Fighting the urge

Cravings to smoke will happen even if we want to avoid them. Especially at the beginning, they could be quite frequent. Cravings usually last 3 to 5 minutes. Learning to manage them is the key to prevent a relapse.

Resist the urge to smoke by doing something to distract yourself for a couple of precious minutes.  Why not fully accepting the urge when it becomes present? Lastly, beware of risky situations!

Quick tips

Get your body and your mind working

  • Take deep breaths
  • Use relaxation techniques
  • Get moving: go for a walk, exercise, etc.
  • Pull out a sudoku or crossword
  • Remind yourself of the reasons you want to stop smoking
  • Call a friend or turn to your support group

Keep your hands busy

  • Fiddle with rubber bands or paperclips
  • Squeeze—or juggle—a stress ball
  • Pop some bubble wrap
  • Play with your cell phone or tablet
  • Knit
  • Draw or colour

Work with your mouth

  • Chew a stick of sugarless gum
  • Gnaw on a cinnamon stick or a straw
  • Brush your teeth
  • Blow up some balloons!
Try it out!
Inspired by acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), one approach to managing cravings is to recognize the urge to smoke and to pay careful attention to it, without judgment, until it passes. In this way, we can observe the sensations, emotions and thoughts the craving creates – without being swept away by them. Concentrating on the breath is also helpful. The storm will pass… Mastering  this approach requires regular practice. To learn more about it, visit

Avoiding risky situations

Beware of triggers

Coffee, alcohol, mealtimes, stress, driving, waking up, talking on the phone—be aware of the situations that you associate with smoking that could tempt you to relapse.

Avoid the traps

Take the lighter and ashtray out of your car. At home, keep your hands and mind busy by doing housework or calling a friend, for example.

Change your routine

Change your routine slightly and break your habits to mark your new life as a non-smoker and try to avoid your triggers.

Take control of the situation

Even one puff could make you pick up the habit again. Learn to say no.

Keep your distance

If being around your friends who are smokers makes you feel like lighting up, wait until you feel stronger. Your friends will understand.

What if you slip?

It happens! It often takes several attempts before butting out for good. The important thing is to identify what brought on the relapse and not to get discouraged.

Look on the bright side: now that you know why you slipped, the next time you’ll be that much further ahead. Start again as soon as you feel ready. You can do it!