How to Quit Smoking Cold Turkey – Five Essential Tips

You can accomplish incredible things when you put your mind to it. If you have tried quitting smoking before, you know how challenging it can be, especially if you’re relying almost exclusively on willpower.

Quitting smoking ‘cold turkey’ as this approach is known, is easily the most popular means of quitting[1] and is simple to start, but unfortunately has low success rates.[2]

This doesn’t mean you won’t be successful. There is no single approach that works for everyone, but for some, quitting cold turkey is an approach that is quick and effective, and in the end quitting smoking is about finding what works best for you.

If you feel quitting cold turkey is right for you, there are things you can do to support your willpower.  Here are five practical ‘cold turkey’ tactics that you can adjust to your own needs, which will allow you to live a life without cigarettes as soon as possible:

Measure and plan your victories

Whether it’s one day, one hour, or one minute at a time – it’s important to give yourself more than a pat on the back when you go smoke-free. Whether it’s buying yourself a gift as a reward, or throwing an informal celebration with friends or family, a gesture such as these might be all the motivation you need.

During your first few days, you should be celebrating your victories every couple of hours; because this is when nicotine withdrawal symptoms typically kick in at full force. These symptoms can include anxiety, tension, depression, and intense cravings.[3] Throughout this time, your heart rate and blood pressure will have decreased and returned to near normal levels.[4]

Team up with another smoker that is also trying to quit

Know someone that wants to quit as badly as you do? Team up and make this a joint effort. By doing so, you will have someone who you can relate to and can come along for the ride. The best part of all? When the going gets tough, this person can help you through times of temptation, distract you, or console you.

Avoid your smoking triggers

When you’re relying so heavily on willpower, try to avoid situations where you will feel tested. Smoking triggers vary from person to person but are generally related to situations where you commonly smoke. You can read more about smoking triggers and how to cope with them here.

Make a list to remind yourself of the health benefits of becoming smoke-free

Whether you want to focus on your discoloured skin, your bad breath, or the amount you’re required to spend each week on a pack of cigarettes – it’s entirely up to you. But listing and reminding yourself of all of the un-pleasantries of smoking will help keep you focused and motivated to quit. Carry your list with you at all times and as soon as the urge strikes, read your list from beginning to end. 


Consider getting active as a way to help beat the cravings you will encounter. The endorphins released by exercise can help keep you in good spirits.[5] While a recent review of the evidence called for further research, it is also possible that an increased exercise regime could help you quit smoking.[6]


Eating healthily can help you get through your cravings. The Lung Association recommends trying fresh vegetables or sunflower seeds to get through a craving.[7]

Eating fruits and vegetables could play a part in helping you quit cold turkey in the long term. A study at the University of Buffalo found that over a 14-month period, people were three times more likely to have been smoke-free for at least a month.[8]