Managing setbacks

Setbacks are not a failure, but rather an opportunity to learn. The more you learn the better your chances of success. The effort is worth it.

Tobacco addiction is a chronic and relapsing condition that requires lifelong maintenance. The nicotine in tobacco is highly addictive and makes relapse very common, with most relapses occurring within the first week of quitting tobacco. Each individual’s journey to stop smoking is unique and involves addressing both their addiction to nicotine and all the ways using tobacco is woven into their life. This means it can take multiple quit attempts to be successful and for some people it could take up to 30 quit attempts to be able to quit for good.

Think of every attempt as one step closer to reaching your goal. With each new attempt to stop smoking, or another form of tobacco use, you learn new skills and ways of coping to overcome the cravings and remain smoke-free. Remember that quitting tobacco is not a one-time event. It’s a process that can sometimes take months or even years before you are completely smoke-free.

What to do if you start smoking again 

A slip is having one or two cigarettes, or even just a puff after you've quit. A relapse is getting back into your regular smoking routine after your quit attempt. Look at the slip or relapse as a good time to review your quit plan and develop new strategies to be better prepared for your next attempt.

Here are some tips to help you get back on track with your journey to be tobacco free:

Take your slip seriously. Don't fall into the trap of thinking another cigarette won't hurt you. Often times one cigarette leaves you wanting more and will lead to relapse. If you do have a slip or relapse, stop smoking immediately and continue on with your quit attempt. If you do start smoking regularly again, plan for another date to stop smoking as soon as possible.

Don't get discouraged. Slips and relapse can trigger negative feelings of self criticism and a lack of control. Having a slip isn't a sign of failure, it’s an opportunity to learn from what didn’t work and try again. When faced with negative feelings, recognize how far you've come and how hard it was to stop smoking in the first place. Remember your reasons for why you decided to quit and think about the health benefits you have enjoyed since quitting.

Treat it as a learning experience. Reflect on why it happened and what you can do to avoid the situation or react differently to the trigger the next time. Have a few new strategies for how you will cope the next time you are tempted to smoke.

Get support. NRT, prescription medications, and counselling support can double your chances of successfully quitting. Using a combination of these supports increases your chances of quitting even further. Talk to an AlbertaQuits Helpline counsellor Call 1-866-710-QUIT (7848) toll-free, local Certified Tobacco Educator, or health care provider to get support or learn more about the different aids to help you stop smoking for good. Helpline Counsellors are available 8am to 8pm 7 days a week to help you revise your plan and get you back on track with your quit journey.

Keep trying. The more quit attempts you make, the more likely you are to be successful in quitting. This is part of the quitting process and every quit attempt brings you one step closer to being smoke-free.


Here when you need us. Let us guide you through any setbacks you might experience.