How to Quit Smoking: A Step-by-Step Plan

4.7 million Malaysians are smokers. Of these, 14.3% have planned to quit in the next 12 months. However, only 9.5% of Malaysians who smoked on a daily basis have managed to quit the habit.

We all know the devastating side effects of smoking, so we’re not going to go into detail about that here. What we’re going to do, is show you how you can quit.

Saying no to cigarettes once and for all may not be the easiest task, but it is definitely possible. Millions of smokers across the world have quit, and so can you.

How to Stop Smoking

Step 1: Pull cigarette away from your lips

Step 2: Put out the light in an ashtray

Step 3: You’re done!

But Of Course, It’s Not That Easy

You have probably tried to quit smoking once, twice or 25 times, but you’re here looking for solutions because you didn’t succeed. And you’re not the only one.

The first step to successfully quitting is to understand why you need to smoke in the first place. If you don’t understand why you smoke, you’ll never really know how to quit.

Why is Quitting So Hard?


Nicotine: The Main Culprit

  • Nicotine is the chemical in cigarettes which gets you hooked, and keeps you craving for more.
  • Nicotine activates areas of your brain which produces feelings of pleasure and reward, which is why you enjoy smoking.
  • It takes 10 seconds from the moment you inhale to the moment nicotine levels peak in your brain.
  • The more you smoke, the more nicotine hits you get, and the more addicted you get.
  • Repeat exposure to nicotine causes your body to develop a tolerance, which means you’ll need more ciggies to get the same feeling.
  • Nicotine however, is metabolized quickly and disappears from your body in a few hours, so overnight you will lose some tolerance. This is why smokers report the first cigarettes of the day being the “best”.

How to Quit Smoking: A Step-by-Step Plan


Step 1: Ask Yourself Why You Smoke

Write down a list of all the reasons why you absolutely love smoking. Be honest. On the other side, write down sincere reasons of why you dislike smoking. It can be anything. Bad breath, having to wash your hair daily, your wife abhors it etc. The list can be altered from time to time, something positive to add on, something negative. When you realise how the bad outweighs the good, you’ll see that you’re ready to move on.

Step 2: Understand How Difficult It’ll Be 

Some smokers quit cold turkey and actually make it through, but it’s better to have a plan. If you don’t, you’ll probably find yourself smoking again within 3 months.

Write down all the reasons you think quitting will be difficult, and on the other side, write down how you intend to overcome that difficulty.

For example, you smoke when you’re stressed. Solution? Find another way to deal with stress — maybe meditating and focusing on your breathing, maybe a short walk and chat with your colleagues, maybe a funny video on YouTube.

There are alternatives so you should try your best to find them. If you fear the withdrawal symptoms of the nicotine, how about trying out some nicotine replacement products?

You may find yourself being irritable, nauseated, anxious and suffering from headaches thanks to the withdrawal from nicotine, but it’s good to know that this tends to peak after 12-24 hours, and will ease over 2-4 weeks.

Write down every situation which might make you break your resolve to quit and the accompanying solution, and you’ll find it easier to go into this with a plan than without.

Here’s a chart to help you out:


Step 3: Set a Quit Date

Choose a date within the next two weeks. It gives you enough time to prep, but it’s still soon enough so you can’t weasel out of it.

Step 4: Shout it Out 

Let those around you know you’re trying to quit. You’ll need the support and encouragement, and it’s better to do this out in the open than in secret. It keeps you accountable. It’s even better if you find a buddy who’s willing to quit together with you. You can help each other past the challenges and come out stronger.

Research has also shown that joining an online support group could help, so you can stay strong without even leaving your couch! There are many online groups that offer mutual support and advice, as well as success stories on how they quit which could help you on your journey.

Check out one of the most popular quit smoking support groups online: QuitNet. Want something local? Check out Tak Nak Merokok.

Step 5: Trash the Tobacco

Get rid of all your tobacco-related stuff, from cigarettes, lighters to ashtrays. You shouldn’t have any lying around so you don’t have to fight with your willpower when the cravings set in. Send your car for a good clean wash, as well as your sheets, curtains etc, so you aren’t surrounded by the scent of tobacco.

Step 6: Get Help

Nicotine Replacement Therapy


There are many types of NRT available in the market today, from nicotine gum, patches to nasal sprays. To select the one which suits you best, it’s good to talk to your doctor or local pharmacist and see what they recommend based on your habits. Learn more about NRTs here.

Professional Help

Professional help can sometimes be good, especially if you’re unsure whether you can go it alone. Quit smoking clinics often combine professional know-how with tailored guidance from counsellors, pharmacists, dietitians and physiotherapists to help make the quit process a tad easier.

Here is a list of Quit Smoking clinics around Malaysia, as well as a well-established one at Institut Jantung Negara (IJN) which runs every Tuesday to Thursday from 10.30am – 4.30pm. Learn more here.

Our health ministry has also come up with a quit smoking guide which can be accessed here.


Of all the books that’s been written about how to quit smoking, Allen Carr’s Easy Way to Stop Smoking is perhaps one of the best. Go to every quit smoking forum on the web and you’ll find several people recommending the book. Search up quit smoking book lists and Allen Carr’s will reside at the top. Head over to the reviews on Amazon and you’ll only see a constant rating of 5 or 4 stars.


The book works by helping you see smoking for what it actually is, which according to readers helped them quit easier. No harm trying, is what we say.


Just like there’s an app for everything, there’s an app for quitting smoking. More than one, actually. Among the popular ones include LIVESTRONG MyQuit CoachQuit SmokingQuit Smoking — Cessation NationQuitNow!, and more.

Support Groups

Find support groups in your community. If there’s none, start one!

Step 7: Find Motivation 

Keep a list of things to do when not smoking 

Think about this. If you smoke 20 cigarettes a day, each cigarette taking about 10 mins to finish, you’ll have an extra 200 minutes in your life if you quit. Now, it’s good to write down a list of activities to fill in this gap in your life so you don’t backslide. It’s a good time to find a new hobby or playmate so you don’t have too much time to idle around.

Get a glass jar to keep the money you save from not lighting up 


Find a large one, because you will be saving a ton of money. Plonk every Ringgit you don’t spend buying that pack of ciggies into the jar, which will serve as monetary motivation when the cravings kick in. At the end of the year, you’ll be surprised by the contents of the jar which could buy you a flight ticket and a 5-star hotel stay at a faraway land, or concert tickets to your favourite band, or even a nice gift to those who have been supporting you!

Write down reasons you need to stop and keep them in your wallet 

How about not subjecting your loved ones to secondhand smoke, or being able to taste food better? Small or big, every reason counts. Keep them where you see it most often to remind you of what you’ll be giving up if you light up again.

Talk to people 

Just because you’re attempting to quit your smoking habit doesn’t mean you have to be all stoic about it. If you’re having difficulties, talk to your loved ones about it. Tell them you’re having a hard time. If you keep everything pent up inside, it’s just a matter of time before you turn to cigarettes again.

Step 8: Try Again

If you slip up and have a cigarette, don’t just throw in the towel. Faltering doesn’t mean you’ll fail indefinitely. Throw away the rest of the pack and think about why you slipped up. Learn from the mistake and try again. Think about how far you’ve come!

Good luck!

[See also: How I Quit Smoking: Real Advice from Ex-Serial Smokers]


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Sources: Global Adult Tobacco Survey Malaysia 2011,, Psychology, The Malaysian Medical Gazette,

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