Health Information and Tools > Health A-Z >  Quitting Smoking: Lowering your health risk when you don’t want to quit

Main Content

Quitting Smoking

Lowering your health risk when you don’t want to quit

​​​ If you smoke, you may have had these thoughts:

  • “I don’t want to quit smoking.”
  • “I love smoking.”
  • “I’ve tried to quit and it’s too hard.”
  • “I know people who’ve smoked and lived to their 90s.”

Even if you don’t want to quit smoking, there are ways to lower your health risk without quitting smoking completely. 

You do this by having less contact with the harmful chemicals that are in commercial tobacco and in the smoke itself.

Lowering your health risk can help you feel more in control of your smoking and more confident that you can make change or stop smoking later.​

Research has looked at 2 main ways to lower the health risks from smoking: smoking less and switching to a product with a lower risk.

Smoking less

There is evidence that smoking less can lower the health risks from smoking, but we don’t know by how much. 

To smoke fewer cigarettes or other tobacco products, start by keeping track of how many you smoke and when you smoke them. Then you can try these ideas to smoke less:
  • ​Choose a few cigarettes (or other tobacco products) a day to give up. For example, you could give up the ones you smoke in the car on your way to work.
  • Slowly add more time between smoking cigarettes.
  • Smoke only during odd or even hours.
  • Limit your smoking to certain places. For example, smoke only outside, but not at work or in the car.
  • Wait as late in the day as you can before you smoke.

Smoking less doesn’t lower your risk of heart disease for each cigarette you give up. For example, if you smoke 1 cigarette a day, you have about half the risk of heart disease than if you smoke 20 cigarettes a day.

When you smoke fewer cigarettes, you may take longer, deeper puffs. But smoking this way doesn’t lower the health risk, even if you smoke fewer cigarettes.

Many people find it hard to smoke less without getting nicotine from something else. If this is you, you could try switching to a lower-risk product instead.

Switching to a lower-risk product

You may want to try replacing all or some of your cigarettes with a product that has a lower health risk than smoking:

  • Nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) products are a cleaner source of nicotine that can be switched out for some cigarettes. Research shows NRT can help you to smoke half the number of cigarettes you normally would. Examples of NRT include gum, lozenges, and an oral pouch.
  • Non-smoked tobacco products still have health risks, but research shows they can help people smoke fewer cigarettes. Examples of non-smoked tobacco products are snus, chewing tobacco, heated tobacco products, synthetic nicotine products, and vaping products​.

Health effects

Smoking less and using NRT means you have less contact with harmful chemicals. This may improve your health by:

  • lowering your risk of heart disease
  • making your blood-toxin levels healthier (more like those of people who do not smoke)
  • helping your lungs to work better

Remember that continuing to use smoked tobacco products, even if you are using less, is still a health risk.

If you decide to quit

If you're ready to quit smoking, smokin​g less is not recommended. It may help you only for a very short time or if you're ready to quit right away.

If you’re ready to quit, find out more about quitting smoking.

Note: References to “tobacco” on this page do not include “traditional tobacco” used by First Nations and Métis groups for ceremonial purposes.

Current as of: February 8, 2024

Author: Tobacco, Vaping and Cannabis Program, Alberta Health Services