Updated 18 February 2016

12 expert tips for cutting down on cigarettes

If you feel you’re not yet ready to quit smoking immediately, cutting down on the amount you smoke may be a step in the right direction.


Cutting down on the amount you smoke is obviously not ideal: giving up is the ultimate prize. But cutting down is a whole lot better than nothing. 

If you feel you’re not yet ready to quit immediately, cutting down may be a step in the right direction.

For cutting down to be at all useful, though, you need to take it seriously, keep track of exactly how much you’re smoking, and ensure that you are in fact making progress.

Tips for cutting down:

1. Be very aware of how much you’re smoking – keep a written record. If you smoke automatically, without paying much attention to the habit, it’s easy to smoke more. Ask yourself before each cigarette: do I really need it? Can I postpone smoking it or even just leave it? Practise regaining psychological control. You can use various other ploys to make yourself more aware of each cigarette: smoke in a specific, unusual place (try facing into a corner, for example), or use your opposite hand to hold the cigarette.

2. Analyse your other habits, e.g. eating, drinking alcohol, spending time in smokey environments or with other smokers.

3. Work on changing any behaviours that are conducive to smoking.

4. Decide in advance how many cigarettes you'll smoke the following day, and remove the rest from the pack. Put off lighting your first cigarette of the day a little later each day.

5. Don’t smoke cigarettes down to the butt. Smoke them only half or three-quarters.

6. Change to a brand you don’t like. Or, try changing to a milder brand a few weeks before your quit date to help your body get accustomed to less nicotine - but make sure you don’t smoke more mild cigarettes, inhale them more, or cover the holes in the filters.

7. Don't empty your ashtrays: this reminds you of how many cigarettes you've smoked each day, and is aesthetically unappealing.Some people keep their cigarette butts in a glass jar as graphic evidence of their ‘dirty habit’.

8. Put your cigarettes in places that are awkward to reach (like on a high shelf), or keep them in hard-to-open containers. This also helps to make you more conscious of each cigarette smoked. Finish one pack before you buy another, and don’t buy cigarettes in bulk.

9. Don’t carry cigarettes on you when you go out.

10. Don’t ask for or accept cigarettes from other smokers.

11. Ask successful ex-smokers what methods they use to stay on the straight and narrow, and consider incorporating these into your own life.

12. Start thinking about a quit date.


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