Don’t be discouraged if you slip up and smoke one or two cigarettes. It’s not a lost cause. One cigarette is better than an entire pack. But that doesn’t mean you can safely smoke every now and then, no matter how long ago you quit. One cigarette may seem harmless, but it can quickly lead back to one or two packs a day.

Many ex-smokers had to try stopping many times before they finally succeeded. When people slip up, it’s usually within the first three months after quitting. Here’s what you can do if this happens:

  • Understand that you’ve had a little slip. You’ve had a small setback. This doesn’t make you a smoker again.

  • Don’t be too hard on yourself. One slip up doesn’t make you a failure. It doesn’t mean you can’t quit for good.
  • Don’t be too easy on yourself either. If you slip up, don’t say, “Well, I’ve blown it. I might as well smoke the rest of this pack.” It’s important to get back on the non-smoking track right away. Remember, your goal is no cigarettes – not even one puff.
  • Feel good about all the time you went without smoking. Try to learn how to make your coping skills better.
  • Find the trigger. Exactly what was it that made you smoke? Be aware of that trigger. Decide now how you will cope with it when it comes up again.
  • Learn from your experience. What has helped you the most to keep from smoking? Make sure to do that on your next try.
  • Are you using a medicine to help you quit? Don’t stop using your medicine after only one or two cigarettes. Stay with it. It will help you get back on track.
  • Know and use the tips in this Guide. People with even one coping skill are more likely to stay nonsmokers than those who don’t know any. START to stop again!
  • See your doctor or another health professional. He or she can help motivate you to quit smoking.

Beating an addiction to nicotine takes a lot of willpower and determination. You should feel great about yourself for making it so far. Now’s the time to focus on sticking with it.

Sticking with Quitting: Keeping Your Guard Up

Your body has changed since you began to smoke. Your brain has learned to crave nicotine. So certain places, people, or events can trigger a strong urge to smoke, even years after quitting. That’s why you should never take a puff again, no matter how long it has been since you quit.

At first, you may not be able to do things as well as when you were smoking. Don’t worry. This won’t last long. Your mind and body just need to get used to being without nicotine.

After you’ve quit, the urge to smoke often hits at the same times. For many people, the hardest place to resist the urge is at home. And many urges hit when someone else is smoking nearby. Look at your Craving Journal (PDF) to see when you might be tempted. Then use the skills you’ve learned to get through your urges without smoking.

As you go through the first days and weeks without smoking, keep a positive outlook. Don’t blame or punish yourself if you do have a cigarette. Don’t think of smoking as “all or none.” Instead, take it one day at a time. Remember that quitting is a learning process.

Now that you aren’t buying cigarettes, you probably have more spending money. Think about starting a “money jar” if you haven’t already. Put your cigarette money aside for each day you don’t smoke. Soon you’ll have enough money to buy a reward for yourself.