A slip is the term for having one or two cigarettes after you have quit. Most slips occur within the first 3 months after quitting smoking. A slip does not mean that you will start smoking again. However, many people do relapse after a slip, so don’t “allow” yourself a slip because you think you can stop after one cigarette.

Very often a single slip triggers negative feelings, self-criticism, and depression. This may lead to a sense that you have no control and, possibly, to more slips. Several slips in a row or facing conditions where you are seriously tempted to start smoking again, may increase the chance that you will start smoking again on a regular basis (relapse).

Cravings are the most often reported reason for starting smoking again. When you are faced with a strong temptation to smoke:

  • Recognize the many health benefits you enjoy since you quit smoking.
  • Avoid thinking that “one cigarette won’t hurt me.” It is highly unlikely that one cigarette will be enough. Usually it only “primes the pump” and makes you want more.
  • Remember how hard it was to quit, and realize that you don’t want to face that struggle again.
  • Avoiding slips is best, but if you do slip, it’s important to respond to your actions carefully. A slip is not a relapse, but if you are not prepared, it can lead to a relapse.

After a slip, consider the following:

  • Recognize the slip for what it is-a brief return to an old behavior, an action that says nothing about future behavior. You do not become a person who smokes again after one or several slips.
  • Slips are not signs of failure. Make sure that you don’t give up completely on your efforts to quit.
  • Talk with one of your support people, such as a family member, another person who has quit, or your health professional.
  • Make cigarettes hard to get. Don’t buy a pack. Don’t go places where it is easy to get one from someone else.
  • Don’t let yourself have another cigarette for at least 2 hours. Then decide if you really need it.
  • Review your smoking journal or your list of reasons to quit. Then decide to take control again. Remember past situations in which you showed strength, and see yourself as a strong, capable person who has already come far.