What are tobacco slips and relapses?
A slip means that someone who has quit tobacco uses it again a time or two. A relapse means that a person who has quit returns to regular tobacco use. Most people quit and restart many times before they quit for good.
What can you do if you have a slip or relapse?
Most people who quit tobacco try many times before they succeed. So if you slip and use a little tobacco, don't give up. Talk to someone who has quit or to a counselor. Ask them for ideas on what to do. A slip could turn into regular use (relapse), so it's important to do something different soon.
A relapse is just a sign that you need to try a different approach. If you tried to quit without medicines or a program, think about trying them next time. Medicines and nicotine replacement (such as gum, patches, or lozenges) can greatly increase your chances of quitting for good. And using both medicines and counseling is even more effective.
Taking steps to avoid a relapse
Most people aren't successful the first few times they try to quit using tobacco. If you start again, don't feel bad about yourself. A slip or relapse is just a sign that you need to change your approach to quitting. Here are a few things you can do to help prevent a relapse.
- Get rid of your tobacco.
If someone else in your home uses tobacco, ask them to keep it hidden, or better yet, to quit with you.
- Make a list of your tobacco triggers.
Triggers are things that make you want to use tobacco. For example, you may crave it after finishing a meal, when driving, or when you're around others who use tobacco. When you know your triggers, you can plan how to avoid them. And you'll know to be cautious when they are present.
- Learn to think of yourself as someone who doesn't use tobacco.
Changing how you think may be hard. But research has shown that cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) can help.
- Find other things to do.
Identify areas and activities where you are least likely to use tobacco and when you are most likely to use it. Think of other things you could do instead. For example, you could try something new.
- Try a new hobby, check out a book from the library on a topic that interests you, or take an online class.
- Start some new physical activity. Exercise might help you quit tobacco.
- Get support often.
Keep in close contact with those who support your efforts—family, friends, your doctor, or a support group. Or call a tobacco quit-line for support.
- Reward yourself.
Mark special anniversaries of your quit date, such as 1 month, 3 months, 6 months, and 1 year. Figure out how much money you have saved by not using tobacco, and reward yourself for reaching your goal.
- Manage the stress in your life.
It's impossible to completely avoid stress, but you can learn to manage it or reduce it. This will help you remain strong when you're tempted to start using tobacco again.
Getting back on track after a slip-up
It's common for people to use tobacco once in a while after quitting. Here are some ideas for getting back on track.
- Don't think of a slip-up as a sign of failure.
It's common to have a few slip-ups. Most people who quit tobacco try many times before they quit for good. Don't give up.
- Figure out why you slipped.
Plan what you'll do the next time you're in that situation.
- Get support.
Ask loved ones for help. Try a support group, a quit-tobacco app, or a quitline that provides counseling.
- Don't use tobacco at all, and make it hard to use.
Avoid places where you can easily get tobacco. Don't buy any. If you're tempted to use tobacco, wait for the urge to pass.
- Remember past successes.
Try to learn from past situations when you resisted temptation.
- Think about using a new treatment.
If you're not using medicine or nicotine replacement, think about trying it. Consider starting a quit-tobacco program or talking to a counselor trained to help people quit.
Current as of: March 21, 2023
Author: Healthwise Staff
Clinical Review Board: All Healthwise education is reviewed by a team that includes physicians, nurses, advanced practitioners, registered dieticians, and other healthcare professionals.