Stop smoking

Successful quitting smoking requires good preparation and a lot of motivation.

Quitting smoking is a fantastic decision. It affects your body and mind. That is why it is important to be alert to possible obstacles and to determine in advance how you will deal with them.

Here you will find information about:

Smoking, an addiction

Smokers often use excuses not to quit, such as "occasional smoking isn't so bad if I'm otherwise healthy" or "there's no point in quitting because I've been smoking for so long."

Because smoking is both psychologically and physically addictive, it is also so difficult to quit.

Psychological dependence

Psychologically you become dependent on the one hand through creation of habit. As with alcohol and coffee, you often reach for a cigarette out of pure habit, for example always after eating or during your break.

On the other hand, smoking is also a way to deal with stressful situations, also known as coping.

Physical dependence

Nicotine is responsible for the physical dependence. Nicotine ensures that a puff on a cigarette already has an effect in the brain after ten seconds. Because nicotine is also broken down quickly, the blood level shows a peak pattern. This is characteristic of highly addictive substances.

Smoking stimulates the reward system in your brain, which temporarily gives you a good feeling after smoking a cigarette. Repeated smoking causes the reward system to be disrupted, which can make it temporarily unpleasant when you miss nicotine and withdrawal symptoms occur: lack of concentration, sleep disturbances, nervousness, dizziness. In order to prevent these withdrawal symptoms, smokers have a strong urge for a cigarette.

If you stop smoking for a longer period of time, you will return to the normal physical situation without nicotine and these symptoms will gradually disappear.

Always harmful

  • Added substances
    Tobacco products to which a substance has been added to improve the taste, such as sugar or mint flavoring, are equally harmful. The added substances can sometimes fuel the addiction. Some additives even ensure that the nicotine reaches the brain faster. Other substances, for example, suppress coughing and allow the cigarette smoke to penetrate deeper into the lungs.
  • Cigarettes with filter
    The filter retains the largest tar particles, but not the finest particles and harmful flue gases. Cigarettes with a filter are therefore no less harmful because the harmful substances still largely reach the lungs.
  • Self-rolled cigarettes
    The tobacco in self-rolled cigarettes is usually less well distributed and therefore burns less well. As a result, smokers usually pull harder on these cigarettes.
  • Joints
    Rolling a joint with tobacco and cannabis carries an even greater risk because the amount of smoke you inhale is greater than with regular cigarettes. After all, cannabis users have a habit of inhaling more deeply and holding their breath longer. This way even more CO and tar enters your lungs.
  • Hookah
    Smoking tobacco through a hookah is even more harmful than smoking a cigarette, even if a hookah is used only occasionally while cigarettes are often smoked daily. One hookah session (20-80 minutes) takes on average much longer than smoking a cigarette. Because the tobacco smoke circulates through water, it is less irritating to the respiratory tract, but the water only partially blocks the nicotine, and the tar and CO do not at all. The tobacco smoke penetrates deeper into the lungs because you also have to inhale strongly with a water pipe. The burning of the coals used to heat the water pipe also releases additional carcinogenic substances and heavy metals (such as chromium and lead). Since the mouthpiece often passes from mouth to mouth, bacteria and viruses can also be easily transmitted. This puts hookah users at risk of infection and disease.

But what about the electronic cigarette ?

Electronic cigarette

The electronic cigarette (e-cigarette) is a device that vaporizes a liquid. It usually contains nicotine and a flavouring. The device consists of a battery, an atomizer, a reservoir (or cartridge) and a mouthpiece.

According to the Superior Health Council, the e-cigarette with nicotine may be an efficient tool to stop smoking. It has fewer adverse health effects than tobacco and is a less unhealthy choice.

Harmful substances

The e-cigarette contains harmful substances such as nicotine, propylene glycol, glycerol, aldehydes, nitrosamines and metals. Therefore, it is not recommended if you are not a tobacco smoker who wants to quit smoking. And caution is advised if you use them as an aid to quit smoking.

