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Easy Ways to Resist Tobacco Cravings

Ways to help you reach your goal.
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

Tobacco or nicotine use is the leading cause of preventable disease, death, and disability in the United States. According to the CDC, currently, 12.5% of the population smokes. Nearly three-quarters of smokers indicate that they want to stop using tobacco but are concerned that it will be too difficult to accomplish and are not familiar with the tools and strategies that will help them reach their goal.  There are evidence-based strategies that smokers can use to achieve success in comfort, which will decrease their risk for many health conditions.

I have been working in tobacco control and cessation services for over 20 years. At our cessation program for community members, we have treated tens of thousands of tobacco users for their nicotine dependence. Quitting tobacco use is one of the most important steps an individual can take to avoid serious illness and improve chronic health conditions.

Smokers often attempt to quit multiple times before they are successful. It is important to avoid becoming discouraged and look at each attempt as an opportunity to learn something for the next attempt. Enlisting the guidance of a health care professional may give smokers the necessary tools to finally quit. Patients frequently tell me that they have tried to quit without support, advice or cessation medications in the past, but finally realize that they need these resources to succeed. Read on to find out more—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.


Be Prepared

middle-aged man chatting with doctor

Most people who try to quit smoking do not feel that it is easy. The experience can be challenging and life-changing for those who do succeed, leaving them with a huge sense of accomplishment as well as improved health.

When thinking about an easy (or at least less difficult) way to quit, preparation is key. Talk to your physician and ask for help. Share your desire to quit with family and friends who you know will be supportive. If it is not too stressful, select a quit date within the next 2 weeks and try to stick to it. Prepare your home to become smoke-free- remove ash trays, get rid of cartons of cigarettes and other items associated with smoking. While preparing and still smoking, some people find it helpful to switch to a brand of cigarette that they don't really like. Also, working to break the associations they usually experience while smoking. For instance, isolate your smoking from other activities-discontinue smoking in the car or while on your computer or during your morning coffee. These practices can make the quit date a little more manageable.   


Use the Right Medications

Woman is holding a mobile phone and a bottle of pills

Besides preparation, another tool that can aid in cessation is the use of FDA-approved medications. These medications (such as nicotine patches) can provide comfort and decrease the unpleasant feelings associated with nicotine cravings. Using more than one nicotine replacement product at a time may also increase your chances of success. For example, wearing a nicotine patch all day or at least until bedtime will provide a steady stream of nicotine. If you have a breakthrough craving, using another nicotine product such as gum, lozenges or inhaler may help avoid or at least lessen the discomfort of a craving. Talking to your healthcare provider about the appropriate dose of nicotine replacement and the proper use can contribute to a less painful and more successful quit attempt.  


Join a Program or a Group


Many smokers have found that quitting on their own can be difficult. Joining a smoking cessation program or support group, either in person or virtually can provide the realization that you are not alone in the struggle to combat cravings and avoid relapse. Listening to others describe their challenges and solutions to common quitting problems can offer the support needed to sustain quitting. Most states have quitlines, which provide trained quit coaches, who are dedicated to individual callers. These quitlines have been instrumental in helping smokers quit. In conjunction with programs and quitlines, many smokers have incorporated the use of quit smoking apps to their quit plan. These apps can provide motivation, distraction from cravings, education and ongoing encouragement.


Take Care of Yourself

To resist cravings, there are some additional steps to take. Take care of yourself- eat healthfully, drink plenty of fluids, and if possible, incorporate some additional exercise into your daily routine. Avoiding triggers to smoke, such as coffee, alcohol, other smokers, can help especially early in the quit attempt. Try to anticipate when cravings may happen and be prepared. For example, social gatherings, certain holidays, vacations may be triggers. Have your medications with you and use them as needed. Do what you can to survive a craving: drink a bottle of water, take a walk, call a supportive friend, take deep breaths, keep your hands and mouth busy, brush your teeth, go to a place where smoking is not permitted, keep a journal of your cravings and how you are feeling, think about the rewards of quitting and the risks of continued smoking,  


Think Positive

woman jogging along a trail

If you decide on a quit date, try to make it as stress-free as possible, plan a positive self-reward that day, spend the day with a supportive friend or family member, get enough rest and do some physical activity, document your reasons for wanting to quit, start saving the money you would have spent on cigarettes. And to protect your life and the lives of others, don't visit any of these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.

Patricia Folan, RN, DNP, Certified Tobacco Treatment Specialist (CTTS). She is the director of the Northwell's Center for Tobacco Control (CTC), an IRB-approved program that provides direct tobacco cessation services to the employees of Northwell Health.

Patricia Folan, RN, DNP
Patricia Folan, RN, DNP, Certified Tobacco Treatment Specialist (CTTS). Read more about Patricia
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