What is the difference between a ‘Slip’ and a ‘Relapse’?

Arjun Kumar

August 20, 2020

It is possible that you will smoke after quitting. A slip (lapse) is common, especially if we’ve been smoking many years of our life, so it’s important to not beat yourself up about it or feel like a failure, but to know the difference between a slip and relapse is important and helpful in being prepared for it.


Slip: Having a puff, smoking one or more cigarettes for 1 day but quickly getting back on track. It may look like this to you:

  • You feel bad & frustrated with yourself about it, and look at what went wrong in your plan to quit
  • Learning what triggered the slip, you may say to yourself something like, “being around smokers is really hard. I better think of a new way to deal with this.”
  • You continue the journey, with a new experience & better understanding


Relapse: Smoking for 2 or more DAYS in a row, eventually going back to smoking in some regular way. It may follow this pattern:

  • You are triggered to take a puff or smoke a cigarette.
  • Immediately, you feel bad about it and blame yourself.
  • Judging yourself, you say to yourself something like, “I smoked because I can’t quit.”
  • You give up on giving up.


Slips do not have to turn into a relapse, in fact they can provide a great opportunity to learn about yourself and a new trigger. At the time of the slip, it’s important to remind yourself that it’s merely a temporary setback – it’s not a failure or a reason to feel that you are back to square one, ultimately you are not a ‘smoker’again. Take some time to consider what you learned when you were not smoking.What were some of the tools and techniques that you used to stay smoke free?What triggered the slip? And what can you do differently if faced with the same situation? Just remember a slip is also not an excuse to relapse and go back to smoking regularly again.  


Quitting is a process (and rarely a perfect one), with lots of twists and turns, ups and downs – letting go of expectations of how we think it may go can enable to us to meet any challenges with an open mind.


Wherever you may be on your quit journey – considering beginning the process or have just started smoking again following a few months smoke free – get in touch with one of our Quit Coaches to see how the 28 Days unit can support you.

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