Are you still having those mouth-watering cravings that threaten to coax you to start smoking again? Snuff out your habit for good with these top tips.

Know Your Triggers

After making the courageous decision to kick the habit, then having to deal with the fact that you still crave cigarettes, your first big set of challenges is almost immediate. The temptation to take a drag on a cigarette threatens to chip away at your good intentions. You've listened to self-help CDs, taken up meditation and employed a host of other strategies to quit — but despite your best efforts, you still crave a smoke.

The first thing to realize is that those overwhelming urges you experience only last a few minutes, as the cravings themselves pass quickly. The good news is that the majority of the nicotine is out of your system within 72 hours of laying your last cigarette down. That doesn't mean that you won't still have urges, but those that you do have will be mostly psychological rather than physical.

Ideally, you have thought about the conditions and circumstances that trigger your smoking habit. Even if you still long for cigarettes during these vulnerable times, you will be better prepared to deal with your cravings if you've researched the basis of your habit beforehand.

You may associate smoking with certain activities, such as driving the car, talking on the telephone or having a cup of coffee. You may be emotionally attached to smoking when you're lonely, stressed or just need a break from your routine. Smoking just seems "normal" when these situations and feelings arise.

Make a list of all the triggers that you can think of that leave you vulnerable to cravings. Even think of situations that haven't happened yet, and may not, but that might drive you to smoke. If you lost your job, would it send you diving into a pack? What if you or someone in your family had a serious illness?

Remember, smoking doesn't make anything better, so your next step is to decide what you can do in place of smoking when a trigger presents itself.

Dealing With Cravings

Although cravings can be powerful, you do not have to be at their mercy – it is just a matter of dealing with them for a few minutes when they arise. Here's how you can cope with yours:

Avoid Triggers – This seems obvious enough, but it’s important to make a concerted effort to achieve it. When you first quit, it's best to avoid as many of your triggers as you can. If this means not going to parties and drinking, something you always associated with smoking, then so be it. You might even have to stay away from friends who smoke until you're over the hump.

If you smoked in your car, clean out your ashtray and wipe your car down with a fresh-smelling scent so you won't be reminded of your habit.

Of course, you may not be able to avoid all of your triggers. But do the best you can, and have something in mind to serve as a distraction for each one.

Get Physical - Thirty minutes of physical activity can cause a tobacco craving to disappear. Take a walk or go to the gym. At the office, do some squats or jumping jacks, or walk up and down the stairs several times.

Practice Relaxation - Find some healthy ways to deal with stress other than smoking. Try progressive muscle relaxation, yoga, deep breathing, hypnosis or massage.

Get Support - Call on a family member, friend or support group member for positive reinforcement to cheer you on, Chat on the phone or make fun, active plans that keep you (and your hands) occupied.

Remind Yourself of the Benefits - Remember the positive effects stopping smoking is having on your health and those around you. Think of the money you're saving. Notice how much better your clothes smell.

Use the Computer - Find an online stop-smoking program or read a blog by someone's who has already quit. The American Lung Association has adapted their group clinic, Freedom From Smoking, to an online course you can access at www.ffsonline.org. Use the computer to learn how others have dealt with their cravings. Post your own encouraging thoughts for someone who is struggling.

Delay the Urge - If you feel like giving in to a strong urge, simply tell yourself you must wait 10 minutes to see if the craving passes. During that time, do something to distract yourself.

Try this one — brush your teeth, floss your teeth and use mouthwash. It gives you something to do with your hands, helps the time pass until the craving subsides and gives your mouth some attention and a fresh, clean taste. Some smokers find that mouthwash is an effective deterrent (it makes a drag taste awful).

Don't Have "Just One" - Don't delude yourself that you can have ”one little cigarette” then go back to not smoking. Like any addiction, the chances are good you'll have another — and another — and be right back into your habit. Don't have that first one because it probably won't be your last.

Use Nicotine Replacement Products - If you still crave cigarettes and feel you just can't counter the cravings, try nicotine replacement products in the form of patches, gums, inhalers, sprays or lozenges. Your doctor can provide advice on what’s best for you. By providing a smaller dose of nicotine, they can help relieve some of the intense withdrawal symptoms. They are safer than smoking because they lack the harmful chemicals found in cigarettes.

By Betty Holt

Sources

American Cancer Society: Guide to Quitting Smoking. Accessed on: May 7, 2011

Mayo Clinic. Quitting Smoking: 10 Ways to Resist Tobacco Cravings. Accessed on: May 7, 2011.

Publication Review By: the Editorial Staff at HealthCommunities.com

Published: 15 Jun 2011

Last Modified: 24 Jan 2012