Program 3



  1. Understanding Smoking Addiction
  2. Stopping Your Smoking Habit
  3. First Steps
  4. Your New Life as a Non-Smoker
  5. Conclusion

  1. Understanding Smoking Addiction

Before you embark on this program ensure you are not going through other major changes at the same time. Also, it is critical that the decision to quit is yours and that you are adequately motivated to give up your habit. Write down on a flashcard why you want to give up smoking and keep these reasons close at hand for when you need encouragement to continue this program.

A quarter of the adult population are smokers. Seventy-five percent of smokers would like to quit smoking but only about five percent manage to abstain for more than one year. Although fewer women smoke compared to men, the gap is narrowing.

Cigarettes contain many toxins, tar and nicotine. It is the nicotine in tobacco that causes addiction. The pleasurable effects of the drug – nicotine, only last a few minutes; repeated doses are required to maintain pleasure and prevent withdrawal symptoms (e.g. irritability, increased appetite, poor concentration, constipation, insomnia, urges to smoke). Many smokers get a ‘smoker’s cough’.

Anybody can become addicted to nicotine. Nearly a fifth of all deaths are due to smoking. There is profound evidence that smoking causes cancer, strokes and heart disease. Smoking also shortens the addict’s life expectancy.

Pregnant women decrease their chances of having a healthy baby by persisting to smoke. Passive smokers (those around the smoker) are also likely to suffer smoking related health problems. By quitting smoking you would save a phenomenal amount of money.

Cravings for cigarettes and the fear of gaining weight can deter you from quitting smoking. Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT) can curb the urge to smoke by providing nicotine in a safer form and gradually reduce the dosage. NRT includes chewing gum, inhalers, nicotine sublingual tablets (dissolve under tongue)/lozenges (dissolve in mouth), nasal sprays and transdermal patches. Your doctor may prescribe Zyban (bupropion) an anti-depressant. However, this drug has many side effects (e.g. dry mouth, headaches, disturbed appetite, and insomnia) and is not recommended during pregnancy. You are advised to consult your doctor before using NRT.  

The support of family, friends and colleagues can be invaluable when you are trying to give up your habit.

See Program 1: Coping Strategies Counselling Advice – Social Skills Training, Communication Training and Negotiation Training.

To deal with interpersonal relationship problems:

See Program 1: Coping Strategies Counselling Advice – Troublesome Emotions and Program 13: Overcoming Destructive Relationships.

Stress triggers smoking and smoking triggers more stress – a vicious cycle is created.

See Program 22: Overcoming Stress and Program 23: Overcoming Stress At Work.

You need more than just will-power to eliminate your habit. Cognitive behaviour therapy is a proven method of achieving the change you desire.

For further helpful coping strategies:

See Program 1: Coping Strategies Counselling Advice – Competitiveness and Perfectionism, Frustration, Procrastination and Persistence.

Remember it is never too late to quit smoking.

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                  2. Stopping Your Smoking Habit

Habits are learned behaviour and as such can be ‘unlearned’. Once learned, habits can operate without conscious awareness. You can regain voluntary control of your habit using CBT. You need to be confident that you can quit smoking. Low self-confidence can make you susceptible to anxiety.

See Program 1: Coping Strategies Counselling Advice – Assertiveness Training, Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP), Building Confidence I, Building Confidence II, Building Confidence III, Building Confidence IV and Program 16: Overcoming Low Self-esteem.  

For further coping strategies:

See Program 1: Coping Strategies Counselling Advice – Forgiveness, Program 6: Overcoming Anger, Program 8: Overcoming Anxiety, Program 12: Overcoming Depression and Program 15: Overcoming Grief And Bereavement.

To stop smoking, counter the triggers leading to smoking, eliminate your desire to smoke and extinguish any enjoyment linked to your habit.

The automatic chain repeated every time you smoke can be disrupted by placing a rubber band around your packet. The band will alert you that the chain is about to start and you can note the trigger that is making you want to smoke. Make sure you replace the band for the next time you smoke.

From the start of this program to the end when you stop smoking it is necessary to record daily, when, where, with whom, how many and why you smoke. This will clarify any patterns in your smoking habit. You will try to gradually reduce your cigarette consumption.

Cigarette advertising, social pressure, rebelling against authority figures (in the case of adolescents) and thinking that smoking controls weight, are ways in which smoking may start and is reinforced gradually by the addiction qualities of nicotine.

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3. First Steps

Step 1:

From now on smoke every cigarette while reciting and reading from a flashcard that:

Smoking is a disgusting habit, harmful to my health, gives no pleasure and I have no desire to smoke.

