Cutting down before you quit smoking

There's no safe level of cigarette use - smoking even a small amount can cause damage to your body. This is why there's very little, if any, health benefit from cutting down the number of cigarettes you smoke, unlike quitting entirely which has proven health benefits.

Cutting down can, however, be a good way to get you started on the road to stopping long-term. This is provided that you:

  • plan well
  • set the quit date
  • see it through to stopping and staying stopped

Whilst it's always best to completely quit smoking on a set date, not everyone is ready to stop straight away. Although it's very important to set a quit date within 6 weeks (even better if earlier), you can ‘cut down to quit’ cigarettes over that period, by reducing the number of cigarettes you smoke every day, every week and fortnight until your quit date.

Cutting down before you quit

Making the decision to gradually cut down before you set your quit date is a great step in the right direction.


  • set goals - think about reducing your cigarettes each day, each week or fortnight
  • continue to reduce the number of cigarettes you smoke as you approach your ‘quit date’
  • use nicotine replacement therapies in the cutting down phase - these help prevent you compensating for fewer cigarettes by taking more and deeper puffs
  • change your habits – go for a walk after dinner instead of having a cigarette

Now you've cut right down, stopping completely is just the next short step. If you choose to gradually cut down the number of cigarettes you smoke each day before stopping altogether, you should be careful that:

  • you don't begin to make up for smoking fewer cigarettes by inhaling deeper and taking more puffs to get the same nicotine effect
  • trying a different approach such as cutting down over stopping completely, may in the long term make it harder for you to stop altogether

Sometimes cutting down can be counterproductive and takes more commitment and discipline than stopping abruptly. You'll still experience the same withdrawal effects without seeing the financial and health benefits of stopping completely.

Use our cost calculator to see the financial benefits of giving up smoking entirely.

If you still don't feel ready to quit entirely, you could also consider alternatives to smoking such as switching to an e-cigarette which cuts down your risk of harm.

Quit Your Way Scotland

Quit Your Way Scotland can offer advice and support if you're looking to cut down gradually before quitting.

Last updated:
19 December 2022

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