6 Common Smoking Triggersand How to Fight Them
Conquer your cravings
The physical withdrawal symptoms of nicotine are notoriously difficult to overcome, but the psychological cravings for cigarettes can be even worse.
According to addiction medicine specialist Michael Miller, MD, smoking is hard to shake partly because it’s such a
repetitive habit. “Smokers light up so often that they make associations with it—driving, for instance, or talking on the phone or drinking a cup of coffee,” he says.
To successfully quit smoking, it’s important to know the triggers that send you looking for a cigarette and figure out ways to defuse them.
For many smokers, the cigarette after a good meal is the most delicious one of all, and the urge to light up often hits as soon as they drop their fork.
To resist post-meal cravings, get up from the table immediately after eating and do something enjoyable to distract yourself, experts recommend.
Go for a brisk walk, play a board game—anything to keep your lungs and hands busy and your mind off smoking.
Cigarettes and coffee go so well together that the combination has inspired movies and songs. A 2007 study even found that coffee seems to enhance the taste of cigarettes.
“The conventional wisdom has been that there’s something about the combination of nicotine and caffeine that smokers like,” says the lead author of the study, Duke University’s Joseph McClernon, PhD. “But it may simply be that they taste better together—like Oreos and cold milk.”
To avoid coffee-related cravings, try changing your routine: Find a new coffee shop, have your morning cup a bit later than usual, or switch to soda or water.
As with coffee, many smokers enjoy pairing cigarettes with a glass of wine or beer. (McClernon’s study found that alcohol makes cigarettes taste better, too.) After you stop smoking, holding a glass in one hand will make you want a cigarette in the other—and, to make matters worse, the alcohol will undermine your willpower.
Experts suggest that you scale back your alcohol consumption or even stop drinking altogether right after you quit. After a few months, when the nicotine cravings aren’t as strong, that second glass of wine won’t be as hazardous.
Although cigarettes actually increase physical markers of stress, smokers tend to feel more relaxed after lighting up. So, it’s not surprising that emotional stress is one of the biggest triggers for smoking.
If you quit smoking, make an effort to reduce the stress in your life; take up
yoga or meditation, for instance. And try to develop strategies other than smoking to cope with stressful situations. If you have an argument with a spouse or co-worker, or are rushing to meet a tight deadline, try walking around the block or practicing relaxation exercises instead of reaching for a cigarette.
For many smokers, cars are a smoking lounge on wheels. You’re bound to have cravings when you’re behind the wheel—especially if you’re late for work and stuck in a traffic jam—and while you can’t avoid them altogether, you can make it harder for yourself to sneak a cigarette.
For starters, remove your car’s cigarette lighter and fill the ashtray with hard candy or gum (you might even try
nicotine gum). If you have passengers in the car, ask them not to smoke. Above all, don’t keep cigarettes in the car.
The areas outside office buildings and restaurants where smokers congregate are like quicksand for people trying to quit. If you find yourself walking by a group of co-workers or friends who are merrily puffing away, don’t get sucked in. If possible, find a way to avoid them—use another entrance or tweak your schedule.
The same goes for parties and other social occasions. If people are smoking, move to another room; if your friends head outside for a cigarette, don’t go with them and pick up the conversation when they return.