Manage Nicotine Cravings

October 24, 2018
Manage Nicotine Cravings

You won’t be able to avoid all of your smoking triggers. And learning how to manage cigarette cravings takes practice. So be sure to have a plan to beat that urge to smoke when it happens.

The good news is that cravings usually last only 5 to 10 minutes. It might be uncomfortable, but try to wait it out. Make a list of things you can do to manage the craving. Here are a few to try.

Think About Your Reasons for Quitting

  • Remind yourself why you want to quit smoking. This can be a powerful motivator to keep you smoke-free.
  • Calculate your savings. Add up the money you’ll save, and decide what to do with it. This is a great way to stay motivated and kill time while you let a craving pass.

Stay Busy

  • Keep your mouth busy. Chew a stick of gum or keep hard candy with you. Drink more water.
  • Do something else. When a nicotine craving hits, stop what you’re doing and switch to something different.
  • Take slow, deep breaths and breathe through your craving. Inhale through your nose and exhale through your mouth. Repeat 10 times or until you feel more relaxed.


  • Go for a walk or jog or up and down the stairs a few times. Physical activity, even in short bursts, can help boost your energy and beat a craving.
  • Any type of aerobic exercise that makes you sweat, causes you to breathe harder and gets your heart beating faster can reduce the urge to smoke. Try walking, swimming, running, dancing, cycling or even boxing.
  • Withdrawal symptoms and cravings for cigarettes decrease during exercise and up to 50 minutes after
  • Exercise decreases appetite and helps limit the weight gain some people have when they quit smoking.
  • Exercise helps you cope with stress and can improve your mood.

Go to a Smoke-free Zone

  • Visit a public place. Most don’t allow smoking. Go to a movie, a store or another smoke-free place.
  • Practice what you already do. What have you done before when you found yourself in a smoke-free place? Tap into that same approach when your next craving comes along.

Do a Good Deed

Distract yourself for a few minutes by being helpful to a friend, family member or co-worker. This takes the focus off yourself and how you’re feeling. It can be a helpful way to cope with a craving until it passes. Plus, doing good deeds can have positive effects on your health, like reducing stress, which is important in quitting smoking.

Get Support

  • Call or text someone. Learn to lean on people you trust.
  • Call 1-800-QUIT-NOW to connect directly to your state’s quitline.
  • Call the National Cancer Institute’s free quitline at 1-877-44U-QUIT to talk with an expert.
  • Sign up for SmokefreeTXT to get 24/7 support sent right to your phone.
  • Chat with a counselor at the National Cancer Institute.
  • Use the QuitGuide app to track cravings by time of day and location.

Try Nicotine Replacement Therapy

Even if you use nicotine replacement therapy (NRT), you might have a craving that’s difficult to deal with. Think about trying a short-acting NRT, such as a lozenge or gum, plus a long-acting NRT, such as the patch, to get past the craving.

Don’t Give Up

Do whatever it takes to beat the urge to smoke! Keep trying different things until you find what works for you.

More Resources

Learn more about the effect of nicotine on your body and get more tips and tools for quitting at*

*Provides free, accurate, evidence-based information and professional assistance to help support the immediate and long-term needs of people trying to quit smoking.

For one-on-one coaching or to enroll in our QCARE Kick the Nic! stopping tobacco use program, call 800.235.7111 or 501.228.7111 and ask to speak to a Care Manager.

†Health plans vary. Check with your employer or plan administrator to see if QCARE is included.