- 10 Ways to Outsmart Cigarette Cravings
- Five Ways to Stop Cigarette Cravings
- Cravings and withdrawal when you stop smoking
- Moods, irritability and anxiety
- Sleep pattern
- Energy levels
- Weight gain
- Cinnamon and Quitting Smoking
- Using Cinnamon to Quit
- Finding the Best Method
- Quitting Smoking: Coping With Cravings and Withdrawal
- How can you get through it?
- I Took the Internet’s Worst Advice on How to Quit Smoking Cigarettes
- Day 1: Write a $2,000 Check to a Terrible Institution, Hand It to a Friend, Have Him Mail It in if I Fail
- Day 2: Buy Ten Kilos of Tangerines, Peel One Whenever I Get the Urge to Smoke, and Eat It
- Day 3: Carry Around a Ziploc Bag of Cigarette Butts and Occasionally Smell the Contents
- Day 4: Pretend a Golf Pencil Is a Cigarette
- Day 5: Drink Tobacco-Infused Water
- How to Manage Cravings
- Coping with Nicotine Withdrawal
10 Ways to Outsmart Cigarette Cravings
If you are trying to quit smoking, nicotine addiction is probably your biggest challenge. Nicotine is the chemical that causes cigarette cravings. The longer you smoked (and the more cigarettes you smoked each day) before trying to quit smoking, the worse cigarette cravings you can expect. The good news is that cigarette cravings do get weaker, and every time you find a way to resist them, you get one step closer to permanently quitting smoking.
“Cigarette cravings will happen to smokers whether you smoke or not. That’s because smoking is not a habit, it’s an addiction,” says Eleana M. Conway, NP, a nurse practitioner who helps people stop smoking at the Lahey Clinic’s smoking cessation program in Burlington, Mass.
“The worst part of a craving is the first few minutes,” explains Conway. “After that, the craving generally goes away in about 20 minutes. In most cases, if you can find a way to get through those first few minutes, you can resist the craving for good.
Activities to Help You Stop Smoking
Since you know you are going to have cigarette cravings, it’s best to have a plan. “We teach people the four ‘Ds’ to overcome cravings: Drink water, deep breathe, delay, and do something,” says Conway. Here are some steps to get you through those first minutes of a craving:
- Take some deep breaths. Just stop what you are doing and take about 10 deep breaths. Go outside if you can and think about filling your lungs with fresh air. These deep breaths will relax you and decrease some of the anxiety associated with nicotine withdrawal.
- Drink a glass of water. “Drinking water is good for you and seems to have a calming effect on cigarette cravings for many people,” says Conway. Avoid drinks like coffee or alcohol that you may have associated with smoking in the past.
- Get some exercise. “The average person gains about eight pounds when they are trying to stop smoking. Exercise helps keep the pounds off and also stimulates brain chemicals that fight nicotine cravings,” explains Conway.
- Call a friend. Getting support from others is an important part of quitting. Calling a friend can get your mind off smoking. You don’t want to be alone when dealing with cigarette cravings if you can help it.
- Go to a movie. Getting out of the house for a few hours and going to a place where smoking is not allowed, like a cinema, theatre, or museum, will keep your mind busy and keep you from temptation.
- Chew a stick of gum. “It may be an old wives’ tale, but cinnamon gum seems to work for cravings. We recommend chewing a stick of sugarless cinnamon gum, and lots of people swear by it,” says Conway.
- Play a game. Whether it’s a board game with your child or a game outside with your dog, games are great distractions. Playing outdoors with Fido is good exercise and gets both of you some fresh air. Playing with your child will remind you of why it’s so important to quit smoking.
- Listen to some music. “Drinking water, exercising, and relaxation are the three most important ways to beat a craving,” says Conway. Whether it is music, reading, or meditation, find something that helps you relax. Anxiety and irritability are both symptoms of nicotine withdrawal.
- Have a snack. Headache and hunger are other symptoms that go along with cigarette cravings. Several small, nutritious snacks during the day will keep your blood sugar steady and give you something healthy to do with your hands and your mouth. Try snacking on a handful of nuts or a piece of fresh fruit.
