How To Not Smoke

Not smoking offers many benefits to people, including financial, health and social. While there are plenty of groups promoting these messages, those of us with lived experience

Around 90% of adults who smoke regret ever having taken up the habit and each year around 40% make a failed attempt to quit. While many people manage to stop smoking, many more enter a cycle of quit/relapse or eventually just give up trying.

The best strategy for a person who wants to not smoke depends on their personal circumstances.

1) Don’t start smoking

If you’ve never smoked, keep doing that.

This is truly low hanging fruit but it’s only available to ‘never smokers’.

The drop in smoking rates in Australia this century has been mainly due to an increase in people who have never smoked (beyond experimentation).


2) Stop smoking and abstain from nicotine consumption

The safest outcome for people is to stop smoking completely.

While the majority of quit attempts (95-97%) fail within the first year, there is a sizable population of people who have been able to stop.

Abrupt cessation (‘cold turkey’)

The most commonly attempted approach, ‘cold turkey’, has resulted in more successful and more failed quit attempts than any other method.

Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT)

NRT generally refers to pharmaceutical products that deliver nicotine without smoke. Studies have shown increased smoking abstinence while subjects are using them but increased relapse after they stop.

NRT options include:

  • gum
  • inhalers
  • lozenges
  • sprays
  • transdermal nicotine patches


There are two smoking cessation medications available under Australias PBS:

  • bupropion (Zyban, Clorpax)
  • varenicline (Champix)

Do your research before taking either!
The US FDA requires both to carry boxed warnings that they may increase risk of suicide.

3) Switch to a safer source of nicotine

“People smoke for the nicotine but die from the tar.”
- Professor Michael Russell

Nicotine inhaled from smoking tobacco is highly addictive. But it is primarily the toxins and carcinogens in tobacco smoke – not the nicotine – that cause illness and death. Nicotine itself is not very harmful, as inferred from the long history of use for nicotine replacement therapy products.

The majority of quit attempts (95-97%) fail within the first year.

Tobacco harm reduction (THR) is a public health strategy to lower the health risks associated with using nicotine. People who can’t or don’t want to quit nicotine would be wise to switch to a safer source of nicotine.

THR measures have been focused on reducing or eliminating the use of combustible tobacco by switching to other nicotine products, including:

  • Switching to non-tobacco nicotine containing products, such as pharmaceutical nicotine replacement therapies or products such as electronic cigarettes
  • Switching to smokeless tobacco products such as Swedish snus
  • Switching to non-combustible organic or additive-free tobacco products