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Becoming a nonsmoker means learning to manage your daily routine.

The biggest challenge most people face in the first few weeks of quitting is regular, persistent cravings to smoke. Some cravings are due to your body wanting nicotine but others are due to the association your mind has made between certain aspects of your daily habits and routines and smoking.

Change routines

Each smoker has their own particular triggers that make them want to smoke. If you’re aware of some of yours, you can change your routine to trick your mind into not expecting a cigarette.

When a craving hits, it will often subside if you focus your attention on another activity. Below are some common habit-based triggers and some strategies for dealing with them.

Smoking Habit


First thing in the morning

Jump in the shower first thing to start your day

With coffee or tea

Change what you drink, switch brand or change the place where you drink it

At morning tea

Read a magazine or book, sit in a different place or with different people

At the computer at home

Shift your desk around or redecorate it

After meals

Get yourself a glass of water, brush your teeth or go for a walk

At afternoon tea

Try a herbal tea, read the paper or wash your hands and face

Straight after work

Do some exercise or meditation

Just before dinner

Eat earlier or later

With alcohol

Change to a different drink, hold drink in smoking hand

As you plan the next task/chore

Breathe deeply or try a quick relaxation exercise

As a reward e.g. completing a task

Listen to music, have a piece of fruit

When you're with others that smoke

Chew gum, bring a water bottle

At night in front of the TV

Change the furniture around, hold a stress ball, do some stretches

Just before bed

Have a warm drink or herbal tea, read a book

Each time you resist the urge to act on a craving you’re helping to break the link between that activity and the cigarette - you’re teaching yourself to be a nonsmoker one day at a time.

Treat each act of resistance as a victory. Remind yourself that you always have a choice each time you have a smoking urge: act on it and smoke, or choose from one of many other options to distract yourself until the craving passes. The bigger your list of distraction ideas, the better.

More distraction ideas:

  • Have a piece of gum or fruit instead
  • Sip a glass of water slowly
  • Play with your pet, take your dog for a walk
  • Call or message a friend
  • Play a game on your phone
  • Ask a friend/partner for a shoulder massage
  • Do some gardening
  • Put on some hand cream or moisturiser 
  • Play with a stress ball
  • Do a jigsaw or crossword puzzle
  • Peel an orange

Think of the benefits of quitting and the positive changes in your life since you’ve quit and how you’re building a happier and healthier future. Short term goals are good - take it one day at a time.

Learning to manage cravings is challenging at first. But like any new skill, you can learn to do it and get better and better as time goes on.

Change smoking thoughts

You’re bound to get smoking thoughts for at least the first few weeks - thoughts of how nice it would be to have a cigarette or how much you “need” one.

  • Don’t dwell on the smoking thought
    • Accept it then focus your mind something more pleasant and stimulating.
  • Use self-talk to stay motivated and determined:
    • “I can quit, and I will quit.”
    • “I don't need cigarettes – I might want one, but I don’t need it.”
    • “I’m going to be strong because it’s worth it.
  • Break your smoking thought patterns
    • Focus your mind on something else, such as a relaxing image, a happy memory or how you are going to reward yourself for reaching your quitting milestones.