- Take a shower. A hot shower or a relaxing bath can soothe cigarette cravings away. After that, you can brush your teeth and enjoy the new fresh taste in your nicotine-free mouth. By the time you leave the bathroom, your craving will have passed.
Being able to say you have quit smoking for good is the best news you can give yourself and your loved ones. But even if you have a slip, it does not mean you’ll failed in the long run. Most people have several slips before they finally stop smoking. “Each time you try to quit smoking, you learn a little more about your roadblocks and add some tools for future success,” says Conway.
Five Ways to Stop Cigarette Cravings
Remember the 5 D’s to Curb Your Cigarette Cravings
Whether you’ve just quit smoking or have been quit for a few months, you know that feeling well of wanting a cigarette. But cravings are unique for each person. Understanding the different kinds of cigarette cravings and learning strategies to combat them will go a long way toward helping you stay on track with your quit.
One kind of craving is purely physical—the sensations of your body going through nicotine withdrawal. These symptoms can come hurtling at you fast, some even within an hour of putting down that last cigarette— sensations like anxiety, irritability, sweating, nausea, headache, trouble sleeping, fatigue, and hunger. Good news is, if you’ve really quit, these symptoms usually peak in about three days and finish in two weeks.
The other kind of craving is habitual, triggered by people, places, things, and memories you yourself personally associate with smoking. For instance, if you always smoked after dinner, just being in a restaurant could cause a craving. If you smoke from stress, any stress – big or small, can cause a craving. Even happy events can cause cravings! In the end, your smoking habit is really a very personal combination of physical and emotional factors. But you can overcome them.
Remember the 5D’s to counter your cigarette cravings:
- DELAY. Cravings are short-lived—typically five to ten minutes. So just wait them out for a few minutes and remind yourself, “I can do this.” “I’ve got this.” “Not smoking is the best thing I can do for myself.”
- DISTRACT. When a craving hits, get on the offensive and throw your full attention into another activity, especially one you love or takes big energy. Go for a brisk walk, run up the stairs a few times, call a friend, play a video game, or get up and dance. Just changing your routine can shake up a craving. It’s also helpful to go to smokefree zone like a movie theater, store, or office where you can’t smoke.
- DIGEST. If your mouth is craving for something, stick a mint or gum inside instead of a cigarette. Intensify the sensation by chomping on a crispy apple, pumpkin seeds, or carrot sticks to give your mouth a workout. Just keep the food healthy!
- DRINK. Water is the elixir of life, and for smokers facing cravings during withdrawal, it’s an absolute necessity to cleanse and purify your body of nicotine and other toxins. Water also fills you up, and if your stomach feels full of liquids, you’ll be less likely to overeat.
- DEEP BREATHING. Taking deep breaths in the midst of a craving will activate your entire system and bring energy to your ability not to cave in. Try inhaling through your nose and exhaling through your mouth. Repeat until you feel more stable. You can also try these animated breathing GIFs from DeStress Monday!
Like a wave in the ocean, cravings will rise and fall in your awareness but you don’t have to drown in them. Just the very act of trying one of these strategies will strengthen you for the next time that wave rushes toward the shore. Do what’s best for you, just don’t smoke. Each puff rejected will make you a stronger person and a stronger quitter!
What are some other techniques you use to stave off cravings? Let us know on Twitter!
Cravings and withdrawal when you stop smoking
Most people experience some cravings and withdrawal symptoms when they give up smoking. These can be uncomfortable, but they are temporary – most symptoms will be gone after a month.
You might experience some of these, but you probably won’t experience them all. Speak to your GP if you’re concerned about any symptoms.
Cravings for nicotine can start 30 minutes after your last cigarette. This varies depending on how much you smoked and how long for. The cravings peak in 2 to 3 days and usually pass after 3 to 5 minutes. You should stop getting them altogether after 4 to 6 weeks. Deal with them by using the ‘4 Ds’:
Distract yourself by focusing on something else.
Delay doing anything about the craving until the urge passes.
