July 13, 2020/Lung

5 Tips for Quitting Tobacco

One of the most important things you’ll ever do

An illustration of a person putting out a cigarette.

Tobacco is a tough addiction to beat. But whether you’re a cigarette smoker, cigar smoker, tobacco chewer or a vape or electronic cigarette user, quitting tobacco is one of the most important things you’ll ever do, according to integrative medicine physician Irina Todorov, MD.


Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that smoking is responsible for about 1,300 deaths every day and 480,000 deaths per year in the United States. Moreover, the CDC also reports that on average, smokers die 10 years earlier than nonsmokers. Quitting smoking reduces mortality compared with continuing to smoke. Quitting earlier in life also results in greater reductions.

A Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) study concluded that among heavy smokers, quitting was associated with a significantly lower risk of heart disease within five years relative to current smokers. However, relative to people who never smoked, former smokers’ cardiovascular disease risk remained significantly elevated beyond five years after quitting.

Dr. Todorov offers helpful tips for quitting using the S.M.A.R.T. method:

S is for Strategy

Counseling and the use of various treatment options double the chances of beating nicotine addiction for good versus quitting cold turkey.

“Use a program tailored for your success because there is no magic pill to help you quit,” says Dr. Todorov. “Most tobacco users don’t plan to fail but fail to plan. Breaking the habit can be hard and many people need help doing it.”

If you are motivated to quit, talk to your doctor what programs are available in your area.

M is for Motivation

Motivation for quitting is personal — relieving a financial burden, improving health issues or wanting to be a role model for your kids.

“I like to use a technique called the Five Whys with my patients to help them find the real reason why they want to quit smoking,” says Dr. Todorov. “This is a common problem-solving technique used to find the root cause of why a problem exists.”

To use the Five Whys technique, identify which reasons matter the most to you to help you stop smoking. For example:

  1. Smoking is not good for me.
  2. My doctor is nagging me to quit at every visit.
  3. Smoking can kill me because I already have heart problems and diabetes.
  4. I saw my daughter vaping last week and I am scared for her health.
  5. I want my daughter to be healthy.

“Once you identify why, then you decide when you want to quit,” says Dr. Todorov. “Make your quit day special and plan a trip, volunteer at an event where smoking is not permitted or plan to be busy overall.”

A is for Awareness

Learn all you can about nicotine addiction and withdrawal, especially about your own personal triggers. This could include stress, boredom, specific situations like always having a cigarette with your coffee or being around friends who chain smoke. Identifying these triggers upfront will help you deal with challenges without relapsing.


“Nicotine addiction is real and it involves both physical and behavioral factors. When you understand both of those aspects, your chances of success are higher,” says Dr. Todorov.

R is for Reasons

To identify your top reasons for quitting, compare the pros and cons of tobacco use.

For example, pros could be anything from my risk of heart disease and cancer will decrease to saving money and finally taking that trip you always wanted.

“Common cons I have heard are I am afraid that I will fail to quit again, I will lose my friends who smoke and smoking helps me relax,” says Dr. Todorov.

T is for a Tobacco-free life

Set a quit date and then commit to living without tobacco.

“Typically, ex-smokers remember the good times when they used to smoke,” says Dr. Todorov. “Instead, look to the future and stop thinking of smoking as an option.”

Find your reason for quitting, surround yourself with people who are supportive of your decision, talk to your doctor about available programs in your area, set up a quit date and start your tobacco-free life journey.


Learn more about our editorial process.

Related Articles

close up of arm with nicotine patch on it
January 3, 2024/Lung
How (and Why) to Quit Dipping for Good

Nicotine replacement products and relaxation techniques can help you ditch the dip

man taking a dip of chewing tobacco or snuff
January 17, 2021/Ear, Nose & Throat
Tobacco: No Healthy Alternative

When it comes to tobacco use, there is no such thing as ‘safe’

Yogurt, granola, fruit parfatis, with fruit on cutting boards
April 26, 2024/Lung
What To Eat When You Have COPD

A change in diet won’t cure COPD — but getting to or maintaining a healthy weight will help

male sitting on couch using inhaler and holding chest
January 9, 2024/Lung
Understanding the Difference Between Asthma and COPD

Both conditions have similar symptoms, but different causes and treatments

female with hand on chest holding inhaler in other hand, with of breathlessness float in background
January 4, 2024/Lung
Preventing COPD Exacerbations and Flare-Ups

You can reduce your chances of a flare-up by quitting smoking, avoiding respiratory infections and following your doctor’s orders

lit cigarette floating in black background
January 2, 2024/Lung
WARNING: Even Light Smoking Affects Respiratory Health

Even only a couple cigarettes a day can lead to potentially deadly lung diseases like COPD and emphysema

older male patient speaking with doctor holding tablet in office
December 21, 2023/Lung
What’s My Risk of Lung Cancer After I Quit Smoking?

Your risk goes down once you quit, but you may still need a lung cancer screening

close up of a person with oxygen supply in nose
December 19, 2023/Lung
Have COPD? Exercise Can Help Keep You Out of the Hospital

Get improved quality of life and breathe better

Trending Topics

Person in yellow tshirt and blue jeans relaxing on green couch in living room reading texts on their phone.
Here’s How Many Calories You Naturally Burn in a Day

Your metabolism may torch 1,300 to 2,000 calories daily with no activity

woman snacking on raisins and nuts
52 Foods High In Iron

Pump up your iron intake with foods like tuna, tofu and turkey