What to expect on your quit smoking journey

You probably have many questions about what to expect as you start your quit smoking journey. Take a look at some of the key answers you might need as you strive to quit smoking successfully.


How long could it take me to quit?

Quitting smoking is a journey, not a quick trip. 

The first two to four weeks are critical: if you get through the first three months your chance of success is much higher.1,2

That’s because you have to let nicotine leave your system. For most people, nicotine is out of your body about two days after you quit smoking.3 Nicotine withdrawal symptoms usually peak in the first week and last two to four weeks.1 The symptoms may be gone after about four weeks.1,4  

Learn more about what happens in week 1 of quitting


How will I feel when I’m quitting?

Withdrawal symptoms can be psychological as well as physical.4

It could take three months for your brain chemistry to return to normal when you quit, so be prepared!5

Nicotine withdrawal could leave you feeling impatient, irritable and anxious.1,4 You might have difficulty concentrating, feel restless, and have trouble sleeping.

Just remember, symptoms are usually gone after about four weeks, so hang in there!1,4 

Find out more about what to expect in weeks 2–4 of quitting


How will my body and health improve when I quitting smoking?

Quitting smoking has immediate and long-term health benefits.6 

After 1 to 6 months: Your lung function should start to improve.You may notice improvements in wheezing or coughing and you’re less likely to get respiratory infections like bronchitis.6

After 1 year: You may have halved your increased risk of coronary heart disease caused by smoking.6  

Learn more amazing things that happen to you when you quit smoking.


What are my chances of quitting successfully?

Some people quit successfully first time, but many people have to try several times before they quit for good.

“You’ve got to coach yourself, support yourself, be your own cheerleader,” suggests GP and addiction expert Dr Hester Wilson.

“Understand that what you are doing is hard. You’re doing the best you can. And you may not get it right the first time. It’s ok. Lapses will happen. That’s normal.”

Key tip: talk to your doctor. You’re up to 4x more likely to succeed in quitting with the help of a healthcare professional compared with quitting unaided.8

Get Dr Wilson’s top tips to boost your chances of quitting successfully

Take the first step in your quit smoking journey – have a quit chat with your doctor. Download this handy Quick Chat Checklist to get the conversation started.


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1. Hughes JR(2007) Effects of abstinence from tobacco: Valid symptoms and time course. Nicotine Tob Res, Vol 9, No. 3, pp 315–327.

2. Gilpin EA, Pierce JP & Farkas AJ. (1997) Duration of smoking abstinence and success in quitting. J Natl Cancer Inst, Vol. 89, No. 8, pp 572–576.

3. Hukkanen J, Jacob P III, & Benowitz NL. (2005) Metabolism and disposition kinetics of nicotine. Pharmacol Rev, Vol 57, No. 1, pp79–115.

4. McLaughlin I, Dani JA & De Biasi M. (2015) Nicotine withdrawal. Curr Top Behav Neurosci, Vol 24, pp 99–123.

5. Cosgrove KP, Batis J, Bois F, Maciejewski PK et al. (2009) β2-nicotinic acetylcholine receptor availability during acute and prolonged abstinence from tobacco smoking. Arch Gen Psychiatry, Vol 66, No. 66: pp 666–676.

6. Greenhalgh, EM, Stillman, S, & Ford, C. (2016) Health and other benefits of quitting. In Scollo, MM and Winstanley, MH [editors]. Tobacco in Australia: Facts and issues. Melbourne: Cancer Council Victoria; Available from http://www.tobaccoinaustralia.org.au/chapter-7-cessation/7-1-health-and-other-benefits-of-quitting Accessed 13/11/19.

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

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