South east Asian female doctor offering stop smoking support

Should I cut down or quit immediately?

Some smokers stop abruptly, throw away their cigarettes and make a clean break. But others find that prospect daunting and prefer to cut down to stop. So which is better?

Firstly everyone is different and finding a way to suit you is important. The very fact you’re trying is the most important step of all. If you wake up one day feeling like quitting, go for it and don’t wait.

But also planning a quit attempt and setting a quit date means that you can prepare, get support and use quitting aids (such as nicotine replacement therapy and nicotine-containing vapes)  to make quitting less stressful and increase your chances of success.

Man holding cigarette snapped in half

Abrupt quitting

We know you stand a better chance if you stop smoking in one go and stick to the “not a puff” rule.

Why is this?

  • The  addiction element of smoking is not broken if you continue to have the occasional puff
  • Any smoking after the quit date reminds your body and mind what smoking is about and seriously hampers your chances of successfully stopping
  • Stopping completely creates a clean break with smoking so that you can start to learn to live without cigarettes, and help you to think of yourself as a non-smoker

Use a quitting aid like nicotine replacement therapy or consider switching completely to vaping instead. The nicotine will help make stopping smoking a bit easier. Read about quitting aids and stop smoking services.




Man sticking a white nicotine patch on his arm

Cutting down

Cutting down might be a good place to start if you’re not ready to quit right away, or feel worried about stopping in one go.

This method involves reducing the number of cigarettes you’re smoking until you’ve quit completely. But it works best if you cut set a proper goal of cutting down to stop completely.

If you are cutting down it is really important to use aids such as nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) while you reducing your cigarette consumption, and stop smoking cigarettes completely within six weeks.

  • use a quit aid that gives you the nicotine you need
  • increase the time between cigarettes OR reduce the number of cigarettes in your packet each day OR remove your ‘favourite’ cigarettes from your daily smoking first
  • consider vaping instead of smoking – it’s much better to switch completely
  • set a date to quit smoking completely and work towards that, as evidence shows smoking only a few cigarettes a day poses serious health risks, including cancer and can keep you smoking.

Be vigilant about not letting your smoking creep up again. Don’t allow yourself to have ‘just one cigarette’ (even after a bad day, an argument, or on a night out). You’ll feel disappointed in going back to square one.

Man holding cigarette snapped in half

More tips to cut down

  • delay the first cigarette of the day
  • remove one cigarette a day, often in the order of what would be easiest to give up
  • increase the time between cigarettes
  • choose periods during the day or occasions when you will not smoke
  • choose places such as the car, house, or other places where you spend time where you will not smoke