  • Inhalation can cause irritation and damage to the airways, heart palpitations and an increased risk of cancer. Heavy users in particular have a high risk of problems with their respiratory tract.
  • No serious side effects would occur for up to two years after using the e-cigarette. However, there is still no clarity about the period after that.
  • The effect of the e-cigarette as a smoking cessation aid is limited. There would even be a risk that smoking addiction will be maintained and people will continue to use e-cigarettes or combine them with tobacco smoking.

Do you want to quit smoking? Then it is better to let yourself be guided by a recognized tobacco specialist. They will discuss with you which method and any tools are appropriate for you. In addition, you are entitled to a refund or to pay a limited contribution .

Closed spaces

Due to the possible harmful effects of (co-)vapor, it is best to handle the e-cigarette with care and it is better not to use it in closed spaces, especially if children are present. Among other things, they are more sensitive to the effects of nicotine.

Because of the possible harmfulness, the e-cigarette is also prohibited in closed public spaces. With this ban, the government also wants to prevent the e-cigarette from being regarded as something common.

Reasons to quit

Motivation is the main key to success. There are more than enough benefits of quitting smoking.

  • Appreciation of your environment.
  • Less coughing in the morning.
  • More breath during physical exertion.
  • Fresher color for fingers and teeth .
  • Improving the taste .
  • Fresher Breath .
  • Fresher scent in your home, office or workplace.
  • No discoloration of curtains or wallpaper .
  • Financial advantage.

  • 25 percent less risk of heart attack and certain cancers.
  • Less chance of lung diseases.
  • Improved body condition .
  • Less chance of your children starting to smoke.
  • No more health damage for your family, friends, colleagues .

Ways to quit

Whether you succeed in quitting smoking largely depends on your own motivation. Still, some form of support can help. There are various possibilities.


Guidance by a tobacco specialist in combination with smoking cessation medication offers the best chance of stopping and staying stopped. Your general practitioner can also support you or refer you to a tobacco specialist.

Individual guidance and group guidance are possible.

  • With individual guidance you receive information, personal advice and guidance to prepare and persevere in quitting smoking. A tailor-made stop smoking plan can be drawn up. During follow-up consultations you learn to deal with both your physical and psychological dependence.
  • With group counseling you come together with fellow quitters to encourage, support and exchange experiences. A tobaccologist supervises the sessions. More information can be found at In a number of CM offices you can also go for group smoking cessation. Consult the CM agenda for this .

Do you live in Flanders ? Then you only pay part of the costs yourself. The Flemish government pays part of the costs directly to the tobacco specialist. Do you live in the Brussels-Capital Region? Then you are eligible for a refund for stop smoking counselling. All information about this CM advantage can be found here .

Tobacco stop

  • You can contact the Tobacco Stop Line (0800 111 00) on working days from 3 pm to 7 pm for free advice, information and guidance from tobacco specialists.
  • For online help you can surf to .
  • The Tobacco stop app offers daily support with your intention to quit smoking.

Smoking cessation aids

Smoking cessation aids, in combination with counseling, make quitting easier. Talk to your tobacco specialist or doctor about what works best for you.

  • Nicotine substitutes help to cope with the withdrawal symptoms. They are freely available in pharmacies.
  • Other smoking cessation medications are only available with a doctor's prescription. They make you feel less like smoking. Read the package leaflet carefully before using it. Prescription drugs are largely reimbursed. The reimbursement is higher for those who have the increased allowance .
    • Before accessing a full treatment with Varenicline, you must follow a two-week course of treatment (starter pack) to verify that the medication is well tolerated. The starter package and three treatments are reimbursed every five years. So if you were still unable to stop after three attempts in five years, you are again entitled to three reimbursed treatments. The starter package became cheaper in 2019: 15 euros instead of 50 euros.
    • Bupropion is reimbursed if you are older than 35 and suffer from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

CM members can count on a CM refund for smoking cessation aids .


