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Coping with smoking triggers

How to cope with triggers and temptations while you quit smoking

Written by SpunOut | View this authors Twitter page and posted in health

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We all know quitting smoking isn't easy, and it might take a bit of time and patience before you get it right. It's also worth remembering, that there are certain situations that that will test your patience and make you crave cigarettes a little bit more than usual.

When you decide to quit, it’s really important that you identify the situations that really make you want to smoke, and consider in advance what the best way to cope with those situations might be.

Common smoking triggers and how to cope with them

Here are examples of some of the most common triggers you could come up against:

Being around smokers

This is one of the biggest triggers and it can happen in loads of different locations and contexts. Smelling and watching smokers can be a massive temptation when you’re trying to quit.  But don’t worry - you’ll be prepared.

If you can, just avoid hanging out with people while they’re smoking.  Of course, this won’t always be possible.  But if you’re in a group and others light up, just excuse yourself and come back when they’re done. Whatever you do, don’t let anyone light up in your gaff. Keep your home a smoke free zone!

Having a drink

Apart from stress, drinking alcohol is perhaps the most potent trigger to tempt you back into smoking. Be prepared for this in advance.

If you feel totally unable to have a drink without smoking, then stick to non-alcoholic drinks for the first few weeks after quitting. If you think you’re ready and decide to have a drink, don’t drink at home or by yourself. When you do drink, warn your friends in advance that you’ve quit smoking, so they’ll know not to offer you a cigarette.

Having a coffee

For some smokers, coffee and cigarettes go together like Batman and Robin. But just because you’ve quit smoking, doesn’t mean you need to cut out your morning coffee.

Between sips of coffee, take some deep breaths and enjoy the smell of the coffee. If the urge to smoke is getting strong, finish the coffee as soon as you can (without burning your tongue!) and then move into another room. 

Bear in mind, that when you quit smoking, drinking coffee without a cigarette may might make you feel a bit sad, so be prepared for this. If all else fails, make sure you wait until you get to work, school or college to have your first cup of coffee, and only drink coffee in non-smoking buildings and areas.


This is a big one. Stress is one of the main reasons many people smoke in the first place, and it’s one of the main reasons that many people’s attempts to quit fail. But you’ll be ready for it.

If possible, before you quit smoking, you should experiment with different smoke-free stress reduction techniques, and figure out which ones are right for you. That way, when the cravings kick in, you’ll know exactly what to do about it.

We suggest just taking a deep breath and stopping what you’re doing. Close your eyes for a few minutes. Walk around the room and stretch, or take a lie down. Keep this up for a few minutes, and the stress should subside a bit. Find some more ways to deal with stress here.

Starting the day

After a full night of sleep, your nicotine levels will have dropped quite a lot, and your body will be demanding a nicotine fix to start the day.  But you don’t have to give in!

  • Plan a new morning routine.
  • Begin each day with some deep breathing and by drinking a big glasses of water
  • When you normally would have smoked, do something else instead.
  • This could be going for a run or a walk, cooking a tasty breakfast, or listening to a really interesting radio show. 
  • This will keep your mind and body active and away from the smokes.

Above all, make sure that there are absolutely no cigarettes at home.

Being in a car

Long car journeys can be boring and tedious and a lot of smokers get used to lighting up to pass the time. There are better options out there though.   

  • Get rid of the ashtray, smokes, and lighter from your car
  • Make sure the car is a smoke free zone
  • Keep snacks at the ready, in case you get a craving
  • Give the car a massive cleaning, and get some air-fresheners to get rid of those smoke smells
  • Always keep a selection of some of your favourite music at the ready, to distract you and make the journey seem faster

Finishing a meal

After finishing a great dinner, a lot of smokers can barely wait to light up a smoke. Let’s think about some ways to avoid this.

  • If you’re by yourself, call a friend or take a walk as soon as you’ve finished eating
  • Brush your teeth right after the meal
  • Wash the dishes by hand after eating - it’ll get the clean-up done faster, and there’s no way you’ll be able to smoke while your hands are wet


When you’re bored, it’s natural to want to find ways to entertain yourself. But smoking isn’t the answer to this!

  • Plan so many activities for yourself, that you literally won’t have time to smoke
  • Make a list of things you need to do whenever you have free time
  • Move around
  • Make sure you always have a book or magazine to keep yourself occupied
  • Download some great games to your phone
  • Go out for a walk, if you can, but not to places that make you think of smoking

Taking a work break

Lots of smokers use their breaks and lunch to hang around outside smoking. If this is what you do, you need to think about alternative ways to spend your breaks

If there’s a certain place where people congregate to smoke, avoid that place. During your break, hang around with the non-smokers. Bring books and magazines to entertain you at lunch.

Disclaimer: There is more than one way to quit smoking. You may need to try a few different things to find what is right for you. For advice and support on quitting, visit​

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Published Sep­tem­ber 30th2014
Tags smoking quit smoking
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