Dealing with cravings

Even though it would be great to avoid cravings to smoke, they are inevitable. Cravings are quite common, especially the first few weeks after quitting. They are characterized by physical sensations and thoughts and usually last 3 to 5 minutes.

To overcome cravings more easily, it is helpful to identify when they occur and the situations that trigger them. A nicotine cravings journal can be useful to gain some perspective.

There are apps that can help you better understand your cravings to smoke and implement strategies to learn how to let them pass.

Quick tips

Try some of these tips to distract yourself, which will make the time pass and help you overcome your craving.

Get your body and your mind working

  • Take deep breaths
  • Use relaxation techniques
  • Get moving: go for a walk, exercise, etc.
  • Pull out a sudoku or crossword
  • Remind yourself of the reasons you want to stop smoking
  • Call a friend or turn to your support group

Keep your hands busy

  • Fiddle with rubber bands or paperclips
  • Squeeze—or juggle—a stress ball
  • Pop some bubble wrap
  • Play with your cell phone or tablet
  • Knit
  • Draw or colour

Work with your mouth

  • Chew a stick of sugarless gum
  • Gnaw on a cinnamon stick or a straw
  • Brush your teeth
  • Blow up some balloons!

Try it out!

What if you tried fully accepting your craving to smoke when it arises?

Inspired by acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), one approach to managing cravings is to recognize the urge to smoke and to pay careful attention to it, without judgment, until it passes. In this way, we can observe the sensations, emotions and thoughts the craving creates – without being swept away by them. Concentrating on the breath is also helpful. The storm will pass… Mastering this approach requires regular practice. To learn more about it, visit

Avoiding risky situations

Risky situations are moments or activities that give you the urge to smoke. They can be part of your routine or only occur occasionally, in specific contexts. Remain vigilant to better handle them.

Beware of triggers

Coffee, alcohol, mealtimes, stress, driving, waking up, talking on the phone—be aware of the situations that you associate with smoking that could tempt you to relapse.

Change your routine

Change your routine slightly and break your habits to mark your new life as a non-smoker and try to avoid your triggers.

Keep your distance

If being around your friends who are smokers makes you feel like lighting up, wait until you feel stronger. Your friends will understand.

Avoid the traps

Take the lighter and ashtray out of your car. At home, keep your hands and mind busy by doing housework or calling a friend, for example.

Take control of the situation

Even one puff could make you pick up the habit again. Learn to say no.