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How to Quit

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Tobacco and Health

How to Quit

Quitting isn’t easy, but you can do it: There are more former smokers today than current smokers — and VA has more tobacco use treatment options available than ever before.

It’s important to start with a plan, and VA’s tobacco quitline counselors can help you make one. Call them today at 1-855-QUIT-VET (1-855-784-8838). VA providers also receive ongoing training in tobacco cessation.

Research shows that a person has the best chance of quitting tobacco for good when they:

  • Use tobacco cessation medications approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
  • Take part in tobacco cessation counseling.

It is also important to lean on the support of the people who love and care about you. Family and friends can be a great source of encouragement, so let them know what they can do to help you.

Just don’t give up. Quitting takes practice. Even the most motivated person may try to quit five or more times before succeeding. Knowing why you want to give up tobacco is part of a successful quit strategy.


Tobacco contains nicotine, a highly addictive chemical. When you stop using tobacco, you’ll likely experience withdrawal symptoms, which can include irritability, anxiety, depression, hunger, restlessness, insomnia, and cravings.

Using FDA-approved medications can help you manage nicotine withdrawal symptoms and cope with the urge to smoke. You have the best chance of success when you combine counseling with smoking cessation medications.

Consult your VA health care provider to decide which type of medication, or combination of medications, will work best for you. These medications include:

Nicotine patch, gum, and lozenges

Nicotine patch, gum, and lozenges, which are referred to as nicotine replacement therapy (NRT), give your body medicinal nicotine to reduce your withdrawal symptoms. NRT contains none of the other harmful ingredients in tobacco products. The patch can be combined with either the gum or lozenge for the best chance of success.


Bupropion (Zyban®) is a pill that reduces your urge to smoke. Bupropion contains no nicotine. It is taken as a pill, starting one to two weeks before your quit date. Bupropion can also be combined with one type of NRT, such as nicotine gum or nicotine lozenges.


Varenicline (CHANTIX®) is a pill that blocks the effects of nicotine on the brain, making smoking less enjoyable and reducing your withdrawal symptoms. Varenicline contains no nicotine. It is taken as a pill, starting one to two weeks before your quit date. Varenicline should not be combined with any other smoking cessation medication.

Your VA health care provider will talk with you about how to use these medications. Click the “Learn More” tab to find patient guides for specific types of tobacco cessation medications.


A health care provider or counselor can also help you make behavioral changes to break free of tobacco. Tobacco cessation counseling involves talking about your tobacco use and the role it plays in your daily routine. You have the best chance of quitting when you combine this counseling with tobacco cessation medications.

One important aspect of counseling is identifying your triggers for tobacco use. These could include talking on the phone, drinking a cup of coffee, drinking alcohol, feeling bored, or needing a break. Counseling will help you figure out how you can avoid or cope with triggers like these so you don’t relapse and start smoking again after you quit.

For example: If you smoke with your morning coffee, your counselor may suggest drinking your coffee in a smoke-free environment, such as a restaurant or workplace kitchen, or switching to tea instead.

Contact your VA health care provider to learn about local smoking cessation clinics and group counseling sessions available. Call 1-855-QUIT-VET (1-855-784-8838) to receive counseling and assistance from a Quit VET counselor.