0800 840 1628 • Monday - Friday 9am - 6:30pm

Contact Us

What to do if you have a smoking relapse

If you are a former smoker, particularly one who smoked for many years, you’ll know just how hard it is to kick the habit. Perhaps you are someone who is in the process of trying to quit and you’re finding it particularly challenging. A lot of people struggle to give up entirely on their first attempt, with many relapsing a few times before quitting for good. In this article, we will explore triggers that might lead to a relapse and what you can do to avoid them in the future. We’ll also look at resources out there that can help you with your cessation journey.

The statistics

While smoking is nowhere near as prevalent as it was ten or twenty years ago, there were still six million people in England during 2019 who were smokers according to Gov.uk, which equates to 13.9% of the adult population. It remains the top preventable cause of illness and premature death, and killed almost 75,000 people in England in 2019. As well as lung cancer, smoking causes a number of other conditions such as:

  • Respiratory and cardiovascular disease
  • A number of different cancers including bladder, stomach, liver and mouth cancer
  • Low fertility
  • Increased risk of osteoporosis

As well as this, smokers are exposing everyone around them to their secondhand smoke which is dangerous for everyone - particularly children who are especially vulnerable due to their developing immune systems.

What happens if you have a smoking relapse?

If you have relapsed, you may be feeling deflated, demotivated and like you’ve let yourself down. You may also be thinking ‘it’s too hard / I can’t do this’, but the important thing to remember is that you’re still able to control what you do next and use the relapse to reaffirm your quest to quit for good. One relapse doesn’t have to lead to another. Take the following into consideration when starting you cessation again:

  • What worked for you last time?
  • What did you find difficult?
  • What situations tripped you up?
  • What made you give up quitting?

Remember there's no need to beat yourself up. A relapse is nothing more than a setback- it is not a sign of failure. Stay positive and believe you will be stronger next time because you recognise the triggers. To put it simply, don’t give up on giving up.

What are the reasons for a smoking relapse?

Recognising reasons for relapsing (also known as triggers) plays a huge part in preventing a future relapse. Some you may be able to foresee, but others will catch you by surprise and have you reaching for a cigarette. The key thing is to make yourself aware of these triggers wherever possible and take steps to avoid them. We’ve listed some of the common triggers below:

  • Dealing with a stressful situation
  • Undertaking an activity or routine where smoking traditionally played a key part
  • While drinking alcohol
  • Being around other smokers, particularly in a social setting
  • Tired or unable to sleep
  • Loney, nervous or bored

Ultimately, smoking is a habit-forming addiction and finding a way to break the habit while dealing with cravings and withdrawal symptoms is an ongoing process. For some, the cravings will eventually go away completely, but for others it may take years. With any addiction, it’s about finding the right support for you.

How to prevent a smoking relapse

Smokers will all have their own individual triggers too which are unique to them. Once you have successfully identified your own triggers, you can begin to implement methods to deal with them.

  1. Let your friends, family and colleagues know you’ve quit - the bigger your support network, the more likely you are not to fall back into old smoking habits. Fellow smokers will also be less likely to smoke when you’re around and put temptation in your way.
  2. Avoid social environments where cigarettes might be easily accessible. Fortunately, almost all venues such as pubs and clubs are fully non-smoking, but many do have smoking shelters and beer gardens. If you’re breathing in anything other than fresh air while outdoors, head back inside!
  3. If you still have cigarettes left over in the packet, cut them up and throw them in the bin. Don’t be tempted to ‘finish the pack off’.
  4. If your cravings are particularly strong, seek a distraction. Try going for a walk or calling a friend and let them know you’re struggling - they will want to help.
  5. Explore different stop smoking treatments such as nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) until you find the right one for you. The NHS has useful guidance on the different treatments available.

How LiveWell Dorset can help

If you are finding it difficult to stub out those cigarettes for good, the great news is there are many resources out there to help you on your journey to a smoke-free life. We have helped many people kick the habit here at LiveWell Dorset and we’re confident we can help you too! Take a look at the Stop Smoking section of our website which features plenty of useful tips, links and articles such as Stop smoking in 28 days and Want to quit? You can also try our Habit Hacker tool which has been designed by health and psychology experts to provide behaviour change techniques personalised to you.

If you live in Dorset, we have a specialist team of LiveWell coaches who will support you every step of the way, helping you identify your triggers and how you can overcome them. Register or contact us today to find out how we can help you.

Other resources

The NHS has a number of resources available, such as the free NHS Stop Smoking app which will allow you to track your progress, see how much money you’re saving (we guarantee it will be a lot!) and offer daily support. You can also use the NHS Stop Smoking service finder to help you find local support services in your area.

Cancer Research and Asthma and Lung UK also has some helpful hints and tips on how to stay off the cigs for good.

Further inspiration

If you need that little extra nudge, why not read about one of LiveWell Dorset’s success stories Hannah? She used to smoke fifteen to twenty roll-ups a day, and despite trying to quit many times, suffered a number of smoking relapses. Then she contacted us and, with the help and support of one of our fantastic coaches, was finally able to give up smoking for good.


It's lovely to have a nice long walk with my dad; to notice and to think 'thank goodness, smoking is behind me.'

View full story

How does this work?

The tailored approach LiveWell Dorset uses to come up with solutions to the things that are stopping us achieving our goals, is based upon work done by University College London developing the COM-B model of behaviour change. In this model, all behaviour is influenced by understanding a person’s capability to change, their opportunity to change and their motivation to change. By understanding which of these is the biggest barrier to change, we can tailor support accordingly. This model of behaviour change is at the centre of the support we offer, online and in person.

Your Favourites?

or register, to favourite activities that you want to try.


Is this the first time that you've used our services, or have you already registered with us? To allow us to best serve you, please confirm whether you're new to LiveWell Dorset, or if you've spoken to us before and may have an existing account.

Welcome back, it's good to hear from you again!

To speak to one of our dedicated team and get the help you require please request a call back. All call backs from this service are free of charge to both landlines and mobile.

Request a Call Back

Do you provide your consent to share your information with the LiveWell Dorset team – part of Public Health Dorset ?

When you register with LiveWell Dorset, we ask you some questions about you and your health (how much you smoke, how active you are, how much you drink and how much you weigh). We store that information and use it to shape our service offer to you – such as the advice we give or the extra services we connect you to. The only people who will see this information will be those involved in the delivery of the service and management of the data. If you would like to use extra services (such as slimming clubs and pharmacies) we have to share this information with them. For us to be able to put you in touch with these services, we must have your consent to share that information with the service (we’ll ask for that later, when if you sign up for extra services).

Before we can sign you up any further, we need to know:

  • You're happy for your personal information to be shared with LiveWell Dorset.
  • You understand what information may be shared and why, and that at times, our contact to you may be supported by technology partners, who have the same data protection standards and safeguards as we do
  • You acknowledge that you can withdraw your consent at any time by informing LiveWell Dorset.
  • You understand that if you do not give consent or withdraw consent then it could be difficult for us to connect you some of the services we offer.

If you require any more information to help you make your choice then please contact the LiveWell Dorset team on 0800 840 1628. All telephone conversations at LiveWell Dorset are recorded for quality and training purposes, and stored whilst you are registered as active within the service.

Yes I consent

Sorry we can't continue at the moment

Unfortunately we need your permission to store your personal information to help us to assess the best support we could provide or signpost you to. If at any stage you change your mind and are happy to provide your personal information please come back and visit us again.