Where can I find support if I’m trying to quit smoking?

Photo of a man with a laptop

It is really hard to quit smoking. One reason is that the nicotine in tobacco is so addictive. You might need to make a few attempts before you succeed. Preparation, self-help materials, programs and courses can help.

Most smokers who try to quit do so without seeking help. They want to succeed through sheer willpower. And most of them manage to quit at some point. Accepting help isn’t a sign of weakness, though. Quitting smoking is always a remarkable achievement, regardless of how you do it. And making use of effective types of support has been proven to increase your chances of success. Much of this support is available free of charge.

Good to know:

Options like telephone support or courses can help you to quit. Your odds of succeeding increase if you combine them with medication or nicotine replacement therapy.

What can motivate you to quit smoking?

Personal motivation is a key factor in the decision to quit smoking and stick to it. Smokers have a lot of different reasons for quitting smoking. The fear of becoming seriously ill from smoking is usually the number one factor. Wanting to be more physically fit and look healthier is another common reason.

Some would like to quit because they don't want to be dependent on an addictive substance and see the habit as a personal weakness. Anyone who starts feeling restless and nervous without their cigarettes knows how unpleasant nicotine cravings can be.

Others are motivated by their family: They want to quit to avoid harming the health of their family members, or because they want to be a role model to their children or grandchildren.

How you feel about quitting is important too: Someone who finds it liberating because they can now get by without cigarettes will have an easier time than someone who sees it as having to give something up.

Some reasons are more practical – for example, nowadays smoking involves having to go outside. Last but not least, quitting can help you save money!

How can you prepare to quit smoking?

Once you have made the decision to quit, it is a good idea to carefully prepare. This can help you to resist temptation. You might want to try

  • making use of advice or support early on: in the form of telephone support, courses for quitting smoking or self-help materials
  • setting a date to stop smoking: A good time is one to two weeks after making the decision. This allows enough time to get used to the idea of quitting smoking.
  • telling family, friends or coworkers about your decision: Then they'll probably be more understanding if they notice that you're more irritable than usual or don’t join them for a cigarette break. If others know about your plans, that may help you stick to them. Plus, you will no longer be offered any cigarettes.
  • getting rid of all of your cigarettes: It's advisable to get rid of all of the cigarettes you have at home, at work, or lying around in your office or car. Keeping "emergency" cigarettes on hand isn’t a very good idea because easy access to cigarettes increases the odds that you will smoke them.
  • setting milestones and rewarding yourself: If you've managed to – for instance – go one month without smoking, you could treat yourself to something nice, like going out to eat or buying new clothes.
  • thinking up strategies to overcome obstacles: for example, when coping with withdrawal symptoms or with typical situations when you would have smoked.

It can also be helpful to learn from failed attempts: Why didn't my last attempt work? What else can I try to help me quit for good this time?

What can you do when you feel the urge to smoke?

When you start quitting, you will soon feel the urge to have a cigarette. This is because your body doesn’t get its usual dose of nicotine, and it’s also hard to break habits like smoking. A number of things can help you cope better, including the following:

  • Be aware that the urge will pass.
  • Find another activity to occupy yourself, like chewing gum.
  • Avoid situations where you would usually have smoked – or make a conscious effort to do something else in those situations.
  • Realize that quitting doesn't mean you're missing out on something, but that you're now free.

Some people also try sports or relaxation techniques. Even though the research so far hasn’t shown that they increase the odds of quitting, these things can help to distract or calm you, and can help prevent possible weight gain.

What types of support are available?

Many people seek support once they have made the decision to quit smoking. Their family doctor is often their first stop, and can answer questions about quitting. Other possible sources of support include the following:

Online or telephone support

In Germany, the Federal Centre for Health Education (BZgA) offers a free online program designed to make it easier to quit. There you can find out things like what can help you to stay away from cigarettes once you have quit. They also offer help over the telephone free of charge. To enhance your motivation and support, you can request that an advisor call you back several times. Information on these offers is also available at www.rauchfrei-info.de.

Self-help materials

Free (German-language) self-help materials designed to help people quit smoking are available from BZgA. They include things like information leaflets with tips and tricks, and a motivational calendar. You can order these materials from their website www.rauchfrei-info.de.

Courses to help people quit smoking

Group courses for people who want to quit smoking are another option. In cooperation with BZgA, the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ) has created a database that you can search to find these sorts of courses near you. It is available at www.anbieter-raucherberatung.de (in German). Some health insurers cover part of the costs of these courses.

Apps to help you quit

Certified apps are another option to get support for quitting smoking. In Germany, health insurers cover the costs if they are prescribed by a doctor or a psychotherapist. If you have been diagnosed with tobacco dependency, you can apply directly to your insurer to use one of these apps. Their effectiveness is still being tested.

Other options for advice

Company doctors, company addiction centers and local health offices offer advice on options for quitting smoking. The German Center for Addiction Issues (DHS) has an online portal (in German) for finding where you can turn to.

Behavioral therapy

Psychological treatment (behavioral therapy) is also an option for severe tobacco dependency or if other treatments haven’t worked. This can take the form of group or individual sessions. Your insurer is the best place to go to find out whether they will cover the costs of the therapy.

Batra A, Kiefer F, Andreas S et al. S3-Leitlinie „Rauchen und Tabakabhängigkeit: Screening, Diagnostik und Behandlung“. AWMF-Registernr.: 076-006. 2021.

Cahill K, Lindson-Hawley N, Thomas KH et al. Nicotine receptor partial agonists for smoking cessation. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2016; (5): CD006103.

Edwards SA, Bondy SJ, Callaghan RC et al. Prevalence of unassisted quit attempts in population-based studies: a systematic review of the literature. Addict Behav 2014; 39(3): 512-519.

Hartmann-Boyce J, Chepkin SC, Ye W et al. Nicotine replacement therapy versus control for smoking cessation. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2018; (5): CD000146.

Howes S, Hartmann-Boyce J, Livingstone-Banks J et al. Antidepressants for smoking cessation. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2020; (4): CD000031.

Smith AL, Carter SM, Dunlop SM et al. The views and experiences of smokers who quit smoking unassisted. A systematic review of the qualitative evidence. PLoS One 2015; 10(5): e0127144.

Ussher MH, Faulkner GE, Angus K et al. Exercise interventions for smoking cessation. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2019; (10): CD002295.

IQWiG health information is written with the aim of helping people understand the advantages and disadvantages of the main treatment options and health care services.

Because IQWiG is a German institute, some of the information provided here is specific to the German health care system. The suitability of any of the described options in an individual case can be determined by talking to a doctor. informedhealth.org can provide support for talks with doctors and other medical professionals, but cannot replace them. We do not offer individual consultations.

Our information is based on the results of good-quality studies. It is written by a team of health care professionals, scientists and editors, and reviewed by external experts. You can find a detailed description of how our health information is produced and updated in our methods.

Comment on this page

What would you like to share with us?

We welcome any feedback and ideas - either via our form or by gi-kontakt@iqwig.de. We will review, but not publish, your ratings and comments. Your information will of course be treated confidentially. Fields marked with an asterisk (*) are required fields.

Please note that we do not provide individual advice on matters of health. You can read about where to find help and support in Germany in our information “How can I find self-help groups and information centers?

Über diese Seite

Updated on September 7, 2022

Next planned update: 2025


Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG, Germany)

How we keep you informed

Follow us on Twitter or subscribe to our newsletter or newsfeed. You can find all of our films online on YouTube.