Medically Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, DO, MS on January 14, 2021

Sip, Eat

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Sipping cold water through a straw can help replace the act of sucking on a cigarette. It also releases dopamine, a brain chemical that can help ease bad moods.

Eating small meals can also help you get past the urge to smoke. Choose lean, healthy foods to avoid weight gain.

Note Instant Rewards

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You can soon start to enjoy the benefits of a smoke-free life. Keep a list of the good changes as you begin to notice them. They might include feeling in control, saving money, smelling better, tasting food better, and feeling more energetic. When the urge to smoke strikes, look at your list as a reminder of what you’ve gained from quitting.

Brush Your Teeth Often

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One of the instant perks of quitting is that your mouth tastes better and your breath smells better. Brush often. That way, you'll be less inclined to light up a cigarette and foul that clean, fresh mouth.

Avoid Alcohol

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Drinking it is one of the most common things that make people go back to smoking. Alcohol breaks down self-restraint, and that can shake your commitment to quitting. Many people also link drinking with smoking, so booze might make you want to light up. 

Find Your Own No-Smoking Zones

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When the urge to smoke strikes, go somewhere you can’t light up -- a movie, the library, or a store, for example. The more distracting the place is, the easier it will be to ride out cravings.

Remember Your Reasons for Quitting

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Write down a list of all your reasons to stop smoking. Post it everywhere you spend time -- in the kitchen, at work, beside the bathroom mirror. Put it in places that are easy to see wherever you go. Some ex-smokers say they found it useful to put photos of family and loved ones alongside their reasons.

Be Active Every Day

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Exercise offers a powerful distraction from cravings. When you’re active, your body sends out natural chemicals that help your mood and ease your stress. Walking is one of the simplest options. Choose a few different activities to help you stay motivated. Set aside time to be physically active every day, especially in the first month after you've quit smoking.

Fill Your Calendar

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During the first few weeks after you kick the habit, schedule lots of things you want or need to do. Make plans to eat meals with family or friends, and try to avoid smoking temptations. The busier you are, the more distracted you’ll be from the urge to smoke.

Put Something Else in Your Mouth

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Part of the urge to smoke is having something in your mouth. In place of a cigarette, pop in sugar-free chewing gum, hard candy, or a healthy snack when you feel like you want to light up. Have something with you at all times. If you’re concerned about gaining weight, stick with low-calorie options, like fruits and veggies.

Secure a Lifeline

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Ask someone to be there for you when you need support. The best choice is a friend who is also a former smoker. But anyone who cares for you and wants you to quit smoking can help when times get tough.

Limit Caffeine

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Caffeine helps some people get going in the morning and stay alert when they're tired. But it makes others feel tense, jittery, and stressed. Breaking your nicotine addiction can boost those effects. If caffeine makes you jumpy or anxious, cut back on it.

Notice Bad Moods

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Negative emotions -- stress, anger, frustration -- are another common reason people go back to smoking. Bad moods happen to everyone, and chances are you’ll feel more than your fair share of them during the first few weeks of quitting. Find ways to distract yourself. Get together with friends, or do something else you enjoy.

Avoid Troublemakers

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Although friends and family should be supportive, they aren't always. Some people might feel threatened by your decision to quit. They might even try to undermine your best efforts. If you sense that there are people like this in your life, avoid them. If that isn't possible, sit down with them and explain why quitting is so important to you. Ask for their support.

Stay on Track

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Once you make it through the first 2 weeks, you’re on your way to a lifetime free of nicotine addiction. But be prepared in case you falter. Remember: One lapse doesn't mean you've failed. Consider what went wrong. Then, think up ways to you could handle the same situation next time, without smoking. Your doctor can also help you prepare. 

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Mayo Clinic.
National Cancer Institute.
National Institute Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.
QuitNow Canada web site.
Scott McIntosh, PhD, director, Greater Rochester Area Tobacco Cessation Center; associate professor, community and preventive Medicine, University of Rochester.Smoking Cessation Leadership Center, University of California at San Francisco.