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Quitting Smoking: Temptations and Cravings

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The best way to cope with a strong temptation to smoke is to quickly remove yourself from the situation that is causing the temptation. Don't worry about "how it will look" if you leave a party, wedding reception, or public function to avoid the temptation to smoke. You have an important reason for leaving.

When you cannot remove yourself from a difficult situation, or when the temptation to smoke is triggered by something other than a place or event, consider what you can do, think about, or tell yourself that will help you cope with the temptation. Use some activity to distract yourself for about 20 minutes.

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I smoked for more than 44 years and knew I needed to stop. I had smoking-induced asthma. My parents, both heavy smokers, died of smoking-related diseases. Secondhand smoke contributed mightily to my four children’s recurring upper respiratory ailments in their younger years. Yet I continued to smoke. Every winter I dealt with pleurisy attacks from breathing cold air. I had to lie flat on my back for days, the slightest movement sending knifelike pains through my chest. After I’d recovered, the first...

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  • Do something different.
  • If drinking alcohol tempts you to smoke, choose a nonalcoholic drink.
  • Call a friend to get support.
  • Get moving. Take a walk or jog.
  • Practice relaxation techniques. See the topic Stress Management for some relaxation techniques.
  • Occupy your hands. Try knitting, reading, or working a puzzle.
  • Take a hot bath or shower.

When you are tempted or have the strong urge to smoke:

  • Try to stay away from places where cigarettes are easily available.
  • Remind yourself how hard it was to quit in the first place and all the effort you have put in so far. Do you want to throw that away?
  • Give yourself time to let the urge pass. Tell yourself you will wait 20 minutes and see if the urge is still there.
  • Think about the benefits of not smoking, such as health, pride, and cleanliness.
  • Think about the negative effects of smoking, such as harm to your family, yellow teeth, and shortness of breath.
  • Imagine the immediate harmful effects of smoking. Picture the smoke going into your lungs and leaving the ash and tar in your lungs. Picture the harmful chemicals entering your bloodstream.
  • Tell yourself that you really do not want to smoke.
  • Tell yourself that you only need to keep from smoking one day at a time.
  • Imagine yourself celebrating your first full year without smoking.
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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: August 15, 2013
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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