Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center - Health Library

Control the Craving to Smoke

clenchedhands You are trying to quit smoking, but you are not quite there yet. Some days you do well, while other days the craving to reach for a cigarette is overwhelming. You can take control of your cravings no matter where you are or what situation you happen to be in. Here are some tips.

Ways 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 develop a plan to combat them. 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 finishing 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.Limit your reliance on sweet snacks and desserts. They are fine in moderation, but overdoing the sweets can lead to weight gain, especially if you're not exercising.

Situation 2

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

Control the Craving

The good news is that smoking is banned in most bars and restaurants. But if not, then the next time you are out drinking, ask the bartender for nuts, chips, or something else to snack on. If snacks are not available, then chew on a straw or cocktail stick. It may look funny to your friends, but you will be healthier for it. In addition, drinking water may help those cravings pass by faster.

If you are not ready to be out with your friends in that environment, consider making alternative plans until you feel more confident.

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. Telephone a friend.
  • Keep your body busy. Go for a walk. Work out at the gym. Play with your kids. Find ways to stay physically active. Not only may it keep your boredom and cigarettes at bay, it is a good part of a healthy lifestyle.
  • If you are stressed, try 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 just want something in your hands or mouth.

Control the Craving

To satisfy this, do not reach for a cigarette. Reach for something in your “survival kit.” Pack a small bag or box of items and keep it near you so that the next time your hands want to reach for a cigarette, they can reach for 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

Realize that the road to quitting will have its ups and downs. But it is important to remain confident and to keep believing that you can and will quit. Having a plan of attack for when you feel like smoking will help you overcome the hurdles and make the road to quitting smoother.

Situation 5

You want a cigarette after sex.

It may look glamourous in the movies, but smoking also has a negative impact on your sexual health. Smoking decreases your sex drive and stamina. If you and your partner are trying to conceive, smoking can contribute 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 reach for a non-alcoholic drink. The urge will pass before you know it.

RESOURCES:

American Lung Association
http://www.lung.org

Smoke Free
https://www.smokefree.gov

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

Canadian Cancer Society
http://www.cancer.ca

Health Canada
http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca

REFERENCES:

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. Accessed April 18, 2017.

Clearing the air. Quit smoking today. National Cancer Institute website. Available at:https://smokefree.gov/sites/default/files/pdf/clearing-the-air-accessible.pdf. Accessed April 18, 2017.

How to quit smoking: a guide to quitting and kicking the habit for good. Help Guide website. Available at: https://www.helpguide.org/articles/addiction/how-to-quit-smoking.htm. Updated April 2017. Accessed April 18, 2017.

Managing cravings: when you really crave a cigarette. Smoke Free website. Available at: http://smokefree.gov/cravings. Accessed April 18, 2017.

Last reviewed April 2017 by Michael Woods, MD, FAAP  Last Updated: 4/18/2017