Practice makes perfect: Quitting smoking may take more than 1 try


Did you know it takes most people several tries before they finally stop smoking and stay quit? So, don’t be discouraged if you try and slip. It’s all part of the process.

Quitting takes practice

“Becoming a nonsmoker requires learning new skills,” says Jennifer McClure, PhD, a Group Health Research Institute scientist who leads the Institute’s tobacco studies. “You can learn from every attempt to quit smoking and use your new skills to be more successful the next time.” And if you pay attention to when and why you slipped and started smoking again, you’ll be better prepared to stay quit the next time you stop smoking. Think of each attempt as practice or training for your future success.

Slipped? Don't stay down.

Follow these important steps each time you slip:

  • Get back on the wagon.
    A slip doesn’t mean a total relapse. Accept that you slipped and then return to staying quit.

  • Forgive yourself.
    Don’t beat yourself up. Feeling bad may make you want to smoke more.
  • Learn from your mistakes.
    Think about what tripped you up last time. How can you avoid smoking in that situation and in the future? Try to think of new ways to be better prepared next time.
  • Congratulate yourself when you get back on track.
    Be proud that you haven’t let this setback cause you to relapse. Sure, slipping isn’t a good thing, but you’re strong enough to try again.
  • Get more help.
    If you need it, ask for additional help from your family, friends, or doctor. Consider using some of the resources available through Group Health:
    • Quit For Life® Program.
    • Group Health Behavioral Health Services.
    • Group Health Cooperative Health and Wellness Resources: Alcohol and Tobacco Use.
    • Think about getting help from a phone- or Web-based program.
    • Talk with your doctor about which stop-smoking medicine is right for you. Group Health research has shown that all three FDA-approved medicines (varenicline [Chantix], nicotine replacement therapy [like the patch or gum], and bupropion [Zyban]) all increase your chance of quitting smoking when used correctly and with professional advice or counseling.

Celebrate success

It’s important to celebrate daily, weekly, and monthly successes. In the beginning, celebrate your freedom from tobacco hourly, daily, and weekly. Keep this simple goal in mind: Beat your previous best.

Say you made it two weeks without smoking the last time before you slipped. Use that marker as your first goal to beat this time around. Keeping this milestone in mind will really help you increase your chances of staying quit.


Learn more

From Group Health Cooperative