Take 20 deep breaths.
Drink a cold glass of water or fruit juice.
You can also confuse cravings for food with cravings for nicotine and vice versa. It’s important to eat 3 regular meals each day.
Moods, irritability and anxiety
You may have low moods or increased irritability and anxiety when you give up smoking. These feelings are temporary and get better within about 4 weeks.
Here are some coping strategies:
- deal with cravings rather than reaching for a cigarette
- remind yourself that these feelings are temporary – they’ll go away
- congratulate yourself for coping with life without smoking
- ask others to understand and be patient
- do things that make you feel good
You can also relax and reduce stress with activities you enjoy, like:
- physical activities like walking, jogging, dancing, cycling or swimming – these can really help
- listening to music, reading, sewing, doing jigsaws or gardening
- relaxation and deep breathing exercises. For example, take 20 deep breaths or breathe out slowly, for longer than you breathe in.
This can take 2 to 3 weeks to settle. Try to reduce caffeine (tea, coffee, cola). Exercise can help too. Relax before bedtime with a book or a bath.
Your energy might increase after stopping smoking. This is because more oxygen is getting into your bloodstream as the carbon monoxide has left your body.
However, some people find they have less energy for a while. This is because the body stops producing adrenaline in response to nicotine. It’s temporary and will get better after 2 to 3 weeks.
About 10% of people experience constipation when they give up smoking. It can take 2 to 3 weeks to get better. If this happens to you, you can deal with it by:
- eating lots of fruit, fibre and vegetables
- drinking lots of water
- exercising every day
A pharmacist might also be able to recommend treatments to ease the problem.
Most smokers worry that giving up smoking will make them gain weight. It can happen if you replace smoking with food, but you can avoid gaining any weight if you eat sensibly and get more active.
If you’re worried about weight gain:
- remember that stopping smoking is the most important thing you can do for your health
- eat 3 well-balanced meals a day, with plenty of vegetables and fruit
- keep low calorie snacks handy – like celery, carrot sticks or fruit
- stick to water or low-calorie drinks (not sugary soft drinks)
Get help when you quit smoking
Cinnamon and Quitting Smoking
People will try just about any method they can think of to quit smoking successfully. That is because it is so difficult to quit, and many people experience different symptoms from others who have tried to do the very same thing. Some methods work for some people but not for others, which is why the idea that cinnamon may help quit smoking is not that farfetched.
To be more specific, it is cinnamon sticks that many people are recommending. Using these sticks will not actually stop nicotine side effects or many withdrawal symptoms. They do nothing for you physically, but they may very well have an emotional and mental impact that could prove invaluable.
The idea is that you use the cinnamon sticks almost exactly like you would a cigarette. You never light them up, of course, as that could be dangerous, but just pull one out whenever you feel the craving for a cigarette. You can inhale on the stick the same way you would with a cigarette. It can have a calming effect and satisfy your cravings to some degree.
Using Cinnamon to Quit
Many people find that puffing on a cinnamon stick tricks their body into thinking they have a cigarette, and their cravings and symptoms respond accordingly. There is nicotine to be had in a cinnamon stick, of course, but the sweetness of the cinnamon can certainly help. Many people who suffer withdrawal symptoms after quitting smoking feel sugar cravings. Cinnamon can help to satisfy those cravings and get a little relief from the torture of being without a cigarette.
You can keep using the cinnamon stick until the craving subsides and then put it away until the cravings return. You may find that the cinnamon taste is too strong for your liking. In that case, just keep a bottle of water handy to wash out the taste. Water gets rid of the cinnamon flavor pretty effectively.
This is not a method that is going to work for everyone. Some people just don’t like the powerful cinnamon taste, as sticks are stronger than the bit of cinnamon powder that is in most cinnamon-flavored foods. Other people are actually allergic to cinnamon, so this entire method is impractical and dangerous for them. Others still will find no reprieve from their symptoms by using a cinnamon stick instead of a cigarette. They just can’t trick their body into accepting the stick as a replacement for a cigarette.
