Cutting down before you quit smoking

There’s no safe level of cigarette use. Smoking even a small amount can cause damage to your body. This is why there’s very little, if any, health benefit from cutting down the number of cigarettes you smoke. Quitting smoking entirely has proven health benefits.

Cutting down can, however, be a good way to get you started on the road to stopping long-term. This is if you:

  • plan well
  • set the quit date
  • see it through to stopping and staying stopped

How to cut down smoking

Whilst it’s always best to quit smoking completely on a set date, not everyone is ready to stop straight away. Although it’s very important to set a quit date within 6 weeks (even better if earlier), you can ‘cut down to quit’ cigarettes over that period.

Try to reduce the number of cigarettes you smoke every day, every week and fortnight until your quit date.

Ways to help cut down smoking before you quit

Making the decision to gradually cut down before you set your quit date is a great step in the right direction.


  • set goals – think about reducing your cigarettes each day, each week or fortnight
  • continue to reduce the number of cigarettes you smoke as you approach your ‘quit date’
  • use nicotine replacement therapies in the cutting down phase – these help prevent you compensating for fewer cigarettes by taking more and deeper puffs
  • change your habits – go for a walk after dinner instead of having a cigarette

Now you’ve cut right down, stopping completely is just the next short step.

Problems with cutting down before you quit

Now that you’ve cut right down, stopping completely is just the next short step.

If you choose to gradually cut down the number of cigarettes you smoke each day, be careful that:

  • you don’t begin to make up for smoking fewer cigarettes by inhaling deeper and taking more puffs to get the same nicotine effect
  • it doesn’t make it harder to stop smoking completely in the long term

Sometimes cutting down can be counterproductive. It can take more commitment and discipline than stopping abruptly. You’ll still experience the same withdrawal effects. You won’t see the financial and health benefits of stopping completely.

Use our cost calculator to see the financial benefits of giving up smoking entirely.

If you still don’t feel ready to quit entirely, you could also consider alternatives to smoking. You could switch to an e-cigarette which cuts down your risk of harm.

Quit Your Way Scotland

Quit Your Way Scotland can offer advice and support if you’re looking to cut down gradually before quitting.

Last updated:
19 December 2022

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