Conquering the Urge to Smoke

During the first hours and days, the urge to smoke can be enormous. We asked former smokers what tricks they used to overcome those cravings. Their responses were varied and ingenious. Read through them to find the ones that you think might help you.

"When the desire to smoke hit, I would put the cigarette under my nose..."

"I carried one cigarette around with me. When the desire to smoke hit, I would take that one cigarette and put it under my nose and inhale the smell. This went on until the cigarette fell apart. I do not remember how long that lasted and I really don't want to know. All I know is that I am free!" — Donna C.



"I kept an unsharpened pencil handy for the times when I needed something to do with my hands."

"I kept an unsharpened pencil handy for the times when I needed something to do with my hands, like after meals and first thing in the mornings when my smoking was heaviest. I would sort of twirl the pencil through my fingers much like a baton and sometimes just wiggle it back and forth, anything to have something in my hand and doing something to break that habit." — Joetta C.

"When I got a craving, I told myself it was my body telling me it was thirsty, and I drank a glass of water."

"I did two things to help me through a craving... When I got a craving for a cigarette, I told myself that it wasn't a craving, it was my body telling me it was thirsty, and I drank a glass of water. This does a couple really good things for you. It gets you drinking water, which your body needs and it is not fattening, so you won't gain weight. The second thing I did was I got some peppermint sticks, or candy canes, and sucked on those throughout the day, and you can get low sugar or sugar free ones if you like and again, you won't gain weight from this new 'habit.' — M.M.

"...chewing on anise seeds or other herbs." "Some of the tricks included lots of fresh water with lemon in it, holding a pencil or straw in fingers, chewing on anise seeds or other herbs (licorice root is a good one because you can hold it like a cigarette), and getting up and going for a short walk whilst others lit up was very healthy." — D.A.M.

"I bought a pack of herbal cigarettes, which are made without tobacco."

"I bought a pack of herbal cigarettes, which are made without tobacco. This satisfied the urge to 'smoke' but were so nasty that it was actually a relief to get to the end of the pack. It took about 2 packs of these to really make me glad I had quit. I was a 2-pack a day smoker (for 46 years) but each pack of the herbal cigarettes lasted about 10 days to 2 weeks." — Freda W.

"Part of smoking is breathing, so just pretend you are smoking."

"One thing I remember doing while early in my nonsmoking was I seemed to run around the house here with a Bic ballpoint pen in my mouth. I know it sounds odd, but hey, it worked! I didn't chew on it, just sucked on the cap mostly. Also doing deep breathing exercises helped me. Part of smoking is breathing, so just pretend you are smoking. The over 20 years of smoking created a habit of inhaling and when I quit that I was sort of lost. It seemed like there was something I was supposed to be doing, but I couldn't put my finger on it. The deep breathing help me a lot." — Mona B.

"Whenever I felt the urge to put a cigarette in my mouth I would chew on a straw."

To help beat the urge, I always had straws in my car, at work and home. Whenever I felt the urge to put a cigarette in my mouth I would chew on a straw. I also had a supply of mints and gum. To curb the urge when driving I always would put two mints in my mouth when I got into my car, like lighting up. To this day, I out of an old habit have gained a new one of having two mints every time I enter my car. Suckers and sunflower seeds always seemed to help that first month of withdrawal." — Sujean W.



"I'd pop a handful of 'Red Hots' in my mouth."

"Actually, I only gave up one cigarette: the next one. During the process of quitting, I carried an open pack of cigarettes and a lighter. The easy access to my addiction eliminated any sense of panic. Whenever I felt the need to smoke, I'd pop a handful of 'Red Hots' in my mouth, suck on the candy till my mouth burned, oxygenate my lungs with a couple of deep breaths, and mutter, 'later.' Well, 'later' has now extended beyond sixteen years and as much as I enjoyed smoking, I enjoy not smoking much more." — Jack H.

"Waiting my way through a cigarette craving caused that craving to subside."

