How to overcome cravings for cigarettes after quitting

Nicotine cravings are tough, but it is possible to overcome.

Nicotine cravings are tough, but it is possible to overcome.

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What you need to know:

  • Cravings sometimes come out of boredom, so it helps to have something else to do with your mouth.
  • Talk to your friends and family about your decision to quit and ask for their support.
  • When the going gets tough, and the cravings are strong, it's important to remember why you started the journey in the first place.


No addiction is easy to quit. Many smokers experience cravings for cigarettes after quitting, and some even relapse, especially when they don't have a strong support system. But with dedication and a supportive environment, there are ways to overcome.

Nicotine replacement therapy

This is one of the most popular methods for overcoming cravings. Nicotine replacement therapy comes in many forms such as patches, chewing gums, lozenges, nasal sprays, and inhalers. NRT helps by providing a small amount of nicotine to ease withdrawal symptoms and cravings. It also protects you from other toxic components found in cigarettes.

Most NRTs are available over the counter, but the nasal sprays and inhalers may require a prescription depending on your location. If you're having trouble quitting, or are experiencing strong cravings, talk to your doctor to guide you through nicotine replacement therapy.

Hold that thought

When you have a craving, don't immediately give in to it. Tell yourself that you can wait five minutes, or even ten. And then distract yourself with something else. Go for a walk, call a friend, or read a book. The point is to take your mind off smoking, even for just a few minutes.

Some mental techniques such as guided imagery and controlled breathing are used to manage stress. These techniques can help you take a mental trip and ride out the craving.

Avoid triggers

There are certain things that can trigger a craving, so it's important to avoid them. If you always smoke after dinner, try eating in a different room, or going for a walk instead. If you smoke when you drink coffee, switch to tea. Sometimes, the trigger is your company. Do you crave a cigarette when alone and idle? Go for a walk or hang out with family, neighbours, and friends that do not smoke. It's also important to avoid places where people are smoking. This might mean avoiding your favourite bar for a while or hanging out with a different group of friends.

Get something to chew on

Cravings sometimes come out of boredom, so it helps to have something else to do with your mouth. Chewing gum or sucking on hard candy can help take the edge off a craving. If you are using nicotine replacement therapy, this may be a good time to pop your nicotine chewing gum. You can also go the healthy way and get vegetables such as carrots or prepare a salad with assorted vegetables.

Some people experience dry mouth and throat when they go without cigarettes for a while. These are physical withdrawal symptoms. Chewing helps generate saliva thus moisturising the mouth and throat.

Get a support system

Talk to your friends and family about your decision to quit and ask for their support. Support from friends and family is especially important to help you create an environment at home that does not trigger cravings. Some of your friends or relatives who smoke may also be encouraged and join you in the journey. Additionally, there are many online communities and forums that can provide support and advice from people who have been in your shoes.

Remember why you chose to quit

When the going gets tough, and the cravings are strong, it's important to remember why you started the journey in the first place. Write down your reasons for quitting on a piece of paper or on your phone and read them when you're having a craving. It'll help remind you of your goals and give you the motivation to keep going. Counting the days you have gone without smoking is also a great motivator.

Get another "addiction"

No, this is not a suggestion for you to replace one addiction with another. But some people find it helpful to have something else to focus on when they're trying to quit smoking. It could be a new hobby or working out. Doing something that is physically and mentally demanding can help take your mind off cigarettes. It also helps greatly if the new activity takes you out of the house and allows you to interact with other people.

Cravings are tough but possible to overcome

Cravings are tough, but it is possible to overcome them. It takes time, effort, and determination. But with the right support system and techniques, you can successfully quit smoking for good. Some triggers, such as stress and depression, are not easy to overcome by yourself.  Get the help of a therapist to first deal with the root cause.

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