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Smoking Triggers and Substitutions

The ABC’s of Smoking Triggers

HALT = Hunger, Anger, Lonely, Tired

Hunger - It is amazing how our minds will tell us that everything's wrong when all we really need to do is eat.

Anger - If we are angry, our minds tell us we need a cigarette to cope. Until your mind learns that it doesn't need a cigarette to cope, try to avoid upsetting situations. Avoid certain people that may bother you. If you can't get some time off, quit smoking on a long weekend.

Lonely - It is good to know some people who are going through the same thing. (Come to chat!!!!)

Tired - If we are tired, it is easy to become irritated and when we get irritated our minds will tell us that a cigarette will help. Our overall resistance becomes weak and it is easy to say, "Oh well, I guess I'll have a smoke."

Other common triggers: 

  • After sex
  • With alcoholic beverages
  • Stressful work situations
  • Social functions
  • Boredom
  • With coffee
  • While driving
  • End of a workday
  • Enjoying a sense of accomplishment
  • Facing a family crisis
  • Finishing a meal
  • Getting out of bed
  • Playing cards
  • Reading
  • Friends who smoke
  • Talking on the telephone
  • Waiting for someone or something
  • Watching TV
  • Work breaks
  • Out of habit - for no reason whatsoever

Make note of your triggers. When do you smoke? Is it associated with any of the above triggers? Maybe you have others.
It is very important for you to prepare for any of your triggers. Know how you will handle them. Those triggers can quickly overwhelm the unprepared quitter, but a good plan of your own will carry you through all of them.

Substitution Suggestions:

1. Try substituting orange juice for your breakfast coffee for the first week.
2. Try taking your shower after breakfast or tidy up around the house.
3. Chew gum, have a mint, carrot or celery sticks, suck on long licorice sticks.
4. Keep hands busy with needlework or tools.
5. Take a short walk.
6. Write.
7. If you associate smoking and coffee, try switching to tea or another drink for a while.
8. Reward yourself with bubble baths or other ways of being good to yourself.
9. At times of personal crisis, use a support system. (Quit smoking now message board and chat room)
10. While watching TV, try keeping your hands busy, do pursed lip breathing exercises, chew on straws or coffee stirrers.
11. Avoid smokers for a while; be a non-smoking “actor. “
12. When on the telephone: doodle, switch hands on the receiver, drink water.
13. When driving, sing with the car radio.
14. In stressful situations, remove yourself from situation if possible.
15. Make a point of hanging out with non-smokers.
16. Let friends and family know emphatically that you QUIT.
17. Start a journal during your pre-quit. When stress comes along, try to write about it in your journal to get it out of your system.
18. Re-read your list of reasons why you quit

Compiled by COPD-International Community Members

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Last modified: June 17, 2002