Stopping smoking after a relapse

After you've given up smoking the goal is to stay stopped. No matter how long it's been since your last cigarette, you may feel an urge to smoke, when you least expect it.

By quitting smoking you've changed your life for the better. Just 1 puff on a cigarette can lead you back to regular smoking.

It can often take people a number of attempts before they quit smoking for good. The more times you try, the better your chances of success. Remember that if you’ve tried giving up in the past, you’ve learned some valuable lessons you can use to boost your chances of success this time.

Starting again

Think positively

Stay positive. Remember, you’ll be stronger next time because you’ll know what to look out for.

Trying to stop smoking is a positive step and you should focus on this by:

  • thinking of what you've achieved by stopping - even for a short time
  • treating your relapse as “practice” for stopping smoking
  • reminding yourself why you want to quit

Learn from your mistakes

What caused you to slip up? Think of ways you could have avoided smoking. Work on your coping skills, so you’re prepared next time you’re in the same situation. Try thinking of:

  • what worked for you last time?
  • what did you find difficult?
  • what situations tripped you up?
  • what made you give up quitting?

Write down what happened last time and what you felt went wrong.

Set a plan of action

Spend a little longer planning, and think about what really worked for you last time and what made you relapse. Think about how you're going to keep on track this time. The preparation you do at the beginning really can make all the difference.


  • make it hard to smoke by avoiding places where you can easily ask someone for a cigarette
  • try to avoid being with smokers when you can
  • keep some spare NRT to hand rather than a cigarette - you can use this long-term to prevent relapse
  • try different stop smoking medication
  • make sure you get the right support for you
  • force yourself to wait 2 hours if you’re tempted to smoke again, then decide if you really need the cigarette

If you’ve had a cigarette or 2, don’t give up on quitting. Throw the rest of the packet away and continue your quit attempt.

If you’ve relapsed and are back to regular smoking, don’t feel too down. Set a new quit date, maybe in a week or a month - whatever is most likely to be successful. You can make this the time you quit for good and start enjoying all the benefits of being a non-smoker.

Quit Your Way Scotland

If you're struggling with your quit attempt, Quit Your Way Scotland advisors can keep you motivated and point you in the right direction.

Last updated:
16 December 2022

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