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NIH MedlinePlus the Magazine, Trusted Health Information from the National Institutes of Health

Quit Smoking

3 Tools to Help You Quit

Know your triggers

Understanding what triggers the urge to smoke can give you a head start on quitting. In the list below, check off all those situations that trigger your craving for a cigarette.

Think about what might tempt you to smoke. Many smokers find that all these triggers make them want to smoke. You may only check a few. The point is to recognize all the situations that trigger your craving for a cigarette.

  •  Waking in the morning
  •  Drinking coffee, tea, or alcohol
  •  Smelling a cigarette
  •  Being with other smokers
  •  Seeing someone smoke
  •  Taking a break
  •  Talking on the phone
  •  Checking email
  •  Surfing the Internet
  •  Watching TV
  •  Driving my car
  •  Being a passenger
  •  After eating
  •  After having sex
  •  After completing a task
  •  Feeling stressed
  •  Feeling lonely or depressed
  •  Being or feeling less tolerant
  •  Feeling bored
  •  Feeling angry, irritable, or impatient

Meet your triggers head on

You can prepare to quit smoking by thinking of ways to avoid some triggers and creating alternatives for others. The urge to smoke does subside. Resisting is easier if you:

  • take a deep breath
  • keep your hands busy–write, doodle, or hold a coin or pencil
  • put something else in your mouth, such as a toothpick, sugar–free lollipop, or celery stick
  • go places where smoking isn't allowed, such as a library or nonsmoking restaurant
  • hang out with people who don't smoke
  • avoid or reduce alcoholic drinks; try to drink water or juice instead
A journal and pen

Keep a journal

To understand your short- and long-term challenges, start by examining your smoking habits. Track how many cigarettes you smoke a day and what you are doing when you light up.

Look for patterns. You may discover triggers you weren't aware of. Smoking at certain times or in varying circumstances may be more important than others. Understanding what tempts you and when can help control the urge to smoke.

Whether you use the format at right or one of your own, keep your journal handy. Write down where and when you smoke and what you're feeling, thinking, and doing. Keep track for at least one week, recording at least one full weekday and one weekend day. You may even find the time you spend writing has meant less time smoking.

Time of
Activity Who I Was
Example 10:45 3 At work Alone Stressed

Winter 2011 Issue: Volume 5 Number 4 Page 8