Dealing with Urges to Smoke

Updated:Mar 14,2011

Thinking Woman With Quit Smoking Graphic TextAs an ex-smoker, you'll have urges to smoke. Sometimes the urges are physical, as if your body needs a cigarette. At other times, they'll be mental — feeling like you deserve a cigarette. And sometimes you may want to smoke because it's a habit.

Physical Urges

As a smoker, you became addicted to the nicotine in cigarettes. Nicotine can create good feelings that make you want to smoke more. But it also creates bad feelings when you try to cut back. Physical urges are one way your body tells you it wants nicotine. This "craving" for nicotine is part of the withdrawal process, along with symptoms such as headaches and feeling tired or lightheaded. These symptoms go away after one or two weeks, but the urges may keep coming for awhile. As time passes, you'll have fewer physical urges to smoke.

Tip: Time your smoking urges. They will probably last a minute or less.

Mental Urges

Did you used to reach for a cigarette when you were nervous? Or to help you relax? Or as a reward? If so, you may still want a cigarette at those times.


Smoking is a habit you can change. You learned to use cigarettes to feel "normal." Now you must re-train yourself. In time, you'll feel normal without cigarettes.

  • Identify triggers. Think about times when you want a cigarette.
  • Select coping skills. How will you cope with each of your trigger situations?
  • Put your plan into action. Review the plan, practice and be ready to act when you feel an urge to smoke.

Planning for Urges

Smoking urges can take you by surprise, so it helps to plan for them.

Use the No-Smoking Confidence Assessment and Tips tool to:

Read through the 14 situations in the Confidence Assessment. If you're absolutely certain that you would not smoke in a certain situation, write "100%" on the Confidence Score line. If you think you'd have a hard time resisting smoking, assign a low percentage. If you aren't sure, pick a number somewhere in the middle.

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