4 questions you should ask your doctor when you want to quit smoking

Thinking about quitting smoking? Maybe even thinking about trying to quit again? You can improve your chances of success by getting your doctor on board. With them by your side, you’re up to four times more likely to succeed compared with someone who’s trying to go it alone.1

But what do you need to know when you have the quit chat with your doctor? Here are some key questions you should be asking – and some helpful information before you go. 

1. What are the options to help me quit smoking?

There is a wide choice of methods to help you quit smoking: have a chat with your doctor to find out which option is best for you.

  • Cold turkey
    Some people can quit without any medicine or quit smoking aids and simply “go cold turkey”. This option may not be for everyone as it doesn’t prepare you for any nicotine withdrawal symptoms you may experience. However, some people do manage to succeed on their own, so it may be an option to consider.
  • Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT)
    NRT delivers nicotine into the bloodstream and is intended to replace some of the nicotine you normally get from cigarettes.3 Available as a gum, lozenge, mouth spray, inhalator device or a skin patch, NRT may help to reduce nicotine withdrawal symptoms such as anxiety, cravings, mood swings and irritability.2,3 
  • Prescription medicine4
    These medications are intended to reduce the desire to smoke as well as the nicotine withdrawal symptoms you may experience when you give up smoking,4 in combination with appropriate counselling.
  • Counselling
    Smoking is triggered not only by an addiction to nicotine, but also by your habits and emotions, so counselling may increase your chances of quitting smoking.2,4 
    Counselling may involve education, advice, encouragement and even behavioural interventions.Remember, counselling and support can be a great addition to medication options to help you quit smoking.
  • Alternative methods
    There are several alternative quitting methods that some people try, including acupuncture, hypnotherapy, or mindfulness.4,5 However, they have not yet been proven to be effective.4,5 

2. How do I know if a treatment is right for me?

Should you revisit a treatment you’ve tried in the past? Do you need a combination of counselling, support and medication? Will your preferred treatment interact with medicines you’re currently taking?4 A quit chat with your doctor will help clarify your choice of quit-smoking treatment. 

3.  Do I need to regularly see my doctor as I quit?

Seeing your doctor regularly helps you to prevent or address any slip-ups or set-backs – and improves chances of quitting successfully.4
Doctors have broad clinical experience and are a great source of tips and strategies to support you through the process of quitting.
“Quitting is a journey,” says GP and addiction expert Dr Hester Wilson. “Follow-up with your doctor is about making sure you have a treatment plan that is working for you. If it’s not working, we can talk through it. We can see what has worked, what didn’t and what we need to change.” 

4. What is a patient support program and how will it help me?

It’s harder to quit smoking when you quit alone, and you’re more likely to achieve the best results when you combine medicines with counselling and support.2,4 
Support can keep you motivated and give you the skills you need to increase your chances of quitting smoking.2
Some NRT or prescription medicines offer free support programs with the tips, tools and encouragement you need to help keep you motivated.
A support program offers not only encouragement, but also helps you track your progress and achievements – and helps you connect with a community of people who are on a similar journey to you.

Download this handy Quick Chat Checklist to help make the most of your doctor’s appointment 


1. West, R. (2012) Stop smoking services: increased chances of quitting. NCSCT Briefing #8. London; National Centre for Smoking Cessation and Training.

2. Make smoking history. Ways to quit. Available at: https://makesmokinghistory.org.au/im-ready-to-quit/ways-to-quit/. Accessed 19 August 2019.

3. Make smoking history. Quitting Products Guide. Available at: https://makesmokinghistory.org.au/assets/pdfs/2019-04-10%20quitting%20products%20guide.pdf Accessed 19 August 2019.

4. Supporting smoking cessation: a guide for health professionals. Melbourne: The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners, 2011 (Updated July 2014).

5. Greenhalgh EM et al. Alternative therapies and emerging treatments. In Scollo, MM and Winstanley, MH [eds]. Tobacco in Australia: Facts and issues. Melbourne: Cancer Council Victoria; 2016. Available at http://www.tobaccoinaustralia.org.au/chapter-7-cessation/7-18-unproven-methods Accessed 19 August 2019