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Fag end: 21 unusual ways to quit smoking, from changing your teeth to taking more showers

·7 min read
<span>Photograph: Glowimages/Getty Images</span>
Photograph: Glowimages/Getty Images

‘Get a glass of water when the cravings hit’

I smoked 10 to 20 a day, but finally quit 11 years ago. I found getting a glass of water when the cravings hit worked really well. By the time I went to the kitchen, poured it and drank it, the peak of the craving had usually passed. It also helped me to realise that you can ride out a craving. The first three weeks were the hardest. Michael, artist and educator, Scotland

‘I would ration myself – one less cigarette each day’

I chose to cut down gradually. I would ration myself – one less cigarette each day. I’d pick the times to smoke them that I knew I’d enjoy them the least. I smoked 40 a day but, over six weeks, I got down to one a day and then one every other day. I allowed myself to stick at that point for a while. When I forgot when I’d had my last cigarette, I knew I’d given up. That was 40 years ago. Anonymous, London

‘Take a shower’

I had a 40-a-day habit that I started aged 15. Here are my tips for quitting. 1) Recognise the triggers that make you want to smoke and know they will pass within two minutes. (One of my biggest triggers was opening the car window, as I used to open it to flick the ash out.) 2) If you are really gagging for a cigarette, take a shower – there will be no trigger there, as it’s impossible to smoke in the shower. 3) Relaxing massages help. I managed to stop smoking on my first try, aged 46. Andrew, graphic designer, Peak District

‘My husband promised me a bottle of Romanée-Conti if I quit for a year’

Richebourg Grand Cru Domaine Romanee-Conti burgundy
The good stuff ... Romanée-Conti burgundy. Photograph: Ian Shaw/Alamy

I had long wanted to taste the rare and legendary Romanée-Conti burgundy. In 1991, my husband said he would buy me a bottle if I gave up smoking for a year. If I felt I was weakening, the words Romanée-Conti would spur me on. After six months, I found a bottle at Charles de Gaulle airport. At the time, it cost about the same as what I would spend on cigarettes in a year. My husband said that if I smoked now, he’d drink it in front of me – and then run away! At the year’s end, we drank it – and it was fabulous. The next few years, we ate once a year in a three-star Michelin restaurant with the money I would have spent on cigarettes. Find something you want more than cigarettes – I have never smoked again. Lynne, retired engineer, Folkestone

‘I soaked my cigarettes in water and soap’

Throw your cigarettes or tobacco away properly: I soaked mine in water and soap. If you chuck your cigarettes in the bin, still in their packet, you’ll be fishing them out again in no time. For the first two weeks, I wrote the number of days since my last cigarette on my smoking hand, which was a really useful visual reminder of my progress. Anonymous, Surrey

‘I chain-smoked 40 king-size’

I was going to work one morning in 1981, when tube trains had smoking compartments, but I couldn’t get into one. In any case, I discovered that I had no cigarettes – so I was dying for a smoke by the end of the journey. I felt really disgusted by how much it mattered to me and how dependent I was on smoking. So, I bought 40 king-size cigarettes right away and chain-smoked them till midday, as an attempt at aversion therapy. It worked. I have never smoked since. Anonymous, London

‘Holding a clothes peg was surprisingly satisfying’

I was a heavy smoker of roll-ups for more than 20 years and quit nearly a year ago. I always found it was more the ritual that meant I kept returning to cigarettes, even after I’d kicked the chemical addiction. I found wooden clothes pegs helped: you can buy a pack from a pound shop and each half-peg is roughly the size and weight of a cigarette. I would just hold one when I felt I needed a cigarette; it was surprisingly satisfying. You can also chew on them and snap them under your thumb, which was extra-helpful. I usually kept a few in my pocket. Anonymous, London

‘Tape up your tobacco tin’

Wrap up your cigarette pack or tobacco tin in many layers of tape. This makes getting to your tobacco very difficult, but not impossible. I found this the best way to manage the “panic” of not being able to smoke and lets you “put off” having a smoke indefinitely. I quit more than 10 years ago, but still have a taped-up tin of dusty Old Holborn somewhere. James, psychologist, Scotland

‘Brushing my teeth after each meal stopped the cravings’

I always had cravings after each meal, until I realised that brushing my teeth and using mouthwash straight away took them away. I would never usually smoke after brushing my teeth at night, so this was something that really helped after eating. Another more obvious tip is exercise, which also helped me a lot. Javier, researcher, Swansea

‘Set your fag money aside, then treat yourself’

Empty an ashtray into a jar, add water, then seal the jar. Whenever you crave a fag, open the jar and inhale deeply. It should make you gag or retch. It’s awful, but it works a treat. Also, set your fag money aside each day or week and, when you’ve accumulated enough, treat yourself and your loved ones to a nice meal or a day trip. Anonymous, Devon

‘Switch to a cup and saucer’

Nice cup of tea and saucer
Keep your hands busy. Photograph: Julie Anne Images/Getty Images

Make a list of jobs you procrastinate over. Whenever you have a craving, choose one of the jobs. The craving won’t last and the job will act as a distraction. Plus, you’ll have the satisfaction of having done all those jobs you’ve been putting off. A cup and saucer also help if you usually smoke while having a cuppa, as you’ll have both hands occupied. Melly, Suffolk

‘Create a record you don’t want to spoil’

I quit smoking on 19 July 2005. Note the date you give up and use it to make milestones, such as: “I gave up one week/one month/six months/one year/five years ago.” It’s so important to be able to see how far you’ve come and to celebrate your success. It also helps to create a record you don’t want to spoil. David, retired, Herefordshire

‘I decided the best way to quit was to get new teeth’

Look at your teeth. I smoked for 40 years and decided the best way to quit was to get new teeth. So, I invested £3,500 (in Budapest – it’s even more expensive in the UK) to have 26 crowns replace my smoke-inflicted teeth. I haven’t smoked in the four years since and my teeth look amazing. Pete, hospitality worker, Leith

‘I took up painting pebbles’

Red sailing boat painted on a pebble
‘It proved to be very therapeutic.’ Photograph: Savo Ilic/Alamy

After decades of unsuccessful attempts at quitting my smoking habit of up to 20 a day, I took up painting pebbles. The idea was that, if I had a paint brush in my hand, I couldn’t hold a cigarette. It proved to be phenomenally successful and very therapeutic. It took about three days for the nicotine cravings to subside and I haven’t smoked a single cigarette in more than three years. I treat myself often with the money I save from not buying cigarettes – and my painting hobby has progressed to painting on canvas, too. Elaine, retired, Greece

‘Make a pact with a friend to quit together’

Check that there are no forgotten packs stashed away in your home or your car and think about what you will be able to do or enjoy when you have quit. For me, it was walking up Jacob’s Ladder in Derbyshire without stopping for breath every 10 steps. Then, make a pact with a friend to quit together and set a date that is non-negotiable. Also, use an app that counts your unsmoked cigarettes and calculates your savings. Anonymous, Germany