Avoiding the Most Common Smoking “Triggers”

A cigarette being snapped in half

Maybe it happens when you're driving home from a stressful day at work.

Maybe it's when you're out for drinks with a group of friends. Or perhaps it happens with your morning’s first cup of coffee. Triggers — or reasons why someone wants to smoke, are different for everyone who is trying to quit smoking. Try these strategies to control some of the most common smoking triggers.


Drinking alcohol often triggers the urge to smoke, especially during parties and situations when you are around other smokers. Try staying inside with the nonsmokers when the smokers go out to smoke. Also pace your alcohol consumption if you find the more you drink, the harder it is to resist lighting up. By having a nonalcoholic beverage after each alcoholic one, you will drink less and not have as many cigarette urges.


Dealing with stress can be a trigger to smoke. There are many different ways you can alleviate stress without lighting up. Try exercising, even a quick 15-minute walk to clear your mind. Learning relaxation techniques such as deep breathing or meditation may also help dealing with stress. Find a stress-reliever that works for you.


Many smokers smoke while driving. There are a couple of ways to help alleviate this trigger. You might want to have some sugar-free hard candy in the car, or carry a toothpick in the hand that you would have otherwise held the cigarette. Try playing some music while you are driving. Listening to something you enjoy and that engages your mind will help take your thoughts away from cigarettes.


Drinking coffee often triggers the urge to smoke. Because these two go hand-in-hand for many smokers, it may seem very difficult to do one without the other. You may not have to give up your love for coffee just yet. One thing that may help is making sure you are not sitting in the same seat or the same room where you used to sit when you were smoking, or try having your coffee on the go instead of sitting and drinking it. Also try holding the cup in the hand that used to hold the cigarette.


During the quitting process it is very important to keