Everyone knows smoking is bad for you—and yet, many of us still struggle to stop. Whether you’re a social smoker who only bums a cigarette from friends when you’re at the bar or you’ve had a pack-a-day habit for years, nicotine is not your friend: The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that tobacco use causes more than seven million deaths worldwide every year, and notes that “on average, smokers die 10 years earlier than nonsmokers.”
“There is no one technique or trick that a tobacco user can turn to that provides durable success in quitting,” David S. Utley, MD, founder and CEO of Pivot, tells Best Life. “Tobacco users say that their top reasons for smoking are to calm down, alleviate stress, cope with work, and deal with anxiety. Nicotine provides a brief respite—positive reinforcement—followed by a vicious cycle of withdrawal: anxiety, fear, and a need for the next cigarette.”
If you’re trying to kick the habit for good, perhaps you can take some inspiration from celebrities who’ve successfully said “so long” to cigarettes. Read on to find out how stars from Brad Pitt to Gisele Bündchen did it. (Maybe you’ll even be motivated to toss out that emergency pack you’ve got stashed in the back of your junk drawer!)
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Back in 2020, the singer and star of A Star is Born revealed that she’d finally managed to end her nicotine addiction—but it wasn’t easy.
“I completely quit—I quit cold turkey,” Lady Gaga said in an interview with Apple Music, via People. “But it was so hard. If you don’t smoke, don’t smoke! Because quitting is worse. It is so brutal. And I will never smoke again because I think I saw Jesus for an entire week. It was so awful.”
Just how much was she smoking when she put down the pack for good? “I’d smoke 40 cigarettes all day long,” the fashion icon confessed.
Want to try an easier route to quitting? “Nicotine replacement therapy (gum, patch, lozenge) used in conjunction with a behavioral support program (coaching, community, stress management) can increase your likelihood of a successful quit by two-fold,” says Utley.
Paul Rudd, everyone’s favorite actor who never seems to age, went with a gentler method than the cold turkey approach when he kicked his 13-year-long tobacco addiction.
Rudd has called the Kerry Gaynor hypnotherapy program “the closest thing to a magic pill” there is for quitting smoking, and credits Gaynor with helping him finally ditch cigarettes for good. “It has been easy,” Rudd said via a YouTube advertisement for the program.
However, “I advise tobacco users to not look for a quick fix or a magic pill … They don’t exist,” cautions Utley. “It’s a lifelong addiction with behavioral and physiological components.”
Despite famously telling Chelsea Handler that “one cigarette every once in a while is not going to kill you” in 2014, the Charlie’s Angels star did, in fact, quit smoking in 2003—and said it was the weight of parental guilt that did the trick.
“I gave up because my parents were upset that I was smoking so much and I was setting a bad example,” Cameron Diaz said, via Glamour. “It preyed on my conscience.”
After reportedly smoking a pack a day for years, the actor is now smoke-free. “I was into roll-your-own, and I was killing myself,” she confessed.
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Even the President of the United States is not immune from the grip of nicotine addiction. Everyday Health reports that Barack Obama started smoking as a teenager, and continued to light up throughout his presidential campaign and into the beginning of his first term in the White House. However, by 2011, he’d sworn off smoking—as noted in his annual physician’s report.
Like Diaz, it seems that family pressure helped him stub out his habit. “I’m scared of my wife,” he joked, according to NBC News. It wasn’t just that, though: He also chewed nicotine gum to take the edge off his cravings, Everyday Health notes.
Kelly Ripa, who stopped drinking alcohol in 2019, had conquered her smoking habit years before she put down the bottle. In 2007, the soap star-turned-talk show host told David Letterman that although she’d stopped smoking for six years when she was pregnant with her first child, she started again after her show Hope and Faith got bad reviews.
“I picked up a cigarette and I took a puff. And before I knew it, I was a closet smoker,” she confessed.
For Ripa, the key to quitting was a combination of getting into shape—she hired a trainer—and taking the anti-depressant Wellbutrin for three weeks. “I was desperate and I really didn’t want to die of lung cancer,” she told Letterman.
