How To Quit Smoking Cold Turkey

Quitting smoking can be one of the most difficult things you can do because it is highly addictive, yet it is the absolute best thing you can do for your health. Smoking is dangerous and can cause a wide range of health problems. 

There are lots of different methods to quit smoking, such as nicotine replacement therapy options like patches and gum, electronic cigarettes (also known as vaping devices).

Medications such as Champix (Varenicline) and Zyban (Bupropion), and the good old “cold turkey” method.

The cold turkey method is the abrupt cessation of smoking without using gradual reduction or any replacements. 

There is no correct way to stop smoking, so you should choose the method that is best for you and which will have a higher likelihood of success.

No matter which way you quit smoking, it is completely worth it to avoid the risk of serious health issues for you and others around you as a result of passive smoking.

But today, we are here to help and will walk you through how you can quit today! Remember to take this as guidance only, and to speak to a health professional for further advice if needed. 

Health Problems Caused By Smoking

Below is a list of health problems that are directly linked with smoking. 

  • Cancers such as lung and mouth cancer
  • Heart disease
  • Serious lung diseases such as COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease)
  • Pneumonia, bronchitis, and other respiratory tract infections
  • Worsened asthma
  • Vascular diseases
  • High blood pressure 
  • Blood clots 
  • Strokes
  • Vision issues such as cataracts
  • Pregnancy complications such as miscarriage and SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome)
  • Fertility problems

Why Is Smoking So Addictive?

Smoking is highly addictive because cigarettes contain the substance nicotine. Nicotine alters the chemicals dopamine and noradrenaline in the brain, which affects mood and concentration. 

The release of dopamine causes a good feeling, and people become addicted to this process. After many years of smoking, it is also difficult to stop the habit of lighting up, which would have become a central feature of a smoker’s life. 

Regardless of the difficulty in quitting, you must keep trying different methods to quit because smokers are three times more likely to die than non-smokers. 

Why Should You Quit Smoking?

Quitting smoking can reverse a lot of the damage to your body that smoking has caused. Quitting smoking by age 30 reduces your likelihood of death by over 90%. By age 50, quitting smoking reduces the chance of death by about 50%. 

No matter what your age, you should quit smoking because you will live longer than if you carried on smoking, you’ll experience less damage to your health, and for many of the other reasons outlined below.

Reasons To Quit Smoking

Health 

Obviously, your health is the number one reason you should quit smoking. You can prevent a variety of severe health conditions such as cancer and heart disease by quitting smoking.

You can also extend your life considerably by putting down the cigarettes.

Finance 

Cigarettes cost a lot of money these days. If you counted up how much money you spent per year on cigarettes, you would be astounded by how much you could have saved for healthier and more enjoyable pursuits – such as vacations or house renovations.

Children  

If you have children, you should quit smoking both to save them from future health problems caused by passive smoking, and from starting smoking themselves. Research suggests that the children of smokers are more likely to start smoking themselves.

If you don’t have children but plan to have them, quitting smoking will prevent potential devastating fertility and pregnancy problems.

Appearance 

Better smelling breath, younger-looking skin, and white teeth. Quitting smoking makes you look healthier too. Once you quit smoking, you will notice an improvement in your smile and your skin, and you won’t have yellow-stained fingers anymore. 

Other People 

Smoking is seen widely as an unhealthy and unappealing habit these days.

You’ll look better to potential partners, you’ll be a better role model, have more money and energy to spend with other people, and will save them from your future health problems or early death.

Quitting smoking can be very hard, and you’re likely to go through some withdrawal symptoms when you quit.

These withdrawal symptoms will be exacerbated if you choose to quit cold turkey, but if you know what to expect, know how to manage them, and realize that they will pass in time, you shouldn’t find them too bad.

Potential Withdrawal Symptoms Of Quitting Smoking

  • Cravings for nicotine
  • Weight gain
  • Irritability
  • Insomnia
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Sweating
  • Nausea
  • Headaches
  • Cramps
  • Sore throat
  • Bleeding gums
  • Tingling in hands and feet
  • Dizziness
  • Coughing
  • Dry mouth
  • Increased appetite
  • Constipation

These side effects may seem unpleasant, but they can be effectively managed with over-the-counter medication and taking care of yourself properly.

Eating a healthy diet, as well as getting plenty of exercise and rest should help to reduce your withdrawal symptoms. 

The withdrawal symptoms from quitting smoking are not very nice, but they are temporary and are far better than lung cancer or heart disease.

Managing withdrawal symptoms can be the most difficult part of quitting smoking, but putting in some work and dedication should help you to deal with them and break the chains of smoking for good.

How Long Does Quitting Smoking Take?

It’s notoriously difficult to quit smoking, and it may take some people multiple attempts before they can quit for good without relapsing.

The first few days after quitting smoking tend to be the worst, as it takes around 48 hours for nicotine to completely leave your system, then around three to five days for cravings to dissipate.

It normally takes people around two to four weeks to completely break their smoking habit. Once a month has passed, a lot of your withdrawal symptoms will be gone and you should feel much better and able to deal with not being a smoker anymore. 

