How to recognise and combat your smoking triggers

What are the habits or situations that trigger you to smoke?
What are the habits or situations that trigger you to smoke?

Whether it’s stress, the taste or just habit, there are various reasons why people continue to smoke cigarettes. These triggers make it harder to kick the habit and to quit for good.

There are physical factors which make people crave nicotine, but there is definitely also a correlation between cravings and certain situations according to research.

When you are able to identify what urges you to smoke, you can better fight the craving. Here are some of the most common triggers and what you can do to fight them.

The different triggers can be divided into four groups:

  • Emotional (feelings such as stress, celebration, etc.)
  • Habit (e.g. when drinking coffee, talking on the phone)
  • Social (going to certain bars or clubs, being with certain groups of friends, etc.)
  • Withdrawal (e.g. smelling cigarette smoke, seeing someone else smoking) 

1. During stressful situations

Why it's a trigger: Smoking can help you to cope with a stressful situation. Smoking is strongly associated with taking a break. Nicotine also provides a calm feeling – but know that it an illusion. As nicotine enters your bloodstream, your heart rate spikes – the sense of calmness is created by the release of dopamine.

Solution: Know that you can take a breather without actually lighting up a cigarette. Instead of going outside simply to smoke, rather go for a brisk walk around the block. Think about other things in your life that make you relax – maybe there’s a hobby, such as drawing or painting, that you can take up instead of smoking.

smoking while working at desk

2. Coffee

Why it’s a trigger: The idea of that first cup of morning coffee, paired with a cigarette, sounds amazing. A study showed that cigarettes may enhance the taste of coffee, making this combo even more appealing. “The conventional wisdom has been that there’s something about the combination of nicotine and caffeine that smokers like,” says lead author of the study, Duke University’s Joseph McClernon, PhD. 

Solution: We are not suggestion that you give up coffee as well, but do acknowledge and change the coffee habits that lead to smoking – go to a different coffee shop, drink a different variety of coffee, start drinking coffee at your desk rather than nipping down to the coffee shop on the corner.

woman smoking at coffee shop

3. Alcohol

Why it’s a trigger: A cigarette may seem more appealing to you after a glass of wine with friends. This can partly be because your inhibitions are lowered and you are more likely to give in to smoke, especially if you are a social smoker.

Solution: Drink less, or drink mindfully while you are trying to quit, as it may be easier to light up that cigarette while you are feeling a bit tipsy. When your body has become used to reduced nicotine levels that second drink won’t be as likely to jeopardise your efforts to quit.

man drinking wine while smoking

4. After a meal

Why it's a trigger: Many people tend to smoke after a delicious meal. People are likely to feel more satisfied if they end off a meal with a cigarette.

Solution: Take a couple of deep breaths, go for a brisk walk or chew gum after a meal to take your mind off those cigarette cravings.

Woman smoking at restaurant after a meal

5. A certain social setting or a group of friends

Why it's a trigger: Some people smoke only in certain social settings – whether it’s in a noisy club or with a group of friends – and this is often associated with alcohol. Even if you tell yourself that you are only a social smoker, every cigarette increases your risk of heart disease and stroke.

Solution: Think of why you smoke in that specific social setting and plan how you would handle not smoking in that situation. Keep your hands busy, talk to other people in the group, or just walk around. 

young people in night club

Image credit: iStock

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