Speaking with People in 2007, the Mad Men star acknowledged that smoking has a certain allure, but pointed out that it has its drawbacks, as well. “It’s glamorous on film, but it’s not glamorous waking up and smelling like an ashtray,” he said, adding that “I quit smoking when I was 24.”
Of course, on the 1960s-set show, “everybody smokes—everywhere,” Hamm told the outlet. However, the actors didn’t smoke actual tobacco. “There’s no nicotine in what we’re smoking,” he explained. “It’s herbal. The taste is a cross between lawn clippings, mint, and pot.”
The daughter of Bruce Willis and Demi Moore, Rumer Willis is an actor and singer in her own right. She told SheKnows that she started smoking as a teenager, along with her friends. “We just thought we were so cool,” she told the site. After quitting for a few years in her early twenties, Willis said she started again “for a year or two” before attempting to become a “casual smoker, which never works for anyone.”
Utley concurs: “Tobacco use and nicotine addiction create a slippery slope,” he says. “No amount of tobacco use is safe. Like other addictions, social tobacco use commonly leads to more regular use.”
It was during the pandemic that Willis finally put the habit behind her, thanks in part to using nicotine gum—and in part to taking a hard look at the real reason she was smoking.
“There’s such an emotional component to it,” she said. “I think it’s important to kind of take a pause in that moment and go, all right, ‘why am I really wanting a cigarette? What am I trying to avoid?’ … Say to yourself, ‘I’m going to take five minutes and if I still want it, I can reconsider then.’ And then after that five minutes, I’ll just keep trying five more minutes, five minutes at a time.”
Former royal and rabble-rouser Prince Harry reportedly stopped smoking before tying the knot with Meghan Markle, and insiders credit her with encouraging him to kick the habit. “Harry has lost weight, started a healthier diet, and even gave up smoking cigarettes,” an anonymous source told People in 2018. “They both felt amazing leading up to the wedding. And he couldn’t have done it without her support.”
While there’s no word on the exact method Harry used to stop smoking, Markle is known to be a yoga enthusiast, and both are big fans of therapy, so we can only assume those practices may have helped.
“There is a role for mindfulness, yoga, and distraction techniques … but not as a magic pill or stand-alone approach,” says Utley, who says that “chewing on a Twizzler or carrot to crush a craving, for example, is a good strategy.”
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Friends star Jennifer Aniston credits yoga with helping her overcome her chain-smoking habit, Glamour reported in 2014. The outlet explained that the actor wrote about how yoga helped her quit smoking in an intro to the book Yogalosophy, by her yoga teacher Mandy Ingber, and noted that she also gave up caffeine in the process of getting healthy.
Quitting wasn’t without its drawbacks, however. “I recently quit smoking, and you do put on some extra pounds,” she told GQ in 2012. “It makes a difference, especially if you’re not 20.”
Aniston’s ex, Brad Pitt, has also struggled with a nicotine addiction—and told GQ in June 2022 that going cold turkey was the only thing that worked for him (although according to the magazine, he’s also a fan of nicotine mints).
“I don’t have that ability to do just one or two a day. It’s not in my makeup. I’m all in. And I’m going to drive into the ground. I’ve lost my privileges,” he said about smoking.
“Quitting tobacco should be addressed as a long-term, lifetime goal,” says Utley, who recommends a program that includes “a tobacco-trained coach, FDA-approved pharmacotherapy (nicotine replacement), a supportive community, interactive behavioral change content (cognitive behavioral therapy), and a medical device like Pivot’s sensor that … helps a user develop motivation to quit.”
The supermodel might be known as a beacon of healthy living now, but back in the day, Gisele Bündchen smoked “a pack and a half of cigarettes a day,” she confessed to Harper’s Bazaar in 2009.
She didn’t elaborate on how she quit, but admitted that she gained 15 pounds in the process—even though she was “drinking a lot of red wine … and eating cheeseburgers all day” during her days as a smoker. “I was treating my body, which is my temple and my best friend, as my worst enemy,” she said, explaining that she had no regrets about the weight gain.