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Saturday, February 12, 2011

Beat Nicotine Cravings


Tips to help overcome the desire to pick up a cigarette after you've quit smoking
Beat Nicotine Cravings

Nicotine withdrawal symptoms usually start within hours & peak two to three days after your last cigarette. Sometimes they last just a few days, but they might continue for several weeks. Here's how to stay strong in your resolve to break your nicotine addiction.

It's not surprising that smokers trying to quit have cravings for cigarettes. They're dealing with both nicotine withdrawal symptoms & an entrenched habit.

The smoking habit is usually extremely strong & smoking has become linked with certain activities & daily routines. Perhaps you're used to having a cigarette first thing in the morning, or with coffee, or while you work. If that's the case, then it's very likely that you'll have cravings for cigarettes at each of these times.

Start to wean yourself from cigarette cravings by breaking familiar patterns that are linked to smoking:

  • If you're in the habit of smoking after meals, make sure to leave the table as soon as you finish eating. Start a new, healthy habit, like taking a short walk after each meal.
  • Whenever possible, avoid situations where you know you'll have the urge to smoke, particularly in the first few days of nicotine withdrawal.
  • Spend as much time as possible in places where smoking isn't allowed. Make your home & car smoke-free zones by asking others not to smoke there.

Think ahead, plan ways to handle cravings & learn to cope with them. You increase your coping skills each time you successfully handle a craving for a cigarette. Have a plan of action or a distraction ready for times you feel the urge to smoke.

Your doctor may also recommend using a pharmaceutical product to help cope with the nicotine dependence or, as some call it, nicotine addiction. Nicotine replacement therapy using a patch, gum, spray, or other product can help reduce cravings during the withdrawal period.

Here are some things you might do when you feel the urge to smoke:


Change the scene:

Get up & move around, go into a different room, or go outside.

Change your thinking:

Try to find a way to redirect your thoughts away from the idea of a cigarette. Remind yourself of your reasons for quitting & tell yourself that smoking is not an option.


It reduces cravings, helps relieve stress, improves mood & can help to keep you from gaining weight.

Breathe deeply:

Visualize the fresh air filling your lungs & remind yourself of the health benefits of quitting smoking. Learning relaxation & meditation techniques could help.

Drink fluids:

Water & juice are good choices - if you're concerned about weight gain, dilute juice. It's best to limit caffeine & alcohol while you're going through nicotine withdrawal, particularly if you associate them with smoking.

Have a substitute:

Eat a healthy snack, chew sugarless gum, or have a piece of hard candy or a mint when you have the urge for a cigarette, but be sure to avoid any foods that you associate with a cigarette.

Hold something in your hand:

Try a pen, coin, or paper clip; so that you have something to do with your hands, the way you did when you were smoking cigarettes.

Talk to someone:

Call a friend or relative or speak with a sympathetic person in your office.

Be more active:

Get involved in an activity you enjoy. Do a puzzle, send an e- mail, playa musical instrument, knit, write in your journal, organize your photos, play a video game. Find an activity that will occupy your hands & change the focus of your thoughts.


Tell yourself you must wait 10 minutes before you have a cigarette. By then, the urge may have passed. If not, try another IO-minute wait. Cravings usually come & go, lasting for only a brief period of time. Remind yourself that the craving will pass. The nicotine withdrawal period will pass, too.

Smoking is expensive:

Set aside the money you're saving by not buying cigarettes & use it for a treat, or save up for a vacation or a major purchase. Be sure to congratulate yourself for going without cigarettes.

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