Finding the Best Method
Everyone’s experience with quitting smoking is going to be a bit different. You just have to find the method that works best for you, whether it is nicotine patches, support groups, quitting one cigarette at a time or something else. There is a method out there that will work for you, and you just have to discover what it is.
If you have tried a few different ways and you are willing to give something else a try, then you may want to check out the cinnamon stick method for yourself. They are easy to find, and they are inexpensive, so you are not going to inconvenience yourself giving them a shot really.
Quitting Smoking: Coping With Cravings and Withdrawal
How can you get through it?
Get counseling or other support
Don’t try to do it alone. Your doctor can help you learn about medicines or about how to use nicotine replacement therapy. And a support group can keep you on track and motivated. People who use telephone, group, one-on-one, or Internet counseling are more likely to stop smoking. Counselors can help you with practical ideas to avoid common mistakes and help you succeed.
- Call the national quitline at 1-800-QUIT NOW and talk to some experts.
- Ask friends and family for help, especially those who are former smokers.
- Ask friends and family members who are smokers not to smoke around you, and try to avoid situations that remind you of smoking.
- See a counselor, doctor, or nurse who is trained in helping people quit. The more counseling you get, the better your chances of quitting.
- Enroll in an online or in-person stop-smoking class or program.
- Try a free quit-smoking app such as National Cancer Institute’s QuitPal. Have friends and family record encouraging video messages that you can play when you are feeling overwhelmed.
- Join a support group of others who are trying to quit.
Many people smoke because nicotine helps them relax. Without the nicotine, they feel uptight and grouchy. But there may be better ways to cope with these feelings, that is, ways that may make dealing with cigarette cravings easier. Try these ideas:
- Take several deep breaths slowly. Hold the last one, then breathe out as slowly as possible. Try to relax all your muscles.
- Try massage, yoga, or the traditional Chinese relaxation exercises tai chi and qi gong.
- Listen to relaxing music. Learn self-hypnosis, meditation, and guided imagery.
- If you can, try to avoid stressful situations when you first stop smoking. If you are like a lot of people who smoke, your main reason for smoking may be that you simply want a break. If this sounds like you, try a non-cigarette break and take a walk or spend time with nonsmokers.
These ideas can help you relax. But it’s also good to figure out the cause of your stress. Then, learn how to change the way you react to it.
Be more active
Physical activity may help reduce your nicotine cravings and relieve some withdrawal symptoms. It doesn’t have to be intense activity. Mild exercise is fine.footnote 1 Being more active also may help you reduce stress and keep your weight down.
When you have the urge to smoke, do something active instead. Walk around the block. Head to the gym. Do some gardening or housework. Take the dog for a walk. Play with the kids.
Get plenty of rest
If you have trouble sleeping, try these tips:
- Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day.
- Take a warm bath or a relaxing walk before bed.
- Avoid drinking alcohol late in the evening, because it can cause you to wake up in the middle of the night.
- Don’t have coffee, black tea, or other drinks with caffeine in the 8 hours before you go to bed.
- Do not take naps, unless you are sure they don’t keep you awake at night.
- If you can’t sleep, talk to your doctor about medicines to help you sleep while you are first going through withdrawal.
- Before going to bed, avoid using devices with LED-emitting light, as found in some smartphones and other handheld computers.
- Try meditation or deep breathing before you go to bed.
Eat healthy foods
Quitting smoking increases your appetite. To avoid gaining weight, keep in mind that the secret to weight control is eating healthy food and being more active.
- Don’t try to diet. Most people who deprive themselves of food at the same time they are trying to stop smoking have an even harder time of stopping smoking.
- Substitute more fruits, vegetables, and whole-grain foods for foods that have a lot of sugar or fat.
For more on eating and smoking, see Quitting Smoking: Dealing With Weight Gain.
Reduce demands on your time and energy
Quitting smoking can be harder if you have a lot of work or family demands.
- Try to set your quit date for a time when there are fewer work and family demands.
- Tell your spouse, family, and friends to ask less of you during the first days and weeks that you quit.
- Do something fun with the money you save from not buying cigarettes.
