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Control the Craving to Smoke

clenchedhands You are trying to quit smoking, but you are not quite there yet. Some days you do well, but other days the cravings are overwhelming. You can take control of them no matter where you are or what situation you happen to be in.

Ways to Control Cravings

Here are some tips to control cravings:

Smoking Situations

It is important to know what situations trigger your urge to smoke. Keep a journal of these situations. Is it when you are out with friends? When you are stressed? After a meal? Once you know the triggers, you can make a plan. Here are some common situations that may trigger an urge to smoke and ways to control it:

Situation 1

You feel like lighting up a cigarette after eating a nice meal.

Control the Craving

Instead of ending your meal with a smoke, have something sweet instead. Treat yourself to a healthy dessert, like fruit, a piece of chocolate, or a stick of sugarless gum.Do not lean on sweet snacks and desserts too much. They are fine in small amounts, but too much can lead to weight gain.

Situation 2

You are out drinking with friends and want a cigarette to go with your drink.

Control the Craving

The good news is that smoking is banned in most bars and restaurants. If the one you are in is not smoke free, then ask the bartender for nuts, chips, or something else to snack on. You can also chew on a straw or cocktail stick. It may look funny to your friends, but you will be healthier for it. Drinking water may help those cravings pass by faster.

If you are not ready to be out with your friends in that environment, think about making other plans until you feel more better able to handle it.

Situation 3

You are bored, lonely, or stressed.

Control the Craving

  • Keep your mind busy. Read a book or magazine. Listen to music. Do a crossword puzzle. Call a friend.
  • Keep your body busy. Go for a walk. Work out at the gym. Play with your kids. Find ways to stay active. It will keep your boredom away and it is a good part of a healthy lifestyle.
  • Find ways to relax. Try meditating or taking slow, deep breaths. Or maybe what relaxes you is taking a nice, warm shower or going to a movie. The idea is to find ways, other than lighting a cigarette, to calm you.

Situation 4

You want something in your hands or mouth.

Control the Craving

Reach for something other than a cigarette. Pack a small survival kit of items and keep it near you. The next time your hands want a cigarette, you can have these instead:

  • Carrot or celery sticks
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Sugarless gum or candy
  • Mints
  • Toothpicks
  • Straws
  • A ball to squeeze
  • Rubber bands
  • Paper clips
  • A pencil

Situation 5

You want a cigarette after sex.

It may look glamourous in the movies, but smoking also has a negative impact on your sex life. It lowers your sex drive and stamina. It can lead to infertility. It also contributes to erectile dysfunction in men. If you want to boost your love life, snuff out the smokes.

Control the Craving

You have to treat this like your other triggers. Recognize it as a time that you want to smoke and distract yourself with something else. Chew gum, get up and walk around, or drink a glass of water. The urge will pass before you know it.


American Lung Association

Smoke Free


Canadian Cancer Society

The Lung Association


Become smoke-free: healthy me, healthy baby. Kaiser Permanente website. Available at: https://mydoctor.kaiserpermanente.org/ncal/Images/Becoming%20Smokefree%20Tipsheet%206-09_tcm75-180873.pdf. Published 2009. Accessed April 23, 2020.

Clearing the air. Quit smoking today. National Cancer Institute website. Available at: https://smokefree.gov/sites/default/files/pdf/clearing-the-air-accessible.pdf. Published October 2008. Accessed April 23, 2020.

How to manage cravings: when you really crave a cigarette. Smoke Free website. Available at: http://smokefree.gov/cravings. Accessed April 23, 2020.

Last reviewed April 2017 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Michael Woods, MD, FAAP  Last Updated: 4/23/2020