What to do if you relapse after quitting

It is not uncommon for people who quit smoking to relapse at some point, but don't be put off trying again. The key is to learn from what went wrong so you're more likely to succeed next time around.

If you're tempted to start smoking again, call the free NHS Smokefree helpline on 0300 123 1044 to get support from a trained adviser.

When you quit smoking, it's important to have a positive mental attitude and truly believe in yourself that you will be successful.

You shouldn't expect to start smoking again. A slip-up should not mean that you will return to smoking the way you did before: it's simply an opportunity to learn something about yourself and will help you to be more successful in the future.

If you do relapse, do not worry, it can take a few tries to quit smoking for good. It can be helpful to commit yourself to the "not a single drag" rule. Promise to yourself and others that you will not even have a single drag on a cigarette. By sticking to this simple rule you can guarantee that you won't start smoking again.

Help to prevent relapse

The risk of relapse is highest in the first few weeks after stopping. However, some people can relapse several months, or even years after stopping smoking.

Avoiding a relapse is best but, if you do give in to temptation, don't despair – really think about what went wrong and plan how you will deal with a similar situation in the future.

If you've had a cigarette or two:

  • Don't give up – you can still avoid a full relapse. Commit to the "not a single drag" rule and get back on with it.
  • Remind yourself why you want to quit, then take control again.
  • Get support – call the free NHS Smokefree helpline on 0300 123 1014 to speak to a trained adviser. Lines are open Monday to Friday 9am to 8pm, and Saturday and Sunday 11am to 5pm.
  • Make it hard to smoke – Try to avoid people and places where you can easily ask someone for a cigarette, and don't be tempted to buy a packet.
  • Stay strong – if you're tempted to smoke again, force yourself to wait two hours and then decide if you really need the cigarette.
  • Keep taking any prescribed stop smoking medicine or using nicotine replacement therapy, unless you go back to regular smoking. It can help you fight cravings and get back on track.

If you've relapsed and are back to regular smoking:

  • Don't become despondent – set a new quit date, maybe in a week or so.
  • Learn from your mistakes – what caused you to slip up? Think of ways you could have avoided smoking. Work on your coping skills so you're prepared next time you're in the same situation.
  • Talk to your doctor or local stop smoking service if you need more help to cope with cravings in your next quit attempt.
  • Stay positive – making mistakes or slipping up can be a useful experience if you're prepared to learn from it. Remember, you'll be stronger next time because you'll know what to look out for.