- Be aware that being tired from activity, lack of sleep, or your emotions can make it harder not to smoke.
Use a stop-smoking medicine
Medicines can help you deal with nicotine withdrawal and cigarette cravings. Most medicines also help prevent weight gain. Research shows that they more than double your chances of quitting for good.footnote 2
- Nicotine replacement medicines can help relieve the physical cravings for nicotine. Nicotine patches, gum, lozenges, and inhalers are helpful, especially when you have a strong craving.
- Medicines without nicotine, such as varenicline (Chantix) or bupropion (Zyban), can also help you quit smoking. If you take varenicline, you can stop smoking a little bit at a time, which may increase your chance of quitting.
For more on using medicine, see Quitting Smoking: Should I Use Medicine?
Read how others manage
Many people try to quit smoking many times before they can stop for good.
Research shows that you’ll be more successful if you get help. Here’s how a few people finally managed to quit.
It took Michael seven tries to quit smoking.
“It’s awful. My craving for cigarettes was very, very strong,” he says. “You just become so frustrated. You feel all this pent-up energy and don’t know how to relieve it.
“And you could just go to the corner store and buy a pack and end the misery. … That’s what I would end up doing.”
He finally managed to quit by using nicotine patches. He’s been smoke-free for nearly 4 years.
Eric had his first cigarette when he was 12. By age 23, he was tearing through a pack and a half a day.
He tried quitting “cold turkey.” He tried nicotine gum. Neither worked for him. So he tried nicotine patches.
The patches made him feel sick for a few days. The first week without cigarettes felt like torture, because his cravings were so strong. But when he started using gum along with the patch, the cravings became bearable. In 5 weeks, he had managed to stop smoking.
I Took the Internet’s Worst Advice on How to Quit Smoking Cigarettes
I became a smoker in 2015, a month after a breakup with a long-term girlfriend, because an editor I admired told me it would be a good way to take a “deep breath.” I was at a point in my life where I didn’t know what was happening the next day and didn’t really care. Since everything felt temporary, I thought smoking would be temporary, too.
Two years on, I’ve told myself I would stop more times than I can remember, because I don’t want to die. (I’ve even thrown whole packs out in anger and then taken them out of the garbage an hour later.) A few weeks ago, I got a bad cold and didn’t smoke for nearly five days. I felt healthier while sick and decided I’d give the whole not-smoking thing a real try soon. The internet—Reddit, WebMD, quitting forums—told me what to expect: headaches, coughs, irritability, fatigue. Basically, I’d be slightly ill and terrible to everybody I cared about for a little while, not an altogether new thing for me.
Many of these sites also featured tips from people who succeeded in quitting. Some were inspired by a family member’s bout with cancer or witnessing their newborn pick a butt up off the ground. A good deal of them recommend some version of “vaping’s a dope alternative.” Others’ methods, though, were more varied and unique. For instance: Whenever you’re fiending to smoke… eat a dog biscuit instead. Run around the block. Make a turkey and cigarette sandwich.
David Sedaris recommends moving, preferably to Japan.
There’s a lot of this kind of guidance on the world wide web. I didn’t know where to start, so I chose the bottom. I picked what I believe are the five most absurd suggestions for quitting smoking on the internet and tried each out for a single day. By the end, I’d be physically, emotionally, and financially depleted.
Day 1: Write a $2,000 Check to a Terrible Institution, Hand It to a Friend, Have Him Mail It in if I Fail
I begin on a Thursday. One suggestion I found on Reddit was to write a $2,000 check to the Westboro Baptist Church and give it to a friend, who would send it to the organization should I succumb to my nicotine addiction, forever leaving me with the knowledge that I’ve supported a terrible cause.
Because I don’t have checks, trustworthy friends, or a desire to give money to those fuckers even by accident, I ask my editor Brian if I can Venmo him $2,000 in the morning. If I fail by night’s end, I tell him, he can transfer the payment to his account. (If you’re thinking, That isn’t how Venmo works, you’re right. But more on that in a bit.)
