I quit smoking but want a cigarette

After all the agony of quitting smoking, it can be extremely frustrating to discover that months later, you are still craving a cigarette. Long after every trace of nicotine has left your body, it is possible to experience intense cravings for your ciggies. Why is this, what can you do about it and how do you resist temptation?

woman breaking cigaretteWhy do cravings persist?

It is important to remember that your addiction to smoking wasn’t simply a matter of your body needing a nicotine fix.

You will have learnt to associate inhaling nicotine with happiness and stress relief. You will have kidded yourself that problems were much easier to deal with after a few puffs. You probably used smoking is a psychological crutch that you always turned to as a coping mechanism. It could take time for your mind to catch up with your body after you quit. All nicotine may have been purged from your system, but your little grey cells will still be yearning for those periodic mood boosts.

Smoking is an addiction, but it is also a habit. You will have become used to holding something in your hand, to the action of smoking and to the feeling in your throat when you inhale. When you remove cigarettes from your routine, it can leave you feeling all at sea, even after several months have passed. To make matters worse, you will probably have come to associate smoking with certain times of day or with specific activities such as drinking in the pub. Little wonder that you continue to feel that something is missing when you find yourself in those situations.

How long do cravings last?

The good news is that life does get easier as the weeks and months pass. Your body should have completed the process of nicotine withdrawal after four weeks. From that point forward, the physical symptoms of withdrawal will cease.

But your urges to smoke may continue for many months. With each week that passes, those urges should diminish. Most reformed smokers find that their cravings for cigarettes have almost disappeared when they reach the one-year mark. By that time, they have found their new normal.

What are the triggers for cravings?

Don’t be alarmed or frustrated if you suddenly experience cravings. Most ex-smokers find that they are occasionally struck by a powerful urge to smoke. Your mood is often a trigger. You will probably have turned to your ciggies when you were feeling extremes of emotion like sadness or joy. This means that your brain will continue to tell you that a cigarette will help you to restore balance to your mood.

Seeing someone else smoking or just the aroma of their cigarette can also be problematic. Your senses will be heightened, and you will be experiencing a pointed reminder of what you cannot have.

If you find yourself in a place or a situation where you would have reached for your ciggies, you will often crave a smoke because the habitual aspect of smoking is, in many ways, harder to leave behind than the nicotine addiction. Stressful situations are perhaps the most likely to induce cravings. Boredom can also be tricky as it gives you every opportunity to think about cigarettes.

How do you avoid the triggers and resist temptation?

The most important thing you need to do is learn what your your triggers are. Once you know when and where you could run into trouble, you can prepare yourself mentally to remain strong. It’s best to avoid the situations that can induce urges, at least for a while, but that isn’t always possible. Feeling run down and fatigued will reduce your resistance, so eating well, sleeping well and keeping active will really help.

Try to find activities that you really enjoy as these will take your mind off your cravings and boost your mood. Mindfulness and meditation could help to raise your awareness of your triggers and to keep you in control.

You can improve your mood and your resolve by reminding yourself of the benefits of quitting and how much healthier you will be. Give yourself a pat on the back for what you have already achieved and keep the faith.

Can smoking cessations aids help?

Nicotine withdrawal is tough and so nicotine replacement will certainly make life easier, especially in the early days. Research suggests that quitting cold turkey is the hardest route to choose and that only 3% of attempts to quit in this way are successful. Nicotine patches, gums and sprays will minimise your nicotine cravings and could make all the difference. However, these cessation aids do not address the habitual aspect of smoking.

Many ex-smokers have found vaping to be their salvation. An electronic cigarette gives you a nicotine fix, a device to hold and something that mimics the action of smoking. You can even find e cigs that look like cigarettes or feature mouthpieces that feel like cigarettes. The throat hits are similar to those you experience with a traditional cigarette too.


Smoking isn’t an addiction, it is several addictions. Your physical reliance on nicotine can be eliminated in just one month or supported with cessation aids. It is the habitual aspect of smoking and your use of cigarettes as a psychological crutch that cause cravings to persist. If you understand this, prepare yourself, avoid as many trigger situations as you can and keep yourself busy, you can overcome everything and succeed.

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