Smoking Relapse

How To Prevent Smoking Relapse

Relapsing on your quit smoking plan can be a demoralising experience, especially if it happens a lot. You reach out to your support group, make a few changes to your plan, and you’re back on track, right? Not necessarily. 

Sometimes relapse can happen because you’ve forgotten some important information that you thought you’d never need. 

But, if you have a reliable supply of nicotine replacement therapy available, if you’re prepared for the cravings that will inevitably hit, you’ll be able to beat the urge to smoke.

How Often Do Smokers Relapse?

One of the most successful studies ever reported for Nicotine Replacement Therapy shows 80% of quitters relapsed within one year and 87% within six years. (Fig. 1). Other studies with NRT have not demonstrated more significant success.

We averaged the data for the two treatments at each stage in Figure 1.

15% relapse occurs within the first 24 hours. The percentage abstinent decreases steeply to 31% at three months, falls to 19% at 12 months, then to 13% still abstinent after six years.

Out of the 31% still abstinent at three months, more than half, a further 18%, relapse to smoking. Of these, 12% relapse before 12 months, and another 6% over the following five years.

Smoking Relapse

Why Do Smokers Relapse?

There are many reasons why smokers relapse, ranging from anxiety to stress to Social cues, cigarette availability and living with a smoker are important triggers.

Does NRT reduce the risk of relapse?

The results may seem dismal enough with NRT but would be worse without it. If NRT is continued, about half the relapses are prevented. The effect fades over time, but NRT has a 20% protective effect for relapse even after nearly five months. The risk of relapse increases after stopping NRT.

Does vaping reduce the risk of relapse?

There is a lot of debate surrounding whether using e-cigarettes or vaporisers can help individuals quit smoking. Recent studies have shown that the use of electronic cigarettes can reduce the chances of a cigarette smoker smoking again due to its ability to simulate the action of smoking while providing the nicotine that the user craves.

Tips For Staying Smokefree

  • Try to develop new routines.
  • Know your trigger situations and try to avoid them, especially when you first quit.
  • Try to manage stressful situations. Be mindful that stress and anxiety give a strong urge to start smoking again and should be avoided.
  • Try a new hobby that you can act as an outlet for stress. Painting, gardening, puzzles, or just going for a walk can destress you when you think of lighting up.


1. Medioni J, Berlin I, Mallet A. Increased risk of relapse after stopping nicotine replacement therapies: a mathematical modelling approach. Addiction 2005; 100: 247-54.

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