How to quit smoking: Cutting down to quit

How you quit smoking is up to you. There is no right way, or wrong way. You might find one method works, or a combination of them together. It’s your call. What matters is that you get there.

If the idea of quitting outright seems a bit daunting, then cutting down to quit might work for you. That way, you gradually reduce the amount you smoke until you are ready to quit completely and put smoking behind you for good.1

If that sounds like a plan, read on and get some helpful tips to help make cutting down your quit method.

Does it really work?

Research has shown that smokers who cut down to quit have a similar chance of success as those who quit abruptly on their chosen quit day.1

How do you do it?

There are a range of different ways to cut down to quit, so the first step is to make a plan. Sit down and work out how long you want to cut down for before taking the plunge and quitting altogether.1,2 You might like to have a quit chat with your doctor to determine a good timeframe for you to spend cutting down to quit.

You can also set goals on how you are going to reduce your smoking. How many cigarettes will you reduce your smoking by during the first week, the second week, and then the next week? Can you reduce the number of times you smoke every day? It’s important that you keep reducing the number of cigarettes as you approach your quit day.1 You might like to keep a simple chart on your phone or a list in a notebook or diary to write down your smoking reduction goals for each week and then track them.

Once you have agreed on a plan, you need to choose your quit day and commit to it.1,2

how to quit smoking cutting down to quit 1

What else can you do to make it easier?

Give yourself a fresh start with a new routine or two. Try avoiding places that you would normally have a smoke:3

  • Instead of meeting at the pub, you could meet your friends for dinner at a restaurant or a picnic at the park.
  • If you usually have a smoko at work, try going for a walk instead.
  • If you associate your morning coffee with a pick-me-up cigarette, try switching to a cup of tea to get you started instead.

These might seem like small changes, but they will go a long way towards helping achieve a smoke-free you.

Get some support. You don’t need to do this alone. Ask your friends and family to support you, to encourage you and to be there for you.They probably want you to quit just as much as you want to!

You can also have a quit chat with your doctor. They are there to help and support you after all, and you're up to 4x more likely to succeed in quitting with their help compared to quitting unaided.4

Mix it up. Just because you’re cutting down to quit, doesn’t mean you can’t supplement it with some other quit smoking methods.1

In fact, combining cutting down with other methods can significantly increase your chances of success.3

  • Counselling can give you advice on setting goals and provide you with coping strategies you might need while you are cutting down.1,2
  • Nicotine replacement therapy can help reduce some of the withdrawal symptoms and manage your cravings while you are cutting down to quit.1,4
  • Prescription medicines can also assist your quit attempt.1 If you have a quit chat with your doctor, they can provide further information and determine if this is a suitable option for you.

What should you be aware of when cutting down?

Once you have started cutting down, there are a few things to be aware of. Make sure you don’t start inhaling more deeply than usual or taking more puffs (or both) to compensate for the reduction in nicotine.6

You should also stay focused so you don't lose your commitment to stop smoking whilst you are cutting down. Cutting down might feel tough, as you are likely to still experience some of the withdrawal symptoms, but you are not likely to feel the immediate financial and health benefits that you get when you quit completely.1,7,8

That’s why it’s so important that you stay strong and stick to your designated quit day.

If cutting down to quit sounds like it will work for you, make sure you stick to the plan, follow our tips and get the support you deserve. After all, it’s finally going smoke-free that really counts.

©Pfizer 2020 Pfizer Australia Pty Limited. Pfizer Medical Information: 1800 675 229. Sydney, Australia. PP-CHM-AUS-1096, 05/2020

1 Lindson, N., Klemperer, E., Hong, B., Ordóñez‐Mena, J.M. and Aveyard, P. (2019). Smoking reduction interventions for smoking cessation. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, (9):CD013183.

2 Robinson, J., McEwen, A., Heah, R. and Papadakis, S. (2019). A ‘Cut-Down-To-Stop’ intervention for smokers who find it hard to quit: a qualitative evaluation. BMC public health, 19(1), p.403.

3 Greenhalgh EM et al. (2020). Tobacco in Australia: Facts and issues. Melbourne: Cancer Council Victoria.

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

5 Wang, D., Connock, M., Barton, P., Fry-Smith, A., Aveyard, P. and Moore, D. (2008). 'Cut down to quit' with nicotine replacement therapies in smoking cessation: a systematic review of effectiveness and economic analysis. Health Technol Assess 2008;12(2).

6 US department of Health and Human Services. (2001). Risks associated with smoking cigarettes with low machine-measured yields of tar and nicotine. Smoking and Tobacco Control Monograph, (13)

7 Better Health Channel. Smoking – the financial cost. Available at Page updated June 2017. Accessed 22 April 2020.

8  US National Library of Medicine (MedlinePlus). Benefits of quitting tobacco. Available at Accessed 22 April 2020.