Giving in to your craving is the downfall of many a smoker who’s trying to quit. So successfully controlling your desire for a cigarette is the key to giving up.

Stop-smoking medicines and nicotine replacement therapy are tried and tested methods of help but breaking bad habits and changing behaviour patterns are also key.

Bad habits and triggers

If you always fancy a cigarette when you have a mid-morning cup of coffee, just don’t have the coffee and have a cold drink instead.

Force yourself to jump into the shower as soon as you wake up rather than having an early morning cigarette.

Avoid friends who smoke for a while if it’s likely to make you want one. Never go into an outdoor smoking area just to chat to your mates as you’ll associate it with smoking and your resolve may weaken.

“Changes in routine to avoid high risk times, such as coffee breaks and being around smokers can help; as can adopting techniques (such as distraction) to deal with urges when they arise,” says Andy McEwen Director of the National Centre for Smoking Cessation and Training.

Smoking habit replacement

You can try to replace the habit of smoking with positive habits that are better for you.

Go for a run, go to the gym or take a swim instead. It’ll take your mind off your craving and also flood your body with endorphins (feel-good chemicals).

Cravings will ease up after a few weeks and if you have made new healthy habits, so much the better, keep up with them.

Habit versus addiction

There’s no denying smoking is physically addictive, but the habit factor can’t be underestimated.

“Nicotine is very addictive,” says Andy, “But dependence is a complex phenomenon and what the ‘habit’ part of smoking does is remind the smoker that they need a cigarette (these cues bring on strong urges to smoke in smokers trying to quit).”

He goes on to say: “Quitting smoking involves resisting the background urges to smoke (caused by the absence of nicotine) and the strong breakthrough cravings (brought on by situational or emotional cues).”

A study in 2010 published in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology found that the intensity of cravings for cigarettes had more to do with habit than addiction.

It suggested that people who smoke do so for short-term benefits like oral gratification, sensory pleasure and social camaraderie. Once the habit is established, people continue to smoke in response to cues and in situations that become associated with smoking.

A small qualitative study published online in the journal Tobacco Control showed a link between smoking and physically being in an outside smoking area.

It suggested that extending the smoking ban outside bars could help curb smoking in social environments as smoking often goes hand in hand with drinking.

It found that introducing smoke-free outdoors bars could reduce smoking by removing cues that stimulate this behaviour and changing the environment that facilitates it.