Quitting smoking cold turkey is a tough decision; it is a tough and abrupt way to quit often with stronger withdrawal symptoms, but if you believe you have the willpower and motivation to do it.

It can be the best way for some people to quit smoking for good because the health dangers of smoking begin to stop faster, and not touching another cigarette or replacement method can help them to forget about the need to smoke quicker. 

But how do you quit smoking the cold turkey way?

How To Implement The Cold Turkey Method Effectively

Sometimes people can quit smoking cold turkey immediately if they have good willpower. Others may need to plan out their cold turkey method in advance to increase the likelihood of success. 

For the best likelihood of quitting cold turkey successfully, people should: come up with a quit day, come up with a list of activities for when cravings hit, think about all of the reasons to quit and tell supportive friends and family of the intention to quit.

It’s also important to think about triggers and which type of trigger is set off at what time of day and for what reason. 

There are four different types of triggers you may experience when quitting smoking, and these are emotional triggers, pattern triggers, social triggers, and withdrawal triggers.

Understanding your triggers and how best to deal with them when they arise is the key to successfully quitting smoking cold turkey.

Read more about the four different triggers below. 

Types Of Triggers And How To Deal With Them

Let’s take a quick look at some of the triggers and how you can deal with them if you encounter any triggers while quitting smoking. 

Emotional Triggers

Certain emotions may trigger the desire to smoke. Many smokers use smoking to combat specific emotional states, which means when they arise again during the quitting period, you may be tempted to light up. 

These emotions might include stress, anxiety, and boredom.

To deal with emotional triggers, you can find new ways to process emotions, such as mindfulness, practicing slow breathing, listening to calming music, engaging in exercise, or talking to friends and family.

Pattern Triggers

Pattern triggers are certain activities and times of day that you mentally associate with smoking. The habit of smoking over some time can cause these pattern triggers to form.

For example, you may be used to smoking a cigarette after a meal, with your morning coffee, or on your way to work. 

To deal with pattern triggers, you can implement a replacement habit such as chewing some gum, doing a few push-ups until your craving passes, going for a walk.

Doing something with your hands such as sewing or coloring, going for a walk, or a bike ride, or change your routine – for example, brush your teeth immediately after a meal or skip your morning coffee.

Social Triggers

Social triggers are difficult because you may have a habit of smoking at social events and with other smokers, such as at bars and clubs, music concerts, or birthday parties. It may be hard to refuse a cigarette when you see your friends or family smoking and feel very tempted. 

You can deal with social triggers by telling your friends and family of your intention to quit smoking so that they refrain from smoking in front of you, and directly avoiding places where smokers gather such as outdoor smoking areas.

Withdrawal Triggers

For people who have smoked for a long time, their bodies will be used to getting regular nicotine. Withdrawal symptoms are nicotine cravings.

Triggers include cravings for the taste, smelling another person’s cigarette, holding or seeing cigarettes and lighters, feeling restless, and needing to do something with your hands. 

The good thing is that withdrawal triggers tend to be more temporary and reduce as nicotine is removed from your body. Your body will get used to having no nicotine, and this will happen faster (albeit the withdrawal symptoms will be more unpleasant) when you quit cold turkey. 

Cold Turkey Coping Strategies

There are lots of other coping strategies that cold turkey quitters can put in place to prevent relapse, these are outlined below.

Avoid The Temptation To Smoke

Throw out all of your smoking paraphernalia such as lighters, ashtrays, and cigarette packets. Tell people you need to tell, such as your friends who smoke, so that they do not invite you out for a cigarette or offer you one. Stay away from potential triggers such as smoking areas.

Find A Support Network

If you can find someone to quit smoking with you, you’ll both find that mutual support and encouragement go a long way in helping you both quit for good.

If you can’t find a quit smoking buddy, you can have a look at some online forums which specialize in quitting smoking, where you can talk to other people to get advice and share experiences. 

You can also access in-person stop smoking support groups at local clinics and community centers. 

Build New Habits

To replace your previous smoking habit, you could incorporate new, enjoyable habits into your daily routine. These will help to take your mind off smoking and give you something productive to do while you wait for your craving to pass.

Often, all you need to do is distract yourself temporarily when a craving hits, and then you don’t want a cigarette anymore. 

Think about your emotional triggers when selecting replacement habits. Did you smoke when you were stressed, hungry, or bored? You could take up coloring, learn some yo-yo tricks, or complete five or ten minutes on a language learning app.

Have some healthy finger foods such as celery sticks or low-fat popcorn to grab when a craving hits hard. Instead of smoking after your morning coffee, go for a walk around the block. 

You can take this opportunity to make yourself healthier in other ways by building new habits to replace cigarettes. 

Conclusion

Giving up smoking is very difficult, especially when the cold turkey method is used, but it is the single best thing you can do to prevent serious health problems.

Having a structured plan, understanding your triggers, how to manage withdrawal symptoms, and knowing your reasons for quitting are very important in helping you to maintain the significant willpower and dedication needed to quit smoking for good.

With the right support and motivation, you can be smoke-free and healthier in no time.

Jonie Dean
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