Smoking Cravings & Nicotine Triggers

Nicotine triggers are moments or feelings that make you crave a cigarette – like coffee breaks, after meals or when you’re out with friends. They are common and can be different for everyone, which is why it’s important to understand what your personal triggers are and to plan ahead. And even though they only last a few minutes, they can make quitting even harder. So, if you’re feeling a craving, practice the 4 D’s:

Delay Your Urge
Deep Breaths
Drink Water
Distract Yourself

Types of Triggers

Learn more about the different types of triggers and how to beat them.


Pattern Triggers

There are several pattern triggers that can be avoided when quitting tobacco, such as:

  • Having coffee
  • Drinking alcohol
  • Finishing a meal
  • Driving
  • Taking a break from work

Tips to avoid pattern triggers:

  • Change up your morning routine, even if it is something small like reading the news or brushing your teeth right after you eat.
  • Find a replacement, like chewing sugar-free gum, eating a mint or using a toothpick.
  • If you’re preparing to quit, begin by taking steps to make smoking more difficult. For example, keeping your cigarettes in your trunk when driving.

Social Triggers

There are several social triggers that can be prevented when you first quit tobacco, such as:

  • Going to a social event (like a party).
  • Being with friends and family who smoke.
  • Going to a bar or outdoor restaurant where smoking is permitted.
  • Seeing someone else smoke.

Tips to avoid social triggers:

  • Avoid places where people smoke, especially when you’re first trying to quit.
  • Ask friends and family not to smoke around you, or when possible, excuse yourself to do something else while they are smoking.
  • Tell your loved ones that you’re trying to quit and ask them to support you, especially when you’re just at the beginning of your quit smoking journey.
  • Choose a smokefree location for your outing, like a smokefree bar or restaurant.

Emotional Triggers

There are several emotional triggers that you may encounter when you first quit tobacco, such as:

  • Stress
  • Anxiety
  • Boredom
  • Sadness or loneliness
  • Happiness or excitement

Tips to avoid emotional triggers:

  • Take slow, deep breaths. This can also help manage stress and anxiety. Try the 4-7-8 breathing exercise:
    • Inhale through your nose for a count of four seconds.
    • Hold your breath for a count of seven seconds.
    • Exhale completely through your mouth for a count of eight seconds.
    • This is one breath. Now inhale again and repeat the cycle three more times for a total of four breaths.
  • Get moving. Exercise releases endorphins, chemicals in the brain, that make you feel good. It can also be a time to think through any stressful situations and consider solutions.
  • Talk it out. Express your feelings – whether positive or negative – by sharing with a loved one or trusted friend instead of smoking a cigarette.

Overcoming Nicotine Withdrawal Symptoms

We know quitting isn’t easy but overcoming your nicotine addiction is the key to quitting for good. While quitting, nicotine withdrawal symptoms may feel unpleasant, but just know these are common and, most importantly, temporary. Learn more about the different symptoms you may experience during your quit journey, and tips on how to deal with them.

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