Tobacco cravings can wear you down when you're trying to quit. Use these tips to reduce and resist cravings.

By Mayo Clinic Staff

For most tobacco users, tobacco cravings or urges to smoke can be powerful. But you're not at the mercy of these cravings.

When an urge to use tobacco strikes, remember that although it may be intense, it will probably pass within five to 10 minutes whether or not you smoke a cigarette or take a dip of chewing tobacco. Each time you resist a tobacco craving, you're one step closer to stopping tobacco use for good.

Here are 10 ways to help you resist the urge to smoke or use tobacco when a tobacco craving strikes.

Ask your doctor about nicotine replacement therapy. The options include:

  • Prescription nicotine in a nasal spray or inhaler
  • Over-the-counter nicotine patches, gum and lozenges
  • Prescription non-nicotine stop-smoking medications such as bupropion (Zyban) and varenicline (Chantix)

Short-acting nicotine replacement therapies — such as nicotine gum, lozenges, nasal sprays or inhalers — can help you overcome intense cravings. These short-acting therapies are generally safe to use in combination with long-acting nicotine patches or one of the non-nicotine medications.

Electronic cigarettes have had a lot of attention recently as an alternative to smoking traditional cigarettes. However, more studies are needed to determine the effectiveness of electronic cigarettes for smoking cessation and the long-term safety of these devices.

Urges for tobacco are likely to be strongest in the situations where you smoked or chewed tobacco most often, such as at parties or bars, or while feeling stressed or sipping coffee. Identify your trigger situations and have a plan in place to avoid them entirely or get through them without using tobacco.

Don't set yourself up for a smoking relapse. If you usually smoked while you talked on the phone, for instance, keep a pen and paper nearby to occupy yourself with doodling rather than smoking.

If you feel like you're going to give in to your tobacco craving, tell yourself that you must first wait 10 more minutes — and then do something to distract yourself for that period of time. Try going to a public, smoke-free zone. These simple tricks may be enough to derail your tobacco craving.

Give your mouth something to do to fight a tobacco craving. Chew on sugarless gum or hard candy, or munch on raw carrots, celery, nuts or sunflower seeds — something crunchy and satisfying.

You might be tempted to have just one cigarette to satisfy a tobacco craving. But don't fool yourself into believing that you can stop there. More often than not, having just one leads to another— and you may end up using tobacco again.

Physical activity can help distract you from tobacco cravings and reduce their intensity. Even short burst of physical activity — such as running up and down the stairs a few times — can make a tobacco craving go away. Get out for a walk or jog.

If you're stuck at home or the office, try squats, deep knee bends, pushups, running in place, or walking up and down a set of stairs. If physical activity doesn't interest you, try prayer, needlework, woodwork or journaling. Or do chores for distraction, such as vacuuming or filing paperwork.

Smoking may have been your way to deal with stress. Resisting a tobacco craving can itself be stressful. Take the edge off stress by practicing relaxation techniques, such as deep-breathing exercises, muscle relaxation, yoga, visualization, massage or listening to calming music.

Touch base with a family member, friend or support group member for help in your effort to resist a tobacco craving. Chat on the phone, go for a walk together, share a few laughs, or get together to commiserate about your cravings. A free telephone quit line — 800-QUIT-NOW (800-784-8669) — provides support and counseling

Join an online stop-smoking program. Or read a quitter's blog and post encouraging thoughts for someone else who might be struggling with tobacco cravings. Learn from how others have handled their tobacco cravings.

Write down or say out loud the reasons you want to stop smoking and resist tobacco cravings. These might include:

  • Feeling better
  • Getting healthier
  • Sparing your loved ones from secondhand smoke
  • Saving money

Remember, trying something to beat the urge is always better than doing nothing. And each time you resist a tobacco craving, you're one step closer to being totally tobacco-free.

Nov. 15, 2016