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Real Stories of People Who Quit Smoking and How They Did It

Withdrawal symptoms after you quit smoking are normal. Traditional remedies and lifestyle modifications can help you cope.

A “No Smoking” signage on both sides of a black-coloured pillar outdoors

Are you looking to quit smoking? Kudos! Quitting smoking is associated with numerous health benefits, such as a reduced risk of premature death or adverse health conditions. These include cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and cardiovascular diseases

In addition, it may add as many as ten years to your life expectancy and ease the financial burden placed on your wallet. To give you motivation and help validate your intention, here are two first-hand accounts of people who successfully kicked the habit for good. 

“I Made a Vow to Quit Smoking If I Got Pregnant” – Racheal, 31 

Mother-of-two and entrepreneur Racheal promised to do away with cigarettes if she ever got pregnant. When she got pregnant with her firstborn, she immediately threw out her box of cigarettes and quit cold turkey. She was lucky, though, as she only experienced a constant hunger but no other major withdrawal symptoms. 

However, within two years after her first pregnancy, she relapsed. “It was one of the most confusing times in my life. I smoked even more than usual and thoroughly enjoyed the rush every puff gave me. But I was also troubled, as I had a growing toddler who was almost always near me. This meant that I needed to frequently wash my hands and change my clothes before I could attend to or spend time with him,” explains Racheal. 

Concerned about the damaging effects of second-hand smoke on her child’s health, she decided to quit smoking a second time. Soon after, she found out she was pregnant with her secondborn. The news motivated her to stay smoke-free even more. 

To this day, Racheal does get the occasional urge to smoke. A cup of coffee or distracting herself with house chores have been her go-to whenever the thought of relapsing comes to mind. 

“COVID-19 Was the Reason I Quit Smoking for Good” – Nicole, 37 

As a teenager, Nicole never entertained the idea of smoking. However, her desire to try cigarettes got the better of her when she turned 20. What started as a few puffs soon became a habit and led her to smoke a minimum of one and a half boxes daily. 

Weeks turned into months, and months turned into years. Before she knew it, she had been smoking for over a decade. That was until she tested positive for COVID-19 a few months ago.

Coupled with the damage done to her lungs, Nicole struggled to breathe properly throughout the recovery period. “For the first time in forever, I genuinely feared for my life. I remember being breathless for a few hours on different days during my quarantine. That was when I decided to quit the habit for good,” recalls Nicole. 

Thankfully, she managed to recover fully from the COVID-19 infection. She has also successfully quit smoking without experiencing any withdrawal symptoms. On days that she gets the urge to smoke, she uses physical activity to prevent her from relapsing.

The Harmful Effects of Smoking According to Traditional Chinese Medicine

Woman coughing while standing on an overhead bridge
Chronic coughing will occur in people who smoke.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), the Lungs are an integral component of the respiratory system. It helps distribute fluid throughout the body, promotes sweating, and maintains skin health.

“Out of all the organs in the Five Organs system, the Lungs are the most delicate. The heat from smoking burns a person’s Lungs, causing a loss of fluids. Hence, they may experience chronic coughs and dull and dry skin. They’ll also develop grey- or black-coloured phlegm. Over time, Lung damage can increase the risk of illnesses like bronchitis, tuberculosis, pneumonia, and lung cancer,” explains Eu Yan Sang Physician Jolene Chong.

The Five Organs are also related; Lung damage can also harm the Heart, Spleen, Liver, and Kidneys.

The Lungs aid the Heart in supplying oxygenated blood throughout the body. Smoking reduces the quantity of blood and fluids, thus decreasing oxygen supply. As a result, a person may experience chest pain, discomfort and tightness, palpitations, shortness of breath, and insomnia.

Poor blood and qi circulation will affect the Spleen, Liver, and Kidneys. It’ll see a person developing issues like bad breath, infertility, lethargy, shorter memory capacity, and slower processing ability.

Spleen and Stomach yin imbalances can make a person constipated and frequently thirsty. It can also dull their sense of taste.

A Kidney yin imbalance can provoke the onset of symptoms like insomnia, dizziness, forgetfulness, headaches, and nightmares. They may also struggle with lower back pain, hot flushes, night sweats, leg weakness, and a ringing in the ears (tinnitus). 

Ways to Help a Person Cope with Withdrawal Symptoms When They Quit Smoking 

It’s normal to develop a craving for nicotine after quitting smoking. In addition, your mood may change, and your heart rate and blood pressure will go up. 

Physical activity can help you become less irritable and reduce your risk of developing anxiety or depression. It’s also advisable to limit caffeine intake. Meditation and relaxation techniques such as a hot bath, deep breathing, or massages can also help. 

TCM can help suppress nicotine cravings through herbal prescriptions, acupuncture, and auricular acupuncture. “Herbal formulas can be customised to tackle your specific withdrawal symptoms. Acupuncture calms a person’s mind and spirit. Auricular acupuncture provides a distraction whenever you experience a craving,” says Physician Chong.

She adds, “These methods have worked well for a 35-year-old woman and 42-year-old man. The former preferred acupuncture treatment. The latter used all three methods to reduce the number of cigarettes he smoked and eventually quit the habit for good after eight weeks.” 

Herbs like Bupleurum (chai hu, 柴胡), Paeonia lactiflora (bai shao, 白芍), Acacia bark (he huan pi, 合欢皮), and lily bulbs (bai he, 百合) can be used to regulate emotions, soothe the Liver, and calm the Heart, mind, and spirit.

Self-stimulation of acupuncture points like jie yan (戒烟), he gu (LI4, 合谷), feng long (ST40, 丰隆), chi ze (LI5, 尺泽) and shen men (HT7, 神门) can help alleviate cravings

These inspiring stories prove that it’s possible to quit smoking. Healthy habits can help keep nicotine cravings and other withdrawal symptoms at bay. Herbs and acupuncture may also be used to the same effect. Speak to a TCM practitioner beforehand to ensure the safety of use.


  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Benefits of Quitting. [online] [Accessed 30 August 2022]
  2. NATIONAL CANCER INSTITUTE. Handling Nicotine Withdrawal and Triggers When You Decide To Quit Tobacco. [online] [Accessed 30 August 2022]

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