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7 practical tips to help you quit smoking

While quitting smoking during lockdown hasn’t necessarily been a willing choice for Mzansi's smokers, it’s a reality that many are having to come to grips with since the government's U-turn on allowing the sale of cigarettes in level 4.

If you find yourself in short supply, or have already run out of smokes completely, here are some practical tips from the Cancer Association of South Africa (Cansa) and the National Council Against Smoking (NCAS) to help you cope as you kick the habit:

1. Decide on a date to quit

Unfortunately the decision to quit has been made for you, thanks to the cigarette ban — but if you are to succeed, it’s a decision you will have to embrace. If you have a few cigarettes left, work out when you’ll smoke your last one and prepare yourself for the fight that lies ahead.

2. Get rid of all reminders of smoking

This includes lighters, ashtrays and empty cigarette boxes.

3. Change your routine to avoid triggers

Identify any triggers that make you want to smoke and come up with a plan to avoid them or replace them. For instance, if you always enjoy a cigarette with a cup of coffee, try switching to tea.

4. Drink lots of water

This will help flush the nicotine from your body.

5. Give your mouth and hands something else to do.

Try sucking on a straw, chewing sugar-free gum or snacking on a carrot cut into small sticks. Keep your hands busy by playing with a pencil, a straw or some worry beads.

6. Become more active by exercising more.

At the moment, jogging, walking or cycling around your neighbourhood is limited to between 6am and 9am. If that's too early for you, decide on an exercise routine that you can follow in the comfort of your home and get moving. Here are some ideas to inspire you.

7. Forewarn your family, friends and colleagues that you're trying to quit

And ask them for their patience and support.


According to Cansa, the first two to three days are likely to be the most difficult, when you might feel overrun by cravings.

The good news is that each craving should fade after one to five minutes. The NCAS suggests you try counting to 100 — by the time you finish, the craving should hopefully have passed.

Craving a cigarette? Try counting to 100. By the time you finish the craving should hopefully have passed

You may also feel dizzy, get headaches or start coughing. These symptoms are normal and should improve after a few days and be completely gone within 14 days. So stay strong and push through. Many people have quit smoking and so can you.

In fact, the NCAS suggests you try to find an ex-smoker who has “been there, done that”, who can act as a sounding board and offer encouragement.

You can also turn to the following organisations for support:

  • call the NCAS quit line on 011 720 3145. They also send daily support via WhatsApp messages.

  • Sign up for Cansa's free eKick Butt programme at This online programmes uses a combination of e-mails, surveys and downloads to coach you through the quitting process.

  • Allan Carr is presenting “Easyway to Stop Smoking” clinics via live online group seminars during lockdown. Visit

  • The Heart and Stroke Foundation can be contacted at 084 250 7374 for support and assistance in quitting smoking during lockdown.

Originally appeared in The Sowetan at

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