Waiting my way through a cigarette craving, caused that craving to subside. If I had a terrible craving, and just waited about 15-20 minutes, eventually that craving would go away. (Or perhaps by then my mind was on something else completely, so my mind was no longer on wanting/needing to smoke.)" — Mary

"I found a cigarette that was filter all the way through."

I quit smoking after 30 years, approximately four and one half years ago. I had tried many smoking cessation programs prior to this with only short-term success. I credit three things for finally helping me kick the habit. The first was that my doctor prescribed the anti-anxiety drug Lorazepam (Ativan) .5 mg twice daily. They now have Zyban, but many people I talked to don't find it very helpful. I found the Ativan helped me cope with that sense of loss/abandonment that had sabotaged previous cessation attempts.

"The second was that I found a cigarette that was filter all the way through. Whenever I found myself in a social situation that had formerly triggered lighting up, I would go through the motions of inhaling and exhaling using the phony cigarette. Deep breathing does not do it. You have to do the breathing exactly as if you were smoking a cigarette. Even now when I feel like one I do the breathing thing without the phony prop. The third was that I took a brisk walk for two miles daily. That helped ease a lot of the stress that triggered my smoking." — Anita R.

"I started eating sugar-free jelly beans."

After I stopped I started eating sugar-free jelly beans. I carried them in my pockets, in my purse, in the console of my truck, in my desk drawer, etc. — just everywhere. I ate them constantly for about four months and still now today I have to have something in my mouth all the time. But I keep mints handy now, and I didn't realize until I stopped smoking how easy they are to get. They are at almost all check-out counters." — D.H.

"...whenever I felt the need for a cigarette, [I would] count to 90."

"My physician informed me that a craving lasts only approximately 90-100 seconds, and whenever I felt the need for a cigarette, count to 90, no matter where I was, silently or out loud. I did this for three months and would literally count out loud in some circumstances. My physician was right — after 90-100 seconds, the craving was gone. Something about the counting gave me subconscious strength." — Donna E.

" mint mouthwash ... on dissolvable sheets."

"I use the Certs cool mint drops. They come in a box and they are very strong and it makes you only want that. Also I like the convenient pack of cool mint mouthwash that Listerene puts out. They come on dissolvable sheets, and those are very helpful too." — S.K.



"...drinking plenty of water and fruit juices."

My church denomination sponsors a five-day stop smoking plan that has helped many, many people to quit this terrible habit and remain smoke-free. They say that the physical addiction is gone within two weeks, and they recommend drinking plenty of water and fruit juices to help rid your body of nicotine. The emotional addiction, however, is harder to overcome. That is why I remained in a constant state of prayer. I know of some people who have crunched on crushed ice after meals instead of reaching for a cigarette." — Jeanette P.

"The one thing I was taught ... was to remember to breathe."

On thing that I was taught by a professional during my time of withdrawal was to remember to breathe. Once I stopped smoking cold turkey I started having anxiety and uneasiness. In order to take back control of my emotions I sought out any help I could find. I went to a counselor, who after a short evaluation said to me, 'You need to breathe!' She asked me to lie on the floor and take a big deep breath. I took the deepest breath I could, making sure my lungs filled up. Then she said, 'make a wave.' I certainly was confused. She went on to explain that so many of us forget to use our stomachs too. The idea is while lying on the floor to pull in a big breath to your stomach, then into your lungs. Then exhale. What a difference my life took, and it was simple too. I had not realized that because I wasn't inhaling I wasn't taking any deep breaths anymore, and I was tight and upset. Now, I have learned to take wonderful and relaxing cleansing breaths. So every time I went to pick up a cigarette, I remembered from then on, 'make a wave.'" — Laura P.

"I went to bed with a large container of cut, seedless watermelon on my bedside table."

I went to bed with a large container of cut, seedless watermelon on my bedside table. Every time I woke up coughing, I ate a piece or two of watermelon instead of lighting a cigarette as I would have formerly." — Barbara B.


"I smoked for 17 years and it was hard to quit. What helped me was 1. Prayer. 2. Nicoderm patches and 3.Twizzler's! (The candy is exactly the diameter of a cigarette and it helped to have something in my mouth.)" — R.N.