Say the above with every puff of the cigarette from start to finish when you stub it out.

When using will-power you delay smoking until you give in to your craving thus, reinforcing smoking by the high pleasure you get on lighting a cigarette after trying to resist. In contrast light a cigarette as soon as you feel the urge while it is still weak and focus on the unpleasant and harmful effects of smoking with each puff so that the smoking experience becomes associated with discomfort and is distressful. Eventually the desire to smoke will fade away completely.

You respond automatically to smoking triggers (e.g. seeing someone else light a cigarette leads to you lighting one too; having a cigarette with coffee; when socializing; before bed or on waking up; and when in a bad mood).

Step 2:

It is necessary that you become aware of these triggers:

Every time you smoke, stop, consider what triggered your smoking and eliminate the trigger. Then (if you still want to) light up a cigarette, reciting Step 1.

Use Step 1 and Step 2 every time you feel like smoking a cigarette.

Make a list of your triggers. To eliminate a trigger you need to firmly repeat again and again anti-smoking instructions which counter the trigger (e.g. ‘I smoke very time I drink coffee – this is an automatic response. I do not need to smoke when I have a cup of coffee. Next time I will not be made to smoke just because I am drinking coffee’). Memorizing anti-smoking instructions for each of your triggers and constant repetition will embed them in your mind.

You may justify smoking by saying it relaxes you when you are stressed. This is a fallacy – smoking calms you only because you are addicted. Healthy ways to meet this need are relaxation techniques and imagery rehearsal.

See Program 1: Coping Strategies Counselling Advice – Controlled Breathing and Relaxation Techniques, Meditation, Creative Visualization, Autogenics and Self-Hypnosis.

Also - See Program 1: Coping Strategies Counselling Advice – Problem-Solving, Program 22: Overcoming Stress and Program 23: Overcoming Stress At work.  

Imagine you are a successful non-smoker. Visualize vividly trigger situations and see yourself calmly not smoking despite the opportunity to do so. Use relaxation to counter the tension you feel when you deny your body the usual amount of nicotine. When you deprive your body of nicotine you will feel tense and your mind will try to tempt you to smoke.  

Step 3:

Use the affirmation:

Every day I am getting better and better. I am relaxed and do not crave to smoke. There are no valid reasons to smoke.

Step 3 will remind you to relax/meditate as soon as possible – meditate for at least 20 minutes a day.

When you feel like smoking try distracting yourself until the desire to smoke has passed. Distracting yourself when anxious can alleviate distress.

See Program 1: Coping Strategies Counselling Advice – Distraction Techniques.

If you become upset and all else fails then light a cigarette while saying Step 1.


Step 1 every time you light a cigarette.

Step 2 every time you feel the urge to light a cigarette.

Step 3 every time you think of reasons to light a cigarette.

Step 4:


To smoke or not to smoke? There are no valid reasons to smoke.

Imagine: (David F Marks)

You open a packet of cigarettes and see inside the corpses of people who have died from smoking – the packet is a mass grave.

Take out a cigarette and see yourself putting a vial of deadly poison into your mouth.

Feel the texture of the cigarette between your lips. Imagine a malignant cancer growing and spreading in your mouth.

Next, light the cigarette and visualize the lethal smoke pouring into your mouth and going to your lungs – you are suffocating. See the tar being deposited on your teeth and lung tissues. When you exhale compare it to vomiting out the noxious gases.

Recite Step 1 as you continue to smoke. Feel the smoke going in and being exhaled. Focus on the strain you are putting on your heart. You feel sick and will not put up with this revolting habit anymore. You stub it out before it kills you.

The day you completely stop smoking forever needs to be decided at least 24 hours in advance to start from midnight. Choose a day you are comfortable with and ensure you smoke only 1-2 cigarettes on the day preceding the start of your life as a non-smoker.

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4. Your New Life as a Non-Smoker

On the day you stop smoking and after, get rid of the urge to smoke by:

Progressive relaxation.


Use pleasant imagery to relax.

Imagine trigger situations and see yourself coping despite the chance to smoke.

Choose an actual or made up experience of being happy, relaxed and enjoying yourself. Imagine it in as much detail as possible: What is the time? Where are you? Who are you with? What can you see, feel, hear, taste and smell? Come back to reality and become aware of the real situation. Practise going back and forth from your fantasy to reality. Now try to bring your fantasy into the real world. Do this whenever you feel under stress and have the urge to smoke.

Maintain good physical health.

See Program 1: Coping Strategies Counselling Advice – Nutrition, Exercise, Managing Your Time and Sleep Management.

Write on a flashcard positive affirmations (e.g. ‘I have no desire to smoke’).

