Smoking Triggers

Smoking Triggers


Many common activities or events can trigger the urge to smoke. Knowing how to manage them can help you prevent a slip or relapse. Here are some common triggers and ideas for how you might cope with them.

Finishing a meal.

Get up from the table immediately and do something else. For example, rinse your mouth with mouthwash or brush your teeth, go for a walk, or begin doing something you enjoy.

Drinking coffee.
  • Change the way you have coffee: the place, the coffee mug, everything that you did when you were smoking.
  • Wait until you are at work to have your morning coffee.
Talking on the phone.
  • Hold the phone with your "smoking" hand.
  • Walk as you talk, or stand instead of sitting.
Between tasks.

Instead of smoking a cigarette before moving on to your next project, try taking a short walk or reading a section of the newspaper or a chapter of a novel you're enjoying.

After an argument, disappointment, or negative event.

If you're still feeling angry or upset, let off steam by walking briskly around the building.

In the car.
  • Remove the ashtray from your car.
  • Change your driving patterns. Take a new route to work, try a different radio station, change the radio volume, or drive with the windows open or closed.
Seeing a pack of cigarettes.

Sometimes just seeing a pack of cigarettes, or seeing someone else smoking, is enough to make you want to smoke. Plan ahead so that if you get the urge for a cigarette, you can reach in your pocket and pull out a stick of sugarless gum or a mint.

Work or social situations

Activities at work and social events may also trigger the urge to smoke. Here are some suggestions for avoiding these triggers.

Other people who smoke.

Avoid the smoking areas at your workplace. If there is an entryway where people who smoke gather during breaks or before work, find another entryway, or time your arrival to avoid the smokers.

Work breaks.

Avoid places where people who smoke go during the break. Seek out the company of people who don't smoke, and spend your break with them.


Quitting smoking may impact your social life. You don't have to skip parties altogether, but if you do go, don't go with your friends when they go outside for a cigarette. If people are smoking indoors, or if it's an outdoor party, try to sit or stand as far away as possible from people who are smoking. Step out for a breath of fresh air if you need to.


After you have had a drink, your decision not to smoke may weaken. You may choose to give up or cut down on drinking alcohol when you quit smoking. Varying the kind of alcohol and the place where you drink may help break the trigger, but alcohol can affect your judgment, decision-making, and emotions.


Current as of: March 22, 2023

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
Christine R. Maldonado PhD - Behavioral Health