Health Advocate Blog

How to combat cravings when quitting tobacco

Quitting tobacco/nicotine isn’t easy, but there are steps you can take to make it less difficult. Two ways to set yourself up for success are by knowing what to do to avoid cravings and how to respond when a craving hits.

When quitting tobacco/nicotine, cravings are inevitable. However, there are some that you can anticipate and try to prevent before they hit. Try these tips.

Know your triggers. Recognize people, places and things that you associate with tobacco/nicotine—and avoid them until you feel confident that you can be around them without temptation.

  • People: If you have a smoking buddy at work, politely explain you’re quitting and that you won’t be joining them outside for your routine break.
  • Places: If your vape spot is a particular chair on your deck or porch, avoid sitting in it or move it elsewhere to weaken its association with nicotine.
  • Things: If you enjoy a chew or dip after your morning coffee, try swapping your coffee with tea or a brisk walk for a morning jolt of energy.

Stay busy to keep your mind off tobacco/nicotine. Walk, exercise, and find a hobby— anything to distract you!

Vary your routine. Tobacco/nicotine use becomes very habitual—especially for people who have been addicted for a long time. Identify times when you smoke/chew/vape and think about ways you can change it up. For example, if you light up a cigarette at a specific point in your commute to work, drive a different way.

Participate in other, healthier activities that help you feel good. Part of the addictive nature of tobacco/nicotine is the release of “feel-good hormones” in your brain. If you participate in activities that similarly release these hormones, you can find other ways to feel good without smoking/vaping/dipping.

While preventing cravings is a huge part of quitting, knowing what to do when a craving does hit is a major part of avoiding relapse. These tips can help.

Talk to your support system. They’ll be more than willing to talk you through your cravings.

Keep your mouth occupied with gum, mints, celery, carrots, nuts or other healthy snacks.

Brush your teeth. It may sound silly, but it can be very helpful! The time it takes to brush your teeth sufficiently is about the length of a craving.

Practice deep breathing. Take a deep breath through your nose and blow out slowly through your mouth. Repeat 10 times or until the craving passes.

Get your heart rate up. Take a walk, short jog, do jumping jacks—any quick cardio activity that gets your heart pumping.

Remind yourself of all the reasons you’re quitting. Are you quitting because you want to live a long healthy life with your spouse? Or you want to be a good example for your kids? Or are you just sick of smelling gross, having bad breath and spending a ton of money and time on tobacco/nicotine? Whatever your reason, keep it top of mind all the time.

Read about quitting. Find blogs with stories of other people, join an online support group, or check out other resources to help you quit. We recommend reading, “How To Handle Withdrawal Symptoms and Triggers When You Decide To Quit Smoking.” This article discusses a variety of scenarios that you may find challenging and how to handle them.

Remember, every craving you overcome is a step toward quitting! Visit the Tobacco Cessation section of our blog for tips to help you quit.