Medically Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, DO, MS on January 13, 2021

Things You Did While You Smoked

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Your morning cup of coffee, TV binge, or commute to work: Any situation you used to pair with a cigarette can prompt you to light up again after you quit. Stay away from these situations as much as you can until they don’t give you that urge anymore. When you can’t steer clear of them, know this: Most cravings last only a few minutes. Try to keep busy until it passes. It might help to chew sugarless gum or a toothpick.

Lighters, Ashtrays, and Other Cigarette-Related Stuff

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Even seeing smoke-related items can make you want to light up. After all, they go hand-in-hand with your old habit. That’s why you should toss your lighters and ashtrays along with your cigarettes. If you live with someone who smokes, ask them to keep those things out of your sight.


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Chances are, you once passed time by smoking. So when you don’t have anything to do, you may be tempted to light up. It’s important to stay busy. It helps to plan activities you like to do, so you have something to look forward to.



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You may have lit up to help calm your nerves during tense times. So when you’re stressed, your first reaction may be to reach for a cigarette. It’s key to find another stress reliever. Exercise -- something as simple as a short stroll -- can help your body release calming brain chemicals. Deep breathing and meditation can help, too.

The Smell of Smoke

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That familiar odor can remind you of when you used to smoke, which can bring on a craving. Avoid smoky places and even smoky-smelling things like clothes. If you can’t, do your best to distract yourself until you can get away from them.

Other Smokers

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Seeing someone else smoke, even on TV or at a movie, can spark an urge. Try to spend less time with other smokers just after you’ve kicked the habit. It helps to tell them why you’re not around as much as you were.


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It can make you jittery, tense, and stressed. And, as you know, stress is a major smoking trigger. So go easy on caffeine or skip it altogether with water or a decaf drink. (If you’re used to a lot of caffeine, ease off slowly so you don’t get bad headaches as you adjust.) If you need something to do with your mouth, chew on sugarless gum, a straw, or even a coffee stirrer. 


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If you usually smoked while you drank, even one drink can trigger an urge to light up, especially right after you quit. Booze also weakens your willpower, which can raise your odds of a slip-up. You may need to pass on going to parties until you’re over the hump.

Physical Cravings

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When your body wants nicotine, it might feel really hard to say no. Remember, most cravings pass in just a few minutes. And physical withdrawal -- your body’s dependence on the nicotine in cigarettes -- only about lasts 1 to 2 weeks. Nicotine replacement aids, like gum, patches, or lozenges, could help. Talk to your doctor about your options, including medication.

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Show Sources


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Michael C. Fiore, MD, director, Center for Tobacco Research and Intervention; professor of medicine, University of Wisconsin Medical School. “Cravings,” “Know Your Smoking Triggers,” “Conquer Stress.”

Tang, Y. PNAS, June 2013.

Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies: “Stress,” “A Guide to Remaining Smoke-Free,” “Social Support.”

Sykes, C. Health Promotion International, 2001.

National Association of Cognitive-Behavioral Therapists.

ICan Quit / Cancer Institute NSW of Australia: “Common Smoking Triggers: Alcohol,” “Common Smoking Triggers: Other Smokers.”

Cleveland Clinic: “Acupuncture Can Help You With Cravings.”

CDC: “Getting Support As You Quit.”