Stop smoking

How does smoking affect your heart? Stopping smoking is the best thing you can do for your heart, yourself and your family. Find out where you can get help and what other support is available to help you to quit smoking.

What our kids think about smoking

Smoking causes damage throughout the body and is the biggest risk for heart disease, heart attack or stroke. Stopping smoking has benefits to almost every aspect of your health, including your heart, lungs, oral health, bones and skin. 

The best thing you can do for your heart health and the health of your family/whānau is to quit smoking. 

Once you quit smoking, after:

●            20 minutes, your blood pressure starts to lower

●            8 hours, your risk of heart attack starts to fall

●            12 weeks, it is easier for your heart to pump

●            1 year, your risk of heart attack falls to half that of someone who smokes

●            15 years, your risk of a heart attack drops to that of someone who has NEVER smoked.

Help to quit

The chances of stopping smoking on your own are small – most people will be much more successful in quitting if they use the support available to them. If you have tried to stop before, your chances are greater this time because you will have gained an understanding of what triggers your smoking, and may have ways to deal with these triggers.

There is lots of support available to help you. These include talking with your friends, family, your GP or nurse. You can use various stop smoking medicines, attend one-on-one or face-to-face group support programmes. There is also telephone, text-to-quit and online quit support programmes like Quitline.

You may need to stop smoking suddenly. This could be due to pregnancy, a serious health condition such as heart disease, or a requirement to stop smoking before or after surgery. Please consult with your doctor and medical team if you need to quit suddenly.

When you decide you want to stop smoking, these are some things you can do to help stay on track:

  • Write a list of your reasons for becoming smokefree and keep the list with you as a constant reminder of the reasons to stop and the benefits you will enjoy. For example: to improve my health, to save money, for my children
  • Set a realistic date for quitting and commit to it
  • Tell the people who will support you about your decision
  • Remove all tobacco products from where you can easily access them
  • Contact your local stop smoking service for support
  • Use stop smoking medicines. They help by minimising nicotine withdrawal symptoms or cravings
  • Be aware and prepare for situations in which you are more likely to smoke. Practice in your mind how you will deal with them
  • Be positive.

You are more likely to remain positive if you continue to reward yourself, short, medium and long-term for being smokefree. Try rewards other than food – for example, go for a brisk walk or watch a movie.

Breaking the habit involves changing some of your thoughts and behaviours. You might regularly have a cigarette with a cup of coffee, or when you’re out with friends, or when you’re feeling stressed or lonely. So preparing to stop smoking involves preparing yourself for those times when you really feel like a cigarette. 

You could try separating your coffee and your cigarette by five, ten or fifteen minutes for a week.

You could try having a smoke before you visit your smoking friends, and see if that helps you get used to being with them and not smoking.

Other triggers to smoke may be emotional or psychological. It may be useful to think about your triggers and decide what else you could do to respond to these triggers, rather than smoke. 

On average, if you smoke a pack of 20 cigarettes a day, you will save around $7000 - $8000 a year.

Use this calculator to find out how much you can save

Cutting down on cigarettes is sometimes helpful as a first step towards quitting.

If you decide to start your quit journey by cutting down on the number of cigarettes you smoke, take some time to make a plan for how to cut down all the way to zero and completely quit. You may like to think about:

  • How long you are going to take to completely quit smoking
  • How many cigarettes you are going to smoke each day or week until you stop altogether
  • How you will change habits and routines connected to smoking.

While there is very little evidence on the effectiveness of alternative treatments, it is widely accepted that some people have had success with treatments such as acupuncture, hypnosis, meditation and the power of prayer. 

You may have heard e-cigarettes described as an aid to quit smoking, but this is still a subject of debate. The Ministry of Health says it currently does not have enough evidence to confidently recommend these products as a quit smoking tool. 

Even with the use of medicines to control the cravings and withdrawal symptoms, it takes a lot of perseverance to stop smoking for good. So if you don’t succeed the first time, or even after a few attempts, don’t give up on stopping.  You can learn from those past attempts and find ways to manage the triggers that made you want to smoke again.

We've put together a four-page resource to help you talk to your doctor about local options available in your region to help you stop smoking.

Get the smoking resource