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Quitting smoking: 10 ways to resist tobacco cravings
Tobacco cravings can wear you down when you're trying to quit smoking or chewing tobacco. Delaying, avoiding triggers, yoga and nicotine replacement are among the ways to resist cravings.By Mayo Clinic staff
For most tobacco users, tobacco cravings or urges to smoke can be powerful. But you're not at the mercy of these tobacco cravings. When an urge to use tobacco strikes, remember that although it may be intense, it will be short-lived, and it probably will pass within a few minutes whether or not you smoke a cigarette or take a dip of chewing tobacco. Each time you resist a tobacco craving, you're one step closer to stopping smoking or other tobacco use for good. But it can be difficult.
So here are 10 ways to help you resist the urge to smoke or use tobacco when a tobacco craving strikes, no matter where you are:
- Delay. If you feel like you're going to give in to your tobacco craving, tell yourself that you must first wait 10 more minutes and then do something to distract yourself for that period of time. This simple trick may be enough to derail your tobacco craving. Repeat as often as needed.
- Don't have 'just one.' You might be tempted to have just one cigarette to satisfy a tobacco craving. But don't fool yourself into believing that you can stop at just one. More often than not, having just one leads to another, then another — and you may wind up using tobacco again.
- Avoid triggers. Urges for tobacco are likely to be strongest in the situations where you smoked or chewed tobacco most often, such as at parties or bars, in the car or while watching television. Identify your trigger situations and have a plan in place so that you can avoid them entirely or get through them without using tobacco. Don't set yourself up for a smoking relapse. If you usually smoked while you talked on the phone, for instance, keep a pen and paper nearby to occupy yourself with doodling rather than smoking.
- Get physical. Physical activity can help distract you from tobacco cravings and reduce the intensity of cravings. Just 30 minutes of moderate physical activity can make a tobacco craving go away. Get out for a walk or jog. If you're stuck at home or the office, try squats, deep knee bends, push-ups, running in place, or walking up and down a set of stairs a few times. If physical activity doesn't interest you, try prayer, needlework, woodwork or journaling. Or do chores for distraction, such as vacuuming or filing paperwork.
- Practice relaxation techniques. In the past, smoking may have been your way to deal with stress. Trying to resist a tobacco craving can itself be stressful. Take the edge off stress by practicing relaxation techniques. These include deep-breathing exercises, muscle relaxation, yoga, visualization, hypnosis and massage.
- Call reinforcements. Touch base with a family member, friend or support group member for moral support as you struggle to resist a tobacco craving. Chat on the phone, go for a walk together or simply share a few laughs — or get together to commiserate about your cravings.
- Remember the benefits of quitting. Write down or say out loud the reasons you want to stop smoking and resist tobacco cravings. These might include feeling better, getting healthier, sparing your loved ones from secondhand smoke or saving money. And if you're a closet smoker, you may save hours of time since you no longer have to spend time trying to conceal your habit.
- Go online. Join an online stop-smoking program. Or read a quitter's blog and post encouraging thoughts for someone else who might be struggling with tobacco cravings. Learn from how others have handled their tobacco cravings.
- Try nicotine replacements. Try a nicotine replacement product instead of a cigarette. Some types of nicotine replacement therapy, including patches, gums and lozenges, are available over-the-counter. Nicotine nasal spray and the nicotine inhaler are available by prescription, as are the stop-smoking medications bupropion (Zyban) and varenicline (Chantix).
- Chew on it. Give your mouth something to do to fight a tobacco craving. Chew on sugarless gum or hard candy. Or munch on raw carrots, celery, nuts or sunflower seeds — something crunchy and satisfying.
Remember, trying something to beat the urge is always better than doing nothing. And each time you resist a tobacco craving, you're one step closer to being totally tobacco-free.
- Guide to quitting smoking. American Cancer Society. http://www.cancer.org/acs/groups/cid/documents/webcontent/002971-pdf.pdf. Accessed Feb. 28, 2011.
- Pathways to freedom: Winning the fight against tobacco. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/quit_smoking/how_to_quit/pathways/pdfs/pathways.pdf. Accessed Feb. 28, 2011.
- Harms of smoking and health benefits of quitting. National Cancer Institute. http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/factsheet/Tobacco/fs10_19.pdf. Accessed Feb. 28, 2011.
- Managing cravings: When you really crave a cigarette. SmokeFree.gov. http://www.smokefree.gov/qg-quitting-cravings.aspx. Accessed Feb. 28, 2011.
- Dale LC (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. Feb. 28, 2011.