How long does it take to quit smoking?
Maybe you want to quit before a specific event or age milestone.
Perhaps quitting smoking is urgent and you want to know how long you need to succeed.
Or maybe you think quitting is hard and painful… and you don’t want it to last for a long time.
So how long does it really take to break free from this addiction?
Before I show you, we need to make an important distinction. Smoking is a mental and a physical addiction. It is 80% mental and 20% physical.
The mental dependence on smoking is your desire for cigarettes. In other words, how smoking makes you feel, how much you believe you enjoy it, need it, and how ingrained it is in your life.
And only 20% of smoking is the physical addiction to nicotine – the substance that first hooked you to this habit.
Since the smoking addiction has two different parts, we’ll first see how long it takes to quit smoking physically and then how long it takes to quit smoking mentally.
How Long Does It Take to Quit Smoking Physically
Nicotine is a substance that has a short half-life, which means that it quickly leaves the body.
Once you smoke your last cigarette, nicotine leaves your body in three to five days.
By the third day of being nicotine-free, almost all of the nicotine has left your system so that’s when you’ll notice your cravings peak. And after day five, the physical cravings start to subside. For many people, the third, fourth, and fifth smoke-free days are the hardest.
So from the moment you smoke your last cigarette, overcoming the physical addiction is a matter of time. It takes three to five days.
Test for Tobacco Use
If you will be tested for tobacco use for your insurance, surgery, or any other reason, you need to know that these tests don’t actually look for nicotine because it leaves your body so quickly. Instead, they look for cotinine.
Nicotine breaks down into metabolites and the most important of those is cotinine. Cotinine leaves your body in about three weeks. You can learn more about the different tests for tobacco use here.
So the physical addiction is gone three to five days after you stop smoking. However, overcoming the mental dependence on smoking doesn’t work the same way.
How Long Does It Take to Quit Smoking Mentally
The mental addiction has to do with how much you believe you enjoy and need smoking. It has to do with how you think about smoking.
That’s why it can take months, even years, to overcome the mental addiction if you don’t take the necessary steps and change how you see smoking.
And you probably already know that if you’ve tried to quit before using your willpower and felt deprived and unhappy for months after you quit – even though there was 0 nicotine in your body at that point.
So overcoming the mental addiction is not a matter of time. It’s a matter of going through the right process so you can change how you think about smoking.
None of the common methods out there teaches you how to be mentally free from smoking and overcome the mental addiction in a systematic, strategic, and reliable way.
For example, if you take nicotine replacement, vaping, or pills without working on your mental dependence, you will still feel you miss smoking.
If you go cold turkey, cut down gradually, or take herbs and natural remedies and don’t work on your mental dependence, you will still feel you need smoking and you will still want to smoke.
If you do hypnosis without consciously working on your mental dependence, you will eventually want to smoke.
But if you change how you think about smoking, you will not want to smoke any more.
How to Overcome the Mental Addiction?
When I was a smoker, I was struggling to succeed. I failed miserably so many times, and eventually, I reached my breaking point.
So I decided to stop using other methods and use my background in psychology and figure out what helps people quit easily.
So I interviewed thousands of smokers, ex-smokers, doctors, and experts. I did months of research, and read every book on neuroscience, addiction, and human behavior that I could find. And after a while, I started noticing some patterns.
I started noticing that happy non-smokers, people who were mentally free from smoking and didn’t miss it… they all had some things in common.
They all went through certain steps and stages, whether they were aware of it or not. So I put these stages in a method that everyone can use to succeed, including myself, and after years of fine-tuning this method with my team, it’s become what is now the CBQ Method.
The CBQ Method consists of four quit smoking stages that I talk about in my TED Talk.
Now I’ll just name these four stages, but if you want to learn more about them, check the CBQ Method Essentials playlist here.
The 4 Quit Smoking Stages of the CBQ Method – that Help you Overcome the Mental Addiction (In the Fastest and Surest Way Possible)
The 4 stages of the CBQ Method help you overcome the mental addiction. In this video, I explain how.
