Cigarette cravings can wear you down when you’re trying to quit smoking. If you can control your cravings for a cigarette, you’ll boost your chances of quitting. The most effective ways to tackle those cravings are a combination of stop-smoking medications and behavioural changes.
Cravings happen because your body misses its regular hits of nicotine. There are two main types of cravings – the steady constant background craving for a cigarette, which decreases in intensity over several weeks of quitting, and the sudden bursts of an intense urge to smoke, which are often triggered by a cue such as having a few drinks. These urges tend to get less frequent over time, but their intensity can remain strong many months after quitting.
8 Ways to reduce those cigarette cravings are:
1. Delay – When an urge to smoke strikes, remember that although it may be intense, it will be short-lived and will probably pass within a few minutes. If you feel like you’re going to give in to your tobacco craving, wait at least 10 minutes by doing something to distract yourself, until the urge disappears.
2. Don’t have just one – You may be tempted to have just one cigarette to satisfy your tobacco craving. But don’t be fooled into believing that you can stop at just one! More often than not having one leads to another, then another!
3. Avoid triggers – Urges for tobacco are likely to be strongest in the situations where you smoked most often, such as bars, with a cup of coffee, or while watching TV. Identify your trigger situations and have a plan in place so that you can avoid them entirely or get through them without using tobacco. For example try sitting in a different chair to watch TV or switch a cup of coffee to orange juice or tea instead. You don’t have to give up your habits forever, just until you’ve broken the association with smoking.
4. Running away from cigarette cravings – Physical activity can help distract you from tobacco cravings and reduce the intensity of cravings. Short bursts of moderate physical activity, like jogging or cycling seemed to have the greatest effect on reducing cravings while strength training reduced them slightly. Exercise may also help you reduce stress and keep your weight down.
5. Support – Reach for moral support with a family member, friend of support group member as you struggle to resist a tobacco craving. Join an online stop-smoking program or read a quitter’s blog and post encouraging thoughts for someone else who may be struggling and learn from how others have handled their cravings.
6. Stay strong – Expect your cravings to be at their worst in the first weeks after quitting. The good news is that they will disappear. Be prepared for cravings at special events like holidays or weddings where you may have never experienced being a non-smoker.
7. Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT) - Nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) gives your body the nicotine without the toxic chemicals that you get in cigarettes, so it doesn’t cause cancer. NRT won’t give you the same hit or pleasure you would expect from a cigarette, but it does help reduce cravings. NRT is available as gum, patches, lozenges, microtabs, inhalator, nasal spray and mouth spray.
8. Stop smoking medications – Prescription medications such as Zyban (bupropion) and Champix (varenicline) work on your brain to dampen the cravings. They are not suitable for everyone but speak with your healthcare practitioner to see whether prescription medicines can help you.
Cravings are the most important withdrawal symptom to challenge and craving control is one of the best predictors of success in quitting smoking. Each time you resist a tobacco craving, you’re one step closer to stopping smoking for good!