What Should I Do When I Get a Craving?

According to the American Lung Association, most cravings last only 3-5 minutes at their peak and will fade whether you smoke or not. Cravings can start even before the symptoms of withdrawal begin—between 4 and 24 hours. Withdrawal is due, in part, to the absence of nicotine. Cravings are sometimes due to the simple desire to smoke. It is a habit, not just an addiction. You might notice an urge at all the times you once found it convenient to smoke (during a break at work, driving in the car, when walking the dog), or during times when it was associated with a pleasurable activity (after sex, when sipping coffee in the morning, or when having a drink with friends). Cravings are complex and the first thing you should do is note when those cravings hit—then modify those triggers accordingly.

Five minutes of craving a cigarette can seem like a pretty long time but there are some great steps that can make it pass without smoking.

Try a deep breathing exercise. Some focus just on relaxation. Another technique focuses on getting you through the craving. Breathe slowly, trying over time to decrease the number of breaths. You can do this by extending the exhaling portion of breathing. Prolong the exhale as much as possible. Eventually, aim for 8 breaths per minute.

There are many other steps you can take. For example: Take a walk around the block. Go run  some errands. Play a video game.

Cravings can feel overwhelming, but the fact is that they don’t get worse. They fade! If you can distract yourself or use breathing and imagery for just a few minutes, you will find that the peak of the craving has passed. And remember, the first 8 days are the worst. Plan well and you will make it.


This information is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment, and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice. If you have any questions or concerns, please talk to your doctor.  

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