I manage to last through the workday by sheer force of will, not really thinking of the looming $2,000 I could lose if I fuck this up and give in. After punching out, I meet up with my friends at a bar, an activity that usually involves chain-smoking cigarettes. I drink four beers. A beer or two more might lead me to light up without consequence, so I leave early.
I fall asleep at 11 PM, tipsy, having kept the $2,000. Or so I believe.
Day 2: Buy Ten Kilos of Tangerines, Peel One Whenever I Get the Urge to Smoke, and Eat It
On Friday morning, I wake up to an email from Bank of America saying my balance is negative $400. The charge successfully went through, and at 7 AM, I text my editor in a panic, kindly asking him to return my money. He does.
In the meantime, I do have enough cash to move on to the next advice: Buy ten kilos of tangerines and eat one whenever you’re jonesing to light up.
If you’re not sure (I wasn’t sure), ten kilos of tangerines is about 22 pounds of tangerines. I buy 22 pounds of clementines instead, because tangerines appear to be out of season (by that, I mean, I see the clementines at the grocery store first). The idea here is they’re supposed to “keep hands busy” and give “a fresh taste in mouth not want to ruin with smoke.” Plus, this advice giver says tangerines “have basically no calories” (40 or so per fruit)—and clementines have even fewer (35 or so per fruit). This means a cigarette pack’s worth of clementines is roughly 700 calories, nearly one-third the recommended daily amount for a man.
I’m still unsure why I have a phone.
I learn very quickly that clementines do not have the same effect as cigarettes and don’t satisfy the same needs. There is no head rush. There is no social aspect to eating a clementine. They do not calm you down or wake you up. They don’t go better with alcohol. There are other large differences as well: Clementines are much stickier than cigarettes. You do not have to peel cigarettes. And you don’t have to go outdoors to eat citrus. I have difficulty with that last point. Part of what’s great about smoking is getting to leave my desk periodically, and after just a few hours of swapping cigarettes for clementines, I get fidgety. I want to stand up, so I ask my co-worker and (former, for now) smoking buddy, Eve, if she wants to smoke a cigarette outside while I eat a clementine.
Eve’s typing the lyrics to “Smooth” in emojis, and she’s definitely interested in all the important things I’m ranting about. Photo by Mike Breen
I’m so nervous, by 11 AM, I’ve had three clementines. By 4 PM, it’s ten. By the evening, I’m vaguely ill. I have no desire for a cigarette, because I have no desire for anything. I’m on the verge of vomiting.
I’ve developed some sort of cough, too.
It’s a colleague’s last day, so I bring a bag of clementines to the bar where we’re bidding farewell, peeling and eating them as everyone smokes outside and talks about the perils of digital media. By 10 PM, I’m ready to depart and never look at another clementine.
I pass out, slightly drunk again, my belly full of clementines. I have eaten approximately 20 throughout the day. The bank has still not processed my $2,000.
Day 3: Carry Around a Ziploc Bag of Cigarette Butts and Occasionally Smell the Contents
It’s Saturday, and I’m broke. I accept that I won’t get my $2,000 back until Monday.
Since I’m not smoking (and cannot produce any new butts of my own), I take the ashtray in my living room and dump the contents into a bag. The stock is plentiful, and most of the butts are probably weeks old. The theory behind this method is that the sight and stench of the bag will make me recognize what I’ve been putting into my body for the past two years. But it’s hard to comprehend the association. While I’d prefer not to smell cigarette butts and ash, much like the graphic pictures on packs in Europe, it’s easy to ignore the relationship between the aspects of my dependency and all the problems it’ll cause me in the distant future, when—or if—I reach age 60.
The day goes by relatively quickly, and before I know it, it’s 5 PM, and I haven’t eaten. I get hungry, and the one thing that can always quell my hunger is a cigarette. I’m feeling irritable, and the one thing that could make me feel better is a cigarette. This the most depressed and annoyed and antsy I’ve been in days, and I want to slam my head against the wall.
I eat and start to feel generally OK again. I’m cracking my knuckles a bunch, and I’ve touched my beard so many times I’m shocked pimples haven’t formed yet.
