The key is to be prepared.

Smoking is probably something you do without thinking. If you’re like most smokers, you probably reach for a cigarette automatically when you do or feel certain things, when you’re with other smokers, or as part of your daily routines. Over time, you begin to associate smoking with every day activities.

To help you quit, learn your smoking “triggers.” These are places, situations, or activities that may remind you of smoking and are linked to cravings. By knowing your triggers, you’ll be able to anticipate when you may want a cigarette and you can breaking the connection between smoking and your routines.  Once you pinpoint high-risk “trigger” situations, you can start to handle them rationally.

Here are some common triggers with suggestions on how to break them.

  • If you used to smoke while drinking coffee or tea, tell people you have quit so they won’t offer you a cigarette.
  • Between sips of coffee or tea, take deep breaths to inhale the aroma.  Breathe deeply and slowly, while counting to five, then breath out slowly, counting to five again.
  • Try switching to decaffeinated coffee, particularly if quitting has made you irritable or nervous.
  • Nibble on toast, crackers, or other low calorie foods, while you drink—this will keep your hands busy.
  • As you drink your coffee, get out a scratch pad and doodle or write out your plans for the day.
  • If the urge to smoke is very strong, drink your coffee or tea faster than usual and then change activities or rooms.

Being Around Smokers

  • Ask others not to smoke in your presence.
  • Provide an outside area where smokers may go if they wish to smoke.  Post a small “No Smoking” sign by your front door.
  • If you are in a group and others light up, excuse yourself and don’t return until they have finished.
  • Do not buy, light, or hold cigarettes for others.
  • Cut down with a buddy.
  • Try not to get angry when family, friends or coworkers hassle you for quitting.

Socializing with Alcohol

  • Switch to non-alcoholic drinks during the first 2 weeks of withdrawal, especially fruit juices.
  • Stay away from your usual hangouts or places which you associate with drinking.
  • For the first few weeks after quitting, drink only with non-smoking friends.
  • Don’t drink at home or by yourself.

Watching TV

  • Get rid of cigarettes, ashtrays, and lighters.
  • Sit in a different place.
  • Practice relaxation—take a minute and, with your eyes closed, pay attention to your breathing pattern. Breathe in deeply through your nose and breathe out through your mouth.
  • If you fall asleep—enjoy it.
  • Have low fat snacks handy.
  • Channel surf away from high trigger content shows—change the channel when you see smoking!
  • Try watching at different times of the day.

Talking on the Phone

  • Keep cigarettes, ashtrays, matches, and lighters away from your telephone.
  • Pick up a pencil and have a large memo pad for doodling.
  • Hold the phone with the hand you used to hold your cigarette with.
  • While you are on the phone, walk around as much as possible.
  • Keep some gum by the phone to chew to replace smoking.
  • Notice whether certain calls make you want to smoke more than others. It could be a particular person or a call made at a certain time of day.
  • Each day, make a list of the difficult calls that you have to make and get them out of the way early.

Handling Stress

  • Become aware of the cause of stress in your life (your job, your children, money).
  • Identify the stress signals. Common ones are headaches, nervousness, insomnia or trouble sleeping.
  • Create peaceful times in your everyday schedule. Try to set aside an hour where you can get away from other people and your usual environment.
  • Seek and learn relaxation techniques such as progressive relaxation, deep breathing, meditation, walks in nature, or yoga.
  • Try new relaxation methods and stick with the best one for you.

Driving in Car

  • Clean your car and make sure to use deodorizers to get rid of the tobacco smell.
  • Use self talk to motivate yourself:
    • “This urge will go away in a few minutes.”
    • “So, I’m not enjoying this car ride.  Big deal!  It won’t last forever!”
    • “My car smells clean and fresh.”
    • “I’m a better driver now that I’m not smoking while driving.”
  • Remove the ashtray, lighter and cigarettes from your car.
  • Ask friends to not smoke in your car.
  • If not driving, find something to do with your hands.
  • Take an alternate route to work.
  • Try carpooling.
  • For a little while, avoid taking long car trips. If you do, take plenty of rest stops.
  • Keep non-fattening snacks in your car, like licorice and gum.
  • Take fresh fruit with you on long trips.
  • Plan stops for water, fruit juice, sodas, etc.

Enjoying Meals

  • Know what kinds of foods increase your urge and stay away from them.
  • If you are alone, call a friend as soon as you’ve finished eating.
  • Brush your teeth or use mouthwash right after meals.
  • If someone is at your home, have someone massage your shoulders.
  • If you have coffee or a fruit drink, concentrate on the taste.
  • Wash the dishes by hand after eating—you can’t smoke with wet hands!
  • Go for a brief walk after meals.

In the Morning

  • Begin each day with deep breathing and one or more glasses of water.
  • Have a list of preplanned activities ready for each morning that will keep you busy for an hour or more.
  • Make a list of early morning triggers and avoid them.
  • Take a brisk morning walk or go out into the garden.
  • Instead of a cigarette, do a few pushups or situps.


  • Plan more activities than you have time for.
  • Have a list of thinks you like to do ready for when you find yourself with nothing to do.
  • Move!  Do not stay in the same place too long.
  • Carry a book or magazine for waiting times or to keep your hands busy.
  • Carry something to keep your hands busy.
  • Hum a tune or favorite song—maybe even listen to a portable radio.
  • Go outdoors if possible.
  • Practice mindful attention: notice colours;  the shape of the buildings you pass; really listen to the sounds of the city/outdoors.


  • Repeat this to yourself: “I can learn to relax without having a cigarette.”
  • Engage in activities that use your hands like sewing, carving, working puzzles, playing cards, etc.
  • Make an extra effort to share your leisure time with a friend, a child or a pet.
  • If the urge to smoke gets too strong, stop relaxing and start doing something physical until the urge passes.
  • Deep breathing is a good way to deal with tension almost anywhere and at any time.

Rewarding Yourself

  • Spoil yourself for a couple of months: buy a little gift for yourself for every week you don’t smoke; go out to dinner once a week; see a movie.
  • Think of non-smoking rewards: take time to read a book, listen to a favorite CD, or telephone a friend.
  • Put the money you are saving by not smoking into a jar every day.  Keep a list of things you want to buy with the money and buy them.
  • Remind yourself that your real reward will come later … in several extra years of health.

Remembering the Good Times

  • Figure out which memories make you want to smoke most and learn to manage them.
  • Take up some new activities such as walking, reading, a new hobby, playing a sport, or attending community events.
  • Repeat the following:  “If I’d known then what I know now, I never would have started smoking.”
  • Focus on the thought that you will be able to enjoy your good memories longer, now that you’ve quit smoking.

For more information call the Smokers’ Helpline: 1-800-363-5864