Quitting smoking is not an easy task. In fact, for some people it can feel downright impossible.
This might be surprising to you, especially if you have never smoked a day in your life.
But for smokers, quitting is a battle that they fight every single day.
Many people try to quit smoking cold turkey, but this method rarely works.
If you are one of the millions of people who are trying to quit smoking, or if you have recently quit and are struggling with cravings even for chocolate, read on.
One of the most important things you can do to stop smoking is to know WHY you are craving for smoking.
In this blog post, we will discuss the top reasons why people crave cigarettes, answer frequently asked questions, and provide tips briefly at the end on how to overcome these cravings.
1 – Nicotine is addictive
The first and most obvious reason people crave cigarettes is because tobacco contains nicotine, which is a highly addictive substance.
When you smoke, nicotine enters your bloodstream and quickly reaches your brain.
Nicotine activates certain receptors in the brain that release chemicals that make you feel good.
These chemicals include dopamine, which is a neurotransmitter associated with pleasure and reward.
Over time, your brain becomes used to having nicotine around, and when it doesn’t have it, you start to experience withdrawal symptoms.
Withdrawal symptoms can include irritability, anxiety, trouble sleeping, and craving for cigarettes. Sometimes people even get panic attacks or feel like they are dying!
These intense feelings are what trigger a smoking relapse even when days before you swore to quit tobacco.
The good news is that these symptoms are only temporary, and they will go away if you stay smoke-free long enough.
But certainly if you’re craving cigarettes, your nicotine addiction is the top reason behind your cravings!
2 – Social
Another reason people have cravings for smoking is because they associate smoking with certain social activities.
For example, you might smoke when you drink alcohol, or when you are hanging out with friends who smoke.
And when you ask for a cigarette, there is something special because someone will always give you a free cigarette.
Like if you’re feeling lonely, you can always go to the smoking area and have a chat with someone.
Do you see how smoking can also be a way to bond with others, especially if you share similar interests such as music or fashion?
So when you give up smoking, it’s not just the nicotine you’re giving up, but perhaps also the social activities that come along with it.
Overall, smoking can become a part of your identity, and giving it up can be hard.
If you’re craving cigarettes, deep down you might be feeling lonely, and you’re craving cigarettes because you associate smoking with companionship.
3 – Cultural
Cigarette smoking is also a cultural phenomenon. In some cultures, smoking is seen as cool or macho, while in others it is considered a sign of relaxation.
In the 1930’s and 1940’s, smoking was even promoted as a way to stay thin!
Of course, we now know that smoking is not good for our health, but the cultural associations with smoking can be hard to break.
If you grew up in a family where everyone smoked, or if all your friends smoke, it can be tough to give up.
Plus let’s not forget how commonplace smoking can be in some cultures. If you grew up in a culture where smoking was considered normal, it can be even harder to give it up.
So if you’re craving cigarettes, a big reason can be “cultural brainwashing” or “cultural conditioning”.
4 – Stress Relief
Smoking can also be a way to relieve stress.
When you’re feeling overwhelmed or anxious, a few puffs can help you take the edge off. Of course, this is only temporary relief, and smoking is not a healthy way to deal with stress.
But if you’ve been smoking for a long time, it can be hard to break the habit.
Even worse, if you don’t smoke then you get anxious! So smoking relieves the anxiety that the nicotine addiction causes!
Stress relief and smoking go hand in hand.
Ever heard of the term “smoke break”?
A smoke break means you take some time to stop working and smoke a cigarette.
Many cultures and social groups have smoking breaks built into their work day.
So if you’re craving cigarettes, it might be because you need a break from whatever you’re doing.
Or maybe you just need a distraction from your stressful thoughts.
Or, you’re conditioned by your culture and social surroundings.
Gosh this stuff is complicated!
In any case, stress relief is a common reason people have cravings for smoking.
And now that we’ve covered the top 4 reasons people crave cigarettes, let’s answer some frequently asked questions.
What is a craving for a cigarette like?
If you don’t know what a cigarette craving is like, why are you reading this blog article?!?
Jokes aside, a craving for a cigarette can manifest physically and emotionally.
Physical cravings typically occur when there is tightness to the stomach along with feelings of tension or anxiety.
Emotional cravings can be tougher to pin down, but they’re usually associated with certain moods like boredom, sadness, or happiness.
Cravings can also be triggered by environmental cues like seeing someone else smoke, or being in a place where you used to smoke.
How long do cigarette cravings last?
Cigarette cravings typically only last for a few minutes, although they can sometimes last for up to an hour.
Oftentimes however, the hardest part is the cascade of thoughts that start when you’re craving.
These conflicting thoughts and emotions cause lots of anxiety, which increases your desire to smoke.
There’s a reason nicotine is the most addictive substance on the planet.
When you’re cutting back on nicotine, or haven’t smoked in awhile, your body thinks it’s missing something.
It’s difficult to rewire and recondition your brain and body to relate differently to cravings.
Tips to manage cravings:
Here are some tips to quit smoking! Please know these are just general tips.
You may want to research nicotine replacement therapy or smoking cessation management.
The National Cancer Institute also has more resources on tobacco smoking cessation and dealing with withdrawal symptoms.
Identify your triggers:
What are the things that make you want to smoke?
For some people, it might be certain activities, like drinking alcohol or coffee.
For others, it might be certain places, like bars or parties.
And for others, it might be certain emotions, like boredom or stress.
Once you know what your triggers are, you can start to avoid them or find other ways to deal with them.
How to find your triggers? Try journaling! Reflect about your past experiences on paper so you can see the patterns.
One of the best ways to avoid tobacco cravings is to stay busy.
When you have nothing to do and you’re just sitting around thinking about smoking, that’s when cravings are most likely to strike.
So, make sure you always have something to do, whether it’s taking a walk, reading a book, or talking to a friend.
Find other ways to relax:
Smoking is often used as a way to relax.
But there are plenty of other ways to relax that don’t involve smoking.
Some people find that exercise helps them relax. Others find that deep breathing or meditation does the trick.
Find what works for you and stick with it.
Talk to your doctor:
If you’re struggling with cravings, talk to your doctor.
He or she might be able to prescribe medication that can help reduce your cravings or make them more manageable.
Reach out for support:
Quitting smoking is tough, but you don’t have to do it alone.
There are plenty of people who have been in your shoes and understand what you’re going through.
Reach out to family and friends, or join a support group. Just knowing that someone understands can make all the difference.
Map out your psychology:
One of the best ways to reduce cravings is to map out your psychology.
This is what we do in our signature Food Cravings Journaling program!
In our Food Cravings Journaling program you journal about your food cravings. You’ll start to notice patterns like hunger, fullness, and a bunch of emotions like anxiety or frustration.
As you see how all these parts relate to each other, you create a map of your psychology.
Then you can better understand the chaos and confusion better when food he craves comes up.
So instead of an endless barrage of thoughts that make you more anxious and worried, you can make sense of the noise and calm down.
Then instead of fighting yourself and trying to stop binge eating, you’ll be able to focus on what you really need (instead of food!).
The same method can work great with smoking too!
If you are a person who struggles with cigarettes and food cravings, this program might be just for you.
Why am I craving smoking? Conclusion
Cigarette cravings can be triggered by environmental cues like seeing someone else smoke, or being in a place where you used to smoke.
Cravings typically only last for a few minutes, although they can sometimes last for up to an hour. Identifying your triggers and avoiding them is one way to reduce the number of cigarette cravings you experience.
If you’re struggling with cravings, talk to your doctor. He or she might be able to prescribe medication that can help reduce your craving or make them more manageable.
Finally, reach out for support from family and friends, or join a support group. Just knowing that someone understands can make all the difference.
For more info on food cravings, including the nutritional reasons behind cravings for food, read here.