Encourage yourself repeatedly especially when negative thoughts intrude.

Use distraction techniques to get rid of the urge to smoke.

If you have cravings to smoke, use a nicotine replacement product for a short while (with advice from your doctor) and gradually reduce the dosage until you are free of nicotine forever.

At this stage you can use will-power without detriment to your goal of becoming a non-smoker.

By now you should have completed a day without any smoking and need to maintain your life as a non-smoker.

Deal with negative thinking.

See Program 1: Coping Strategies Counselling Advice – Modifying Maladaptive Thinking.

Learn to deal appropriately with criticism.

See Program 1: Coping Strategies Counselling Advice – Coping with the Need for Approval, Improving Your Self-Image and Combating Self-Harm, Criticism and Countering Self-Criticism.

Fill the gap left when you quit smoking, with activity you enjoy, otherwise you may relapse.

See Program 1: Coping Strategies Counselling Advice – Planning an Activity Schedule.

Everyday stresses can build up until you lapse unless you deal with these appropriately. Learn to relax and keep in mind the benefits of quitting. Make a list of the good things about giving up smoking (e.g. your senses of taste and smell are better; you feel cleaner and healthier; your sex life is likely to improve; a substantial amount of money will be saved; the chances of your children becoming smokers is greatly reduced; your confidence will increase) and refer to this list whenever you feel the urge to smoke.

Deal with social pressure to smoke by assertively refusing to smoke. Rehearse difficult situations where you may be forced or tempted to smoke and see you saying ‘No’ when offered a cigarette.

Manage your distress in situations you fear by exposure – FEAR (face everything and recover).

See Program 1: Coping Strategies Counselling Advice – Controlled Breathing and Relaxation Techniques, Eye Movement Technique (EMT), Mood Induction Procedure, Rational Emotive Imagery (REI), Imago Graded Exposure and In Vivo Graded Exposure.

If all else fails and you give in to smoking ‘just one’ cigarette it is crucial you keep smoking until you feel so sick you cannot smoke anymore. In this way you are highly likely to remain a non-smoker.

After quitting smoking you may worry about putting on weight or drinking more alcohol.

See Program 5: Overcoming Alcohol Abuse and Program 25: Overcoming Weight Problems.

FAT = FOOD – EXERCISE (David F Marks)

So if you want to lose weight you need to eat less fatty foods and exercise more.

Find your Body Mass Index to see how healthy you are – remember weight fluctuates either way by 2-3 pounds.

Consider how you could reduce what you eat just a little in quantity – cutting down on fatty/sweet foods will be most helpful. Try using a smaller plate as well as a smaller portion. Eat slowly and savour your meal. Take a break of 1-2 minutes during the meal. Count how many mouthfuls you eat. Try to be the last to finish.

Control eating between meals by implementing a regular meal plan of:  breakfast, snack, lunch, snack, dinner, snack. Eat only at these times, eat moderately and reduce the fat content of the meals, especially that of your snacks. Monitor daily what you eat between meals: When? Where? How often? What? Try snacking in only one place.

You may be replacing smoking with eating. Write down trigger situations (e.g. snacking while watching television, cooking or shopping etc.) Note any instances of eating when distressed or excited. Deal with your snacking triggers as you did with your smoking triggers.

Emotional crises are inevitable but they will pass. It is important to refrain from eating, drinking or smoking at these times. List potential crisis situations and alternative behaviour to deal with these difficult circumstances.

When you are relaxing in bed just before you go to sleep, think about how your day went and focus on anything you would change. For the situations you would like to alter, imagine acting differently and successfully eliminating your negative emotions without resorting to eating, drinking or smoking. Change your behaviour gradually and slowly getting increasingly better – in this way you will be more successful.

See Program 4: Overcoming Addiction.

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5. Conclusion  

Consider how cigarette advertisements urge you to smoke. How did old adverts deceive you into starting smoking. In future analyze these advertisements to spot the lies and do not let them fool you.

Make a list of high-risk situations that could result in a lapse: negative or positive emotions leading to the desire to smoke; social pressure to smoke – being offered a cigarette or seeing others smoking; stress induced smoking; smoking with food, alcohol, tea or coffee consumption.

Do not be discouraged by a relapse but learn from the opportunity. Smoking research shows that an average of ten serious quit attempts occur before a person successfully stops smoking tobacco.

Learn to deal assertively with smokers who may try to sabotage your efforts to remain a non-smoker. You have a right to not smoke or inhale passively the smoke of others.

Enjoy the rest of your life as a non-smoker!

See Program 1: Coping Strategies Counselling Advice – Relapse Prevention.

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