At night, I pop into a birthday party and talk to a person who says he hasn’t had a cigarette in 22 days, after smoking for a decade. I’m less irritable and newly invigorated. I’m in the mood to brag, too. I take my Ziploc bag out of my pocket, and he looks at me as though I’ve produced a severed limb.
I slam a shot, figuring it’ll make me hungover enough the next morning that I won’t want to get up until the late afternoon, so I’ll be able to get through half the day without having to put in much effort.
That’s what I do.
I may seem pensive, but, in reality, I’m completely concerned about how stupid I look.
Day 4: Pretend a Golf Pencil Is a Cigarette
It turns out the small pencils you use to keep score in golf are remarkably hard to find if you aren’t on a golf course or in an IKEA. I remedy this by snapping a normal-size pencil in half. The Redditor who gave this shit advice “tapped” the golf pencil as if “flicking ash off it” and “sometimes even stuck it in mouth.” The idea is to mimic the motion and routine of smoking—holding the pencil between your fingers, bringing it to your lips—but really all it does is make me look like an asshole on the verge of some sort of creative epiphany. I’m immediately self-conscious of being in public, more so than most days.
Today is the easiest day, though, because I don’t step outside until 4 PM. When I do, I munch on the pencil on the subway platform. For the most part, I forget it exists. I’m slightly terrified of ingesting lead, but I’m not positive pencils even have lead any more. (Or if they ever had lead).
Back home, I cook dinner and watch the new episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm. As smokeless day four draws to a close, I begin to believe I can stop smoking. This might be taking. These dumbass methods might be working.
I misplace the fake golf pencil before I shut my eyes.
Left to right: Alex, tobacco water, Alex
Day 5: Drink Tobacco-Infused Water
It’s Monday, my last day, and time for the advice I’ve been dreading most: drinking tobacco water. I like water, and I like cigarettes. But together? The notion of downing a glass of the stuff makes me feel queasier than eating 20 clementines, and that’s the point: I’m supposed to throw up and never want to smoke again.
Anticipating this, I go to do the deed in a park close by my office. I pour the tobacco from a cigarette into a coffee cup filled with seltzer (I prefer the bubbles). I stare at the beverage, damp sprinkles of one of the most profitable crops in the history of the world, and slowly chug. I get half of it down before dumping the rest. I spend a solid couple minutes spitting afterward.
For the remainder of the day, I’m convinced I’ve unintentionally inflicted myself with whatever condition comes from eating tobacco. But I’m alright. I haven’t smoked in five days.
The next morning, six days smoke-free, I start to think about my future. Will it involve cigarettes? I’ve spent the last week tricking myself into not lighting up, and while I wouldn’t choose to chug tobacco seltzer or peel and eat so many clementines again, I didn’t do anything that definitively kicked my habit or that I would consider resorting to long term. But they certainly kept me busy. I’m currently playing with a bottle cap. I guess it’s working, too.
I think that if you want to stop smoking, the first step is to decide to stop smoking. What helps with that—and what these methods are designed to do—is to take your mind off that decision.
If you want to breathe deeply, “smoke” a broken pencil. Sniff a bag of butts. Eat a million baby oranges. Crush a bottle cap in your bare hands.
Follow Alex Norcia on Twitter.
How to Manage Cravings
Cravings are uncomfortable, but they don’t last forever. Having a list of strategies can help you get through it. Here are a few to try.
- Call or text someone. You don’t have to do this alone. Learn how to lean on people you trust.
- Try SmokefreeTXT. Sign up online or text QUIT to 47848 to get 24/7 support sent right to your phone.
- Our free apps help you track cravings and understand your smoking patterns.
- Visit Smokefree on social media. Grow your support network and stay connected.
- Talk to an expert at a quitline. Call the National Cancer Institute Quitline at 1-877-44U-QUIT (1-877-448-7848) Monday through Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. or find your state’s quitline by calling 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669).
- Chat with a counselor. Get real-time help from the National Cancer Institute’s LiveHelp online chat.
