Handling the urge to smoke

The urge to smoke can be strong and hard to handle, so take control and have strategies to overcome them.

Girl with headphones

Distract yourself with the '4-Ds'

When you're craving a cigarette, the 4-Ds are a really useful way to distract yourself until it passes.


Delay acting on the urge to smoke. Don't open a pack or light a cigarette. After a few minutes, the urge to smoke will pass.

Deep breaths

Take a long slow breath in - then let it out slowly. Do that 3 times.

Drink water

Sip water slowly, hold it in your mouth a little while to savour the taste.

Do something else

Take your mind off smoking by doing something else instead. Here's a few ideas to get you started...

  • Count 10 long, slow breaths.
  • Do some exercise - walk around the block or do a couple of press-ups. This can help you reduce cravings as well as distracting you.
  • Watch a funny video on Facebook or YouTube.
  • Phone a mate.
  • Have a healthy snack, like a piece of fruit.

Other withdrawal symptoms

As well as having urges to smoke, it's normal to get other withdrawal symptoms. It takes time for your body to adjust to not smoking.

Your symptoms won't last forever and, if you can stick it out for a few weeks, they'll get much weaker and happen less often. You are in control – the longer you go without a cigarette the easier it gets. Nicotine replacement products, vaping and all stop smoking medicines such as Varenicline can help reduce withdrawal symptoms a lot too. Talk to your Quit Coach or GP to find out more.

Many people notice these withdrawal symptoms:

  • Getting grumpy easily.
  • Hard to concentrate on stuff because all you can think about is having a smoke.
  • Hard to get a good night's sleep.
  • Not able to sit still and relax.
  • Feeling a bit down.
  • Hungry and eating more than you normally would.
  • A few people also get mouth ulcers, constipation, coughs, and cold or flu-like symptoms.

These are all signs that your body is recovering and they will happen less often over time.

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