1. The first stage of the CBQ Method is: Choose to quit.
This stage prepares you to quit so you can make a real decision and commit to quitting smoking.
2. The second stage is: Change your mindset.
In this stage, you change how you think about smoking and remove the fears that stop you from becoming a non-smoker – like the fear of failure, the fear of the unknown, the fear of how we’ll be without our cigarettes – so you can believe that quitting smoking is possible and that you can do it.
3. The third stage is: Change your smoking pattern.
In this stage, you break your smoking habit, weaken your triggers, overcome the desire for smoking, and smoke your last cigarette. A big part of this stage is knowing how to cope with your cravings and stop seeing smoking as something that adds value to your life.
4. The last stage is: Condition your smoke-free life.
This stage is about remaining a happy non-smoker without feeling deprived or relapsing. Because it’s not enough to stop smoking. You have to remain smoke-free and protect your quit.
So these four stages are the necessary steps, phases, and changes you need to go through so you can overcome the mental addiction once and for all.
How Long Should You Spend on Every Quit Smoking Stage?
The short answer is: as long as you need to so you can complete the stage.
As a guideline, you can spend two to four days on every stage, which is what our program members do. This is for you if you’re focused on quitting smoking and you’re working towards a specific quit date.
You can also spend a week on every stage.
It’s not wrong to spend more than a week on every stage. However, be mindful of stretching your time too much because life can get in the way and cause you to lose momentum.
But what matters is going through the stages properly and making sure you’re done with every stage before moving on to the next one.
So overcoming the mental addiction is not about time passing, it’s about going through the right changes.
“How Will I Know I’m Over the Mental Addiction?”
When you’re mentally free from smoking, you don’t see smoking as who you are, but as something that you used to do.
You don’t have to hate smoking or other smokers. Instead, you just choose to break up with your cigarettes. You simply say, “I don’t do this anymore”.
And when you have a craving thought like ” I need a cigarette right now”, or, “a cigarette would make me feel better”… you don’t resist your cravings with willpower. Instead, you talk yourself out of smoking. And you see your craving thoughts as separate from yourself.
And here’s the thing.
When you’re mentally free from smoking, you don’t need to use your willpower. Instead, you use your mind power. Think about it.
Do you need any willpower to resist eating rat poison, ammonia or acetone?
Of course, not! Because they’re disgusting and harmful chemicals, right?
Well, tobacco has inside arsenic, ammonia, and acetone – and the only reason why you want it is because you believe that it offers you something. That’s all the mental addiction.
But when you see smoking for the poison it is – not a friend, a crutch, or the thing that gets you through hard times – but when you see smoking as a sum of chemicals, you don’t want it anymore.
So you don’t need to use willpower to resist it, because there’s nothing to resist.
Also, when you’re no longer mentally dependent on smoking, you have no anxiety, irritation, and you don’t feel deprived because you don’t smoke.
And when cigarettes are out of the question for you, the nicotine withdrawal symptoms won’t even bother you, because the mind is free, and the mind affects the body.
Now, I know that the idea of overcoming the nicotine withdrawal easily, without nicotine substitutes, is controversial. But the truth is, it’s easier to breeze through the withdrawal without taking any nicotine substitutes. In this section, you can find everything you need about withdrawal and cravings and how to overcome them easily with the power of your mind.
To sum up:
- Smoking is a mental and a physical addiction.
- The physical addiction goes away three to five days after your last cigarette.
- The mental addiction goes away after you go through the four quit smoking stages. You can spend two to four days and up to a week on every stage. But remember, going through the four stages and overcoming the mental addiction, is not about time passing. It’s about going through the right process.
So like I mentioned earlier, we took what happy non-smokers had in common and we put it in a method that everyone can use to succeed. And we kept refining this method over the years to what is now the CBQ Method. The CBQ Method helps you find quitting easy because you take control of your mind.
If you want to get started with the CBQ Method, get the free foundational video of the CBQ Method + the CBQ starter guide with tips for every quit smoking stage, an overview of your journey, and everything you need to start overcoming the mental addiction.