Think About Your Reasons for Quitting
- Review your reasons. Remind yourself why you want to quit. This can be a powerful motivator to keep you smokefree.
- Calculate your savings. Cigarettes are expensive! Add up the money you’ll save, and decide what to do with it. This is a great way to stay motivated and kill time while you let a craving pass.
- Keep your mouth busy. Chew a stick of gum instead of picking up a cigarette. Keep hard candy with you. Drink more water.
- Do something else. When a craving hits, stop what you’re doing immediately and switch to doing something different. Simply changing your routine might help you shake off a craving.
- Go for a walk or jog. Or go up and down the stairs a few times. Physical activity, even in short bursts, can help boost your energy and beat a craving.
- Take slow, deep breaths. Breathe through your craving. Inhale through your nose and exhale through your mouth. Repeat this 10 times or until you’re feeling more relaxed.
Go to a Smokefree Zone
- Visit a public place. Most public places don’t allow smoking. Go to a movie, a store, or another place where you can’t smoke.
- Practice what you already do. What have you done before when you found yourself in a smokefree place? Tap into that same approach when your next craving comes along.
Try Nicotine Replacement Therapy
Even if you use nicotine replacement therapy (NRT), you might have a craving that’s difficult to deal with. Think about trying a short-acting NRT, such as a lozenge or gum, plus long-acting NRT, such as the patch, to get past the craving.
Do a Good Deed
Try distracting yourself for a few minutes by being helpful to a friend, family member, or co-worker. This takes the focus off yourself and how you are feeling and instead allows you to think of another person’s needs. It can be a helpful way to cope with a craving until it passes. Plus, doing good deeds can have positive effects on your health, like reducing stress. Managing stress can be a key part of quitting smoking.
Don’t Give Up
Do whatever it takes to beat the urge to smoke. Keep trying different things until you find what works for you. Just don’t smoke. Not even one puff!
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Coping with Nicotine Withdrawal
No matter how you do it, you will likely encounter withdrawal symptoms at some point in your quit smoking journey. You do not have to give in to these symptoms and give up your quest to be smoke-free. Here are a few tips for coping with your withdrawal symptoms.
Nicotine can improve mood and may give you a false sense of well-being. Without the drug, you may begin to feel slightly depressed. Thirty minutes of exercise each day can help beat the sagging feeling of fatigue and depression by boosting natural “feel-good” endorphins in your body. Exercise may also help you sleep better. For best results, avoid exercising right before you go to bed. Give yourself three to four hours of downtime before you go to bed.
Sleep and Rest
Your body is going through a lot of change as it works to rid itself of the nicotine dependence. It’s normal to feel extra tired while you are going through nicotine withdrawal. Take naps, or go to bed earlier. Your body still detoxes while you’re asleep.
Sometimes people gain weight when they are trying to quit smoking, because they try to satisfy their cravings for a cigarette with food. This is another reason people put off quitting — fear of gaining weight. Find a distraction other than food when you begin craving a cigarette. You might try playing a game, reading your favorite website, or going for a walk. The goal is to get yourself away from the temptation and busy focusing on a different idea.
Make Your Life Smoke-Free
Ask friends and family members to respect your new lifestyle and refrain from smoking around you. This may mean asking them to smoke only outside, and not in your house or car.
In the past, you turned to cigarettes as a quick pick-me-up when times were stressful — but no more. Now you have to find techniques to deal with everyday stress in a healthier way. Physical activity, such as walking, cleaning the house, or gardening can help you reduce your stress while keeping your mind off of nicotine cravings. Deep breathing techniques or meditation can help you find calm and avoid taking stress out in less constructive ways. Whatever way you find works best for you, remember to turn to that when you need to let off some steam.
Turn to Your Accountability Partner
Be honest, and tell them about your withdrawal. Let them know the rationalizations you’re making: “Just one cigarette won’t set me back too much” or “I’ll smoke a cigarette just this once to get through this craving.”
Your partner can help you identify ways you are sabotaging your quit-smoking plan, and can provide the support and encouragement to get through the craving.