lung tissue and irritate your airways. Extra mucus is also produced in your lungs, and smoking affects the ability of your lungs to clean out this extra mucus. As a result, you will find it harder to breathe, will cough more, and may develop a serious chest condition.

The benefits of stopping smoking

The benefits of stopping smoking start as soon as you quit. The risks to your health start to decline as quickly as 20 minutes after your last cigarette!

Some of the main benefits of stopping smoking include:

  • Reducing your risk of developing a serious health condition.
  • Saving money. If you smoke 20 cigarettes a day, you could save on average £3,500 every year. Home, life, and car insurance may also be cheaper.
  • Protecting your friends and family from ill health caused by second-hand smoke.
  • Reducing your children’s chances of developing bronchitis, pneumonia, asthma, meningitis, and ear infections from breathing in your smoke.
  • Improving your breathing, fitness, sense of taste, breath, fertility, skin, and teeth.

How to stop smoking

At first, it may feel overwhelming to think about stopping smoking. But try to think about the future and make the decision to take a positive step for your health.

You can do it! Different approaches to giving up smoking suit different people, so find one that works for you. There is a lot of help and support available to help you give up the habit.

Here are our top tips to help you stop smoking:

  • Start planning and prepare to stop. List all your reasons for wanting to stop. Look at the list regularly.
  • Work out your smoking habits and be prepared to make changes to your routine.
  • Set a date to stop, preferably one when you will be otherwise stable and supported.
  • Pick support that suits you. For example: online help, local support programmes, phone support and family and friends.
  • Plan activities and distractions for when you might feel the need to smoke.
  • Set goals and reward yourself when you get there.
  • Keep a record of how much money you are saving and/or how many cigarettes you have avoided smoking since stopping.
  • Stay positive and tell yourself that you are going to succeed!

Nicotine in smoke is addictive. When you stop smoking it takes 3 to 4 days for nicotine to fully leave your body. Be prepared for the first few days to be among the most difficult – you may feel irritable, restless or have a low mood. You may also find it difficult to concentrate or sleep.

The craving for a cigarette usually only lasts 3 to 5 minutes and will pass. Stay strong! These cravings will reduce.

Help to stop smoking

Don’t be afraid to ask for help. You are four times more likely to stop smoking with professional help and medication – you don’t need to do it on your own.

In Scotland, support to stop smoking from your local NHS stop smoking service is free. These services are available across the country.

Your GP or pharmacist can also offer help and advice to help you stop. You may be offered medication such as nicotine replacement therapy (NRT).

If you feel it would be helpful, ask your family and friends for support. This can make a big difference.

This page was last updated on July 21, 2022 and is under regular review. If you feel anything is missing or incorrect, please contact to provide feedback.

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