Quitting smoking: 10 ways to resist tobacco cravings

For most people who use tobacco, tobacco cravings or smoking urges can be strong. But you can stand up against these cravings.

When you feel an urge to use tobacco, keep in mind that even though the urge may be strong, it will likely pass within 5 to 10 minutes whether or not you smoke a cigarette or take a dip of chewing tobacco. Each time you resist a tobacco craving, you're one step closer to stopping tobacco use for good.

Here are 10 ways to help you resist the urge to smoke or use tobacco when a craving strikes.

1. Try nicotine replacement therapy

Ask your health care provider about nicotine replacement therapy. The options include:

  • Prescription nicotine in a nasal spray or inhaler
  • Nicotine patches, gum and lozenges you can buy without a prescription
  • Prescription non-nicotine stop-smoking drugs such as bupropion (Aplenzin, Contrave, others) and varenicline (Chantix, Tyrvaya)

Short-acting nicotine replacement therapies — such as nicotine gum, lozenges, nasal sprays or inhalers — can help you overcome intense cravings. These short-acting therapies are usually safe to use along with long-acting nicotine patches or one of the non-nicotine stop-smoking drugs.

Electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) have had a lot of interest recently as a replacement for smoking traditional cigarettes. But e-cigarettes haven't proved to be safer or more effective than nicotine-replacement medications in helping people stop smoking.

2. Avoid triggers

Tobacco urges are likely to be strongest in the places where you smoked or chewed tobacco most often, such as at parties or bars, or at times when you were feeling stressed or sipping coffee. Find out your triggers and have a plan in place to avoid them or get through them without using tobacco.

Don't set yourself up for a smoking relapse. If you usually smoked while you talked on the phone, for instance, keep a pen and paper nearby to keep busy with doodling rather than smoking.

3. Delay

If you feel like you're going to give in to your tobacco craving, tell yourself that you must first wait 10 more minutes. Then do something to distract yourself during that time. Try going to a public smoke-free zone. These simple tricks may be enough to move you past your tobacco craving.

4. Chew on it

Give your mouth something to do to resist a tobacco craving. Chew on sugarless gum or hard candy. Or munch on raw carrots, nuts or sunflower seeds — something crunchy and tasty.

5. Don't have 'just one'

You might be tempted to have just one cigarette to satisfy a tobacco craving. But don't fool yourself into thinking that you can stop there. More often than not, having just one leads to one more. And you may end up using tobacco again.

6. Get physical

Physical activity can help distract you from tobacco cravings. Even short bursts of activity — such as running up and down the stairs a few times — can make a tobacco craving go away. Get out for a walk or jog.

If you're at home or in the office, try squats, deep knee bends, pushups, running in place, or walking up and down a set of stairs. If you don't like physical activity, try prayer, sewing, woodwork or writing in a journal. Or do chores for distraction, such as cleaning or filing papers.

7. Try relaxation techniques

Smoking may have been your way to deal with stress. Fighting back against a tobacco craving can itself be stressful. Take the edge off stress by trying ways to relax, such as deep breathing, muscle relaxation, yoga, visualization, massage or listening to calming music.

8. Call for reinforcements

Connect with a family member, friend or support group member for help in your effort to resist a tobacco craving. Chat on the phone, go for a walk, share a few laughs, or meet to talk and support each other. Counseling can be helpful too. A free telephone quit line — 800-QUIT-NOW (800-784-8669) — provides support and counseling.

9. Go online for support

Join an online stop-smoking program. Or read a quitter's blog and post encouraging thoughts for someone else who might be dealing with tobacco cravings. Learn from how others have handled their tobacco cravings.

10. Remind yourself of the benefits

Write down or say out loud why you want to stop smoking and resist tobacco cravings. These reasons might include:

  • Feeling better
  • Getting healthier
  • Sparing your loved ones from secondhand smoke
  • Saving money

Keep in mind that trying something to beat the urge to use tobacco is always better than doing nothing. And each time you resist a tobacco craving, you're one step closer to being tobacco-free.

Last Updated May 20, 2022


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