How to Quit Smoking and Using Tobacco Products

Approved by the Cancer.Net Editorial Board, 01/2019

Many treatments and resources are available for people who want to quit smoking or using other tobacco products. Your chances of success are higher if your plan includes these steps:

  • Set a quit date

  • Develop ways to deal with situations that prompt you to use tobacco

  • Build a network of support

  • See a counselor

  • Use medications to help you quit

Talk with your doctor to develop a plan that will work for you.

How to manage nicotine withdrawal symptoms

When you first stop smoking, you will likely experience nicotine withdrawal. Common symptoms include:

  • Feeling a strong need to smoke

  • Irritability

  • Difficulty concentrating

  • Restlessness

  • Increased appetite

  • Anxiety

  • Depression

Options for managing these symptoms include medication, counseling, and other supportive resources.


Medication can at least double your chances of quitting smoking. Talk with your doctor about when and how you use tobacco. This discussion will help you find the best type of medication to help you quit.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved 3 types of medications to treat nicotine addiction:

Nicotine replacement therapy (NRT). People most often use NRT to quit smoking. NRT delivers small amounts of nicotine to your body. This reduces nicotine withdraw symptoms without exposure to tobacco's other harmful chemicals.

Over-the-counter NRT options include:

  • Nicotine skin patches

  • Nicotine gum

  • Nicotine lozenges

NRT options that require a prescription are:

  • Nicotine inhalers

  • Nicotine nasal sprays

All of these types of NRT have mild side effects. These may include headaches, nausea, digestive issues, and sleep problems.

It is uncommon, but people may also experience an overdose of nicotine. Seek medical care right away if you experience a rapid heart rate, nausea and vomiting, dizziness, weakness, or a cold sweat.

Bupropion (Wellbutrin, Zyban). This type of medication can lessen withdrawal symptoms. Common side effects include dry mouth and difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep.

Varenicline (Chantix). This medication reduces withdrawal symptoms. It also prevents you from enjoying nicotine if you smoke. Common side effects include nausea, vivid dreams, constipation, and drowsiness.


Counseling also increases your chances of quitting successfully. Consider seeing a counselor along with taking medication to help you quit. Your health care team can help you find a professional.

Other supportive resources

These additional resources may help you quit smoking or using other tobacco products:

  • Quit lines that allow you to talk with trained representatives

  • Websites that provide factual information

  • Mobile apps that provide tools to help you change behavior

  • Support groups that provide community throughout the process

Insurance coverage

Medicare, Medicaid, and private insurers cover different types of tobacco quitting programs. And they require different levels of payment from participants.

Talk with a member of your health care team about what you may have to pay out of pocket. And ask them if there are free resources.

Related Resources

Benefits of Quitting Tobacco Use

Understanding Cancer Risk

More Information How to Quit

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: How to Quit