Stages of Change to Become Smoke-Free 

Research into behavioral change shows people go through five stages of change as they move from smoking to non-smoking. The length of time at each stage depends on the individuals themselves as they deal with the different issues related to their smoking behavior. Smokers may cycle through these stages a number of times before they are able to maintain their goal of being smoke free. That is why every quit attempt is a positive step. 

The five stages a smoker goes through are characterized as follows:

1. Smokers with no thought of quitting -- A 1998 Angus Reid survey indicates 50 per cent of all smokers surveyed were not interested in quitting and were not open to any kind of intervention. By October 1999, a new Angus Reid survey showed 1.6 million Canadians said they were planning to quit smoking in the year 2000. 

2. Smokers thinking about quitting - At this stage you begin to think you should quit within the next six months or so. You recognize the negative aspects of smoking and see your smoking as problem, but you may not be convinced the long-term benefits of being smoke free outweigh the short-term costs of trying to quit. You are in the contemplation stage.

3. Smokers getting ready to quit - Now you are preparing to quit. You may have already tried for a 24-hour period and are using what you learned from that attempt to begin taking small cessation steps - delaying the first cigarette of the day or trying to skip or delay others. You are ready to try again in the next few weeks and you make statements such as "I've got to do something about this," or "Something has got to change."

4. Quitting smoking - You are actively trying to quit by taking steps to change behaviors using a variety of techniques. You are open to help and mentally develop plans to deal with personal and external pressures that may lead to slips. This is a very vulnerable time and people in the action stage are the greatest risk of relapse. Relapse is a normal occurrence along the way. The majority of people who successfully quit do not follow a straight path; rather they cycle through the five stages several times before reaching maintenance. 

5. Becoming and remaining smoke free - As a smoker in maintenance you have learned, often through slips, to anticipate the situations where a relapse can occur. You have developed new ways of coping. If you do slip in this stage you don't see yourself as having failed. You recognize it often takes a while to let go of old behavior problems and adopt new ones and you develop a stronger sense of self control and the ability to get back on track.