Coping with smoking triggers
How to cope with triggers and temptations while you quit smoking
Written by spunout
Fact checked by experts and reviewed by young people.
We all know quitting smoking isn’t easy, and it might take a bit of time and patience before you get it right. TIt’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 can fight the urge.
- Plan a new morning routine.
- Begin each day with some deep breathing and by drinking a big glass of water
- When you normally would have smoked, plan a different activity instead.
- This could be going for a run or a walk, cooking breakfast, or listening to a podcast or 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
If you are used to smoking or vaping while you drive, plan ahead to create new smoke-free driving habits.
- Get rid of the ashtray, cigarettes, and lighter from your car
- Make sure others know your car is a smoke free zone
- Keep snacks, gum and water at the ready, in case you get a craving
- Give the car a massive cleaning, and get some air-fresheners to get rid of the smell of smoke
- Play your favourite music, podcasts or audiobooks while you drive to keep your mind off of smoking
Finishing a meal
Smoking after dinner or a meal is a common smokers habit. Similar to your new morning routine, you will need to have a plan for what you will do instead.
- 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
- Have a mint or particular tea that distracts your taste buds after you eat
- Wash the dishes by hand after eating
When you’re bored, it’s natural to want to find ways to entertain yourself. But smoking isn’t the answer to this.
- Plan activities you enjoy in your free time to keep you distracted
- Make a list of things you need to do whenever you have free time
- Move around, get active or take a walk
- Many people take up a new hobby while quitting such as yoga, meditation, or running
- Hang out with friends or family who support your decision to quit
- Make sure you always have a book, magazine or headphones to keep yourself occupied
- Download some great games to your phone
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 gather to smoke, avoid that place. During your break, hang around with the non-smokers. Bring a book or your headphones to entertain you at lunch.
One of the best things you can do for yourself is to get support from others, especially people who have also quit smoking. This could be supportive friends or family members, or even a support group for smokers trying to quit. Talking to someone who can listen and empathise with what you’re going through can make a big difference.
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 SpunOut.ie/QUIT