Avoiding Triggers

Situations in which patients may find they desire to smoke. Includes possible solutions to these situations.

What triggers you to smoke? The table below lists what a lot of smokers say. Do some of these sound familiar to you? Take a look at the suggestions for how to overcome each trigger. Try to think of some other changes you can make.

And don't underestimate your possible physical addiction to nicotine. If, for example, you feel a need to smoke within 20 minutes after waking up, it's most likely a need for a nicotine hit.

Situations Where I Tend to Smoke

Possible Solution Once You Quit

In the car, I reach for a cigarette as soon as I turn on the ignition.

Make it very inconvenient to smoke. For example, remove all smoking aids, such as the lighter, ashtrays, etc. Clean out your car so it smells good. Do not allow others to smoke in your car. Drink water -- keep a water bottle in the car to grab instead of grabbing for a cigarette.

I reach for a cigarette whenever I turn a specific corner.

Take a different route to wherever you're going.

I want to smoke whenever I drink coffee.

Drink herbal teas instead. Avoid caffeine.

I want to smoke whenever I'm out with other smokers.

Tell them that you've quit and that you would appreciate it if they wouldn't offer you a cigarette. Initially, you may want to avoid situations in which you are around other smokers. Ask them to understand that you need a little time while you are adjusting to becoming an ex-smoker.

I want to smoke when I have alcohol.

Initially, you may want to avoid alcohol. Not only is there a strong (albeit only psychological) association between drinking and smoking, but also alcohol may lower your inhibitions.

Whenever I'm in any social scene, I want to smoke.

Mimic what the nonsmokers do in these scenes. If seeing or smelling smoke makes you want to smoke, too, try to avoid it. You may need to avoid these scenes initially until at least the physical withdrawal symptoms are over.

I want to smoke when I'm on the phone.

Put the phone in your other hand. Keep your conversations brief. If you can, talk on the phone in places where smoking is not permitted.

I want to smoke when I'm watching TV.

Watch different TV programs. Try to limit the amount of time you watch TV. Use your TV time to do something else that you don't associate with smoking.

I want to smoke when I'm sitting in a particular chair.

Rearrange your furniture. (Don't laugh -- it really works for some people.) Change your home environment so there's no clear association between a certain part of your home and smoking.

Every time my partner or roommate smokes, I want to smoke, too.

Ask them not to smoke in the house and, better yet, not to smoke where you can see them smoking. Ask the other smokers in your house to keep all smoking paraphernalia away from you. You never know -- your effort might lead to the other(s) in your home joining you in quitting smoking.

I want to smoke when I see other people smoking, even if I don't know them. Even in a movie theatre, if I see an actor or actress smoking, I want to leave the theatre to smoke.

Do your best to stay away from viewing smokers until you think you can handle it. Watch and imitate what the nonsmokers do.

Find out in advance from people who have already seen the movie if it has smokers in it, and how much smoking appears. If you think it's more than you can handle, watch the movie at a later date, or choose to watch a different movie.

When I get stressed out, I need a cigarette.

Learn and practice other forms of stress management and relaxation techniques.

Smoking just gives me something to do when I'm bored.

Do deep breathing, get up and walk around, change your environment, talk to a friend. Learn to occupy yourself in other, healthier ways.

I smoke when I need something to keep my hands and mouth busy.

Carry pencils, pens, cinnamon sticks, straws, carrot sticks. Drink lots of water, preferably from a bottle with a straw (the straw mimics the shape of a cigarette). Some natural foods stores also sell fake, plastic cigarettes (about $5 each) that you can hold and breathe through, just like a real cigarette.

It's weird, but my cigarettes are like a friend. They're always there for me, whether I'm happy, sad, lonely, bored, frustrated. Whatever I feel, smoking makes it feel better.

It's not weird; it's a common feeling for a lot of smokers. What do nonsmokers do to deal with these emotions? Talk to real friends, people who will support you as you go through this. Get exercise; it's a stress reducer, and it gives you new energy. Do deep breathing. Pick up a new hobby. Pray or meditate. Write a Dear John letter to your cigarettes on your quit date.

When I'm tense, I smoke to relax.

Actually, nicotine is a stimulant. Smoking relaxes you because it is familiar to you. Do deep breathing and other relaxation exercises.

(Sources: ACS, 2003; ALA, 2003; NCI, 2004)