How to kick the habit

If you experience withdrawal symptoms like a tingling feeling in the hands and feet, do yoga or stretching exercises.
If you experience withdrawal symptoms like a tingling feeling in the hands and feet, do yoga or stretching exercises.PHOTO: REUTERS


Smokers will know what to expect and how to cope with the withdrawal symptoms when they understand the different methods used in smoking cessation.

  • Cold turkey:This is one of the most effective methods. Simply decide to stop smoking on a particular date and stay firm on that decision.
  • Gradual reduction: Reduce the number of cigarettes smoked on a daily basis at a gradual pace. Aim to reach zero by a fixed time.
  • Delaying: Postpone your cigarette break by an hour or more and progress towards being smoke-free for a whole day.
  • Seek professional help: Consultants can help to evaluate the level of addiction and give advice on coping with withdrawal symptoms.
  • Nicotine replacement therapy: Nicotine gum, skin patches, lozenges and nasal sprays are nicotine substitutes to counter smoking cravings and relieve withdrawal symptoms.
  • Nicotine-free medication: Most medicines that help smoking cessation contain nicotine. These medications help smokers quit by supplying a minimum quantity of nicotine to the body.

However, there is a class of medications that do not contain nicotine.

Known as nicotine-free medication, they help to reduce the intensity of the withdrawal symptoms and thus reduce the urge to smoke.


  • Know what will happen: You may experience withdrawal symptoms and you will go through urges that are difficult to control. Understand what causes these urges and the withdrawal symptoms and have a plan ready for what you will do when this happens.

Throw away all your lighters, ashtrays and cigarette packs, including the ones you have hidden for "emergencies".

  • Tell others you are quitting: Making your quit attempt known to everyone will increase your chances of success.
  • Get support: Give your family or friends a call or send them a text message whenever you have the urge to smoke.
  • No smoking signs: Put up your reasons for quitting in visible areas (on your desktop, inside the wardrobe, in the washroom) to remind yourself of your new resolution. Visual reminders are powerful and can give you encouragement when your determination starts to waver.


Due to the addictiveness of nicotine, smokers will experience withdrawal symptoms.

However, there are effective actions that can lessen the intensity of the symptoms.

  • Constant cravings: Distract yourself, delay lighting up, do deep breathing exercises, drink a glass of water or milk slowly.
  • Feeling irritable: Do relaxation exercises, listen to soothing music, catch a movie, pre-notify family and friends of potential irritability, and do light exercises to lift your mood. Alternatively, take a whiff of peppermint oil or drink peppermint tea to calm your nerves.
  • Headaches: Get sufficient sleep, stay in comfortable and quiet surroundings, read or watch TV with the lights on.
  • Tiredness: Get sufficient sleep, avoid tiring yourself out and do light exercises such as brisk walking. Take small, regular meals to regulate your blood sugar level and boost your energy level.
  • Cough: Drink warm water or take sugar-free cough drops to relieve the coughing.
  • Tingling feeling: Indulge in hand and foot massages, distract yourself with a walk or a book, do some stretching exercises or yoga.
  • Smokers can call QuitLine, a toll-free helpline, on 1800-438-2000 on Monday to Friday from 8.30am to 5pm, or on Saturday from 8.30am to 1pm.
  • Source: Health Promotion Board
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 14, 2016, with the headline 'How to kick the habit'. Subscribe