How to cope with nicotine cravings

Cravings are a normal part of quitting smoking, but that doesn't mean they're easy to deal with.

The good news is: they pass! Plus, every craving you resist brings you a step closer to being smoke free.

Find out what causes cravings and how to make coping with them easier.

Two men are sitting having a conversation

Why do I get cravings?

You get cravings because the nicotine in cigarettes is addictive. Nicotine is like food for the cells in your brain. When you stop smoking the cells get ‘hungry’. You feel it as a craving or the urge to smoke. But after a while, your brain cells get used to not having their nicotine snack, so you stop getting cravings.

Your smoking habits give you cravings too. When you have a cigarette at the same time every day, or when you're doing a certain thing (like having a cup or tea, or walking home from work), you set up a pattern. When you stop smoking, the pattern stops and you get cravings.

What can I do about my cravings?

There are lots of things you can do to make your cravings easier to manage.

  • Use a nicotine replacement or quitting aid. Using patches, gum, a vape, or an inhalator gives you the nicotine you're craving without the unhealthy smoke from cigarettes. Find out which stop smoking aid is right for you.
  • Wait it out. When you feel a craving, wait it out for ten minutes. You'll often find that the craving passes in this time.
  • Distract yourself. While you're waiting, find a distraction. Go for a walk, call someone for a chat, read a book, play a video game, dance, anything that will stop you thinking about smoking.
  • Think about your motivation. Focusing on that positive goal you're working towards - like reducing your coughing, making yourself and your family proud, or saving for a holiday - can help you get through a craving.
  • Get away from anything triggering you. If there's something triggering your craving, like smelling smoke, get away from it if you can.

Another good idea is to work out what your smoking habits or patterns are and make a plan for dealing with them. For example:

  • If you always smoke on your breaks at work with your colleagues, you could use a vape or an inhalator instead, or use your break to go for a walk.
  • If you always have a cigarette after you eat, swap it for doing a hobby you love, like knitting, playing a video game, or reading.
  • If you smoke as soon as you wake up, try changing your routine and having a shower as soon as you get up instead.

Find out how our stop smoking services can help you quit: