Know your triggers

Understanding what makes you want to smoke can help you when you're trying to quit. Identify the situations and emotions that trigger a desire to smoke so you can choose the quit method that's best for you.

Smoking is more than an addiction

For many people, smoking isn’t just an addiction. It can be something you do for comfort or to deal with feelings. It can also be a habit that’s built into your daily routines.

Knowing when and why you smoke will help you to quit smoking.

Understand what makes you smoke

Remember when you had a drink or a coffee with your cigarette? Your brain hasn't forgotten that yet. After years of smoking, your brain sends a signal to have a cigarette every time you do these things.

When you've quit, these situations create cravings — they're a memory of how things used to be.

After you quit, you might get a craving for a cigarette when you're in these situations. Think about your own smoking habits. Could any of these habits trigger an urge to smoke? Knowing what makes you want to smoke can help you plan how to cope in trigger situations.


Habits that can trigger a craving include:

  • having a drink or a cup of coffee
  • finishing a meal
  • talking on the phone
  • being with friends
  • starting a new task
  • taking a break


Your feelings are connected to smoking too. You might smoke:

  • for comfort when you're sad or angry
  • to cover up uncomfortable feelings
  • when you're bored
  • to give yourself a break

Even once you've stopped, the links between smoking and everyday feelings are still there in your mind. It will take a while to break those links.

Social situations

There are lots of social situations where you'll be around other smokers. For example:

  • going to the pub
  • at parties and other social gatherings
  • having friends over

It's not possible to completely avoid other smokers so you'll need some strategies to help you stay smoke-free.


If you've been smoking for a long time, your body is used to regular doses of nicotine. When you stop smoking you'll experience cravings during withdrawal that can trigger the desire to smoke. For example:

  • craving the taste of a cigarette
  • smelling cigarette smoke
  • feeling jittery or anxious and wanting a smoke to calm you

Read more about how to manage withdrawal.

Keep a quit diary

Keeping a quit diary can also help you identify what makes you want to smoke and how much you're smoking. Each time you have a cigarette, or feel a craving, note:

  • the date and time
  • what you're doing
  • what you're feeling
  • how strong the craving is

Even after a couple of days, you'll have a good idea about your smoking triggers.

Next step

Knowing your triggers can help you choose the quit method that is likely to work best for you.

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