A good book about quitting smoking will give you an insight into what tobacco addiction is and what you can do about it. An example of this is the book 'This is how you stop smoking - the golden formula' by Robert West (publisher Luitingh-Sijthoff, 2014). For more tips, you can contact the CM health library .

Tips for quitting

Quitting smoking is not easy. Good preparation is therefore important. Many practical tips will help you get through the first difficult period and prevent you from falling back into your old habit after a while.

The quit day

  • Schedule your quit day a while in advance so you can mentally prepare.
  • Make your environment smoke-free and clean up everything that reminds you of smoking, such as cigarettes, ashtrays and lighters.
  • Do something you enjoy doing that doesn't make you think about smoking.
  • Change your daily routine so that you can break established smoking habits.
  • Don't expect too much of yourself in other areas, but concentrate on not smoking.

The stop week

  • Drink a glass of water to suppress a sudden craving for a cigarette.
  • Drink as little coffee as possible if that is inextricably linked to a cigarette for you.
  • Avoid Alcohol. Smoking and alcohol can be strongly linked.
  • Eat fruit as a healthy snack and as a substitute for a cigarette.
  • Compare a sudden craving for a cigarette with a wave that rolls in and disappears. Do something else to shift your focus (e.g. drink a glass of water, make a phone call). Keep yourself busy and try to take your mind off your need for a cigarette.
  • Do breathing exercises to better deal with your sudden craving for a cigarette.


Being able to count on the support of others significantly increases your chances of succeeding in quitting smoking. The more people who support you, the bigger your safety net. You can choose someone who follows you very closely and can be your 'supporter' for a few weeks.

  • Preferably choose a supporter who does not smoke.
  • Choose someone you feel comfortable with, who supports your decision to quit smoking in a positive way.
  • Explain clearly to your supporter what you expect from him: offering support, motivating, helping to find alternatives for difficult moments, offering a listening ear.

Difficult moments

A risky situation can occur unexpectedly without your control. For example, you are suddenly offered a cigarette, you see an 'unguarded' package, you go out with friends. It is important to think in advance about where and when that could happen and how best to deal with it. That way you are better prepared and your confidence is also greater to overcome those obstacles.


Nicotine is a toxic and addictive substance that causes symptoms such as nausea, dizziness and headache in novice smokers. However, the body gets used to the constant supply of nicotine and learns to live with it. Smokers have learned to dose their nicotine intake.

Withdrawal symptoms after you stop smoking (e.g. headache, dizziness, irritability, concentration problems, gastrointestinal disturbances, perspiration, mood swings) are a sign that your body is starting to function again without the influence of nicotine. The peak of withdrawal symptoms is usually on the second or third day of withdrawal. The symptoms diminish in the first two to three weeks and are usually gone within three months.

To persevere

There will regularly be difficult moments when the appetite for a cigarette is great. It is good to prepare for this and try to avoid pitfalls.


Quitting smoking is not easy. Rewarding yourself once in a while is fine. During your smoking cessation process, try to generate pleasurable feelings and thoughts in yourself, for example by doing things that you enjoy.

It is also important that you learn to enjoy little things and moments, for example, instead of your cigarette after breakfast, make a cup of herbal tea, drink it very consciously, smell the aroma, feel the warmth of the cup between your hands and different taste flavours.

Weak moments

Everyone has a weak moment sometimes. If you do smoke a cigarette or two, don't immediately think that all your efforts have been in vain. Don't be too hard on yourself but learn from your experiences. Therefore, find out for yourself why you gave in to the urge for a cigarette, what you thought or felt at the time. Think about how you can react if you find yourself in the same situation.


Quitting smoking is a process. Sometimes you need several attempts. A relapse is not a failure, but part of the smoking cessation process.

So if you start smoking again, don't hesitate to try quitting again. You have already learned a lot from your previous attempts and eventually you too will succeed in banning this unhealthy and expensive habit from your life for good.

So don't give up too quickly. Every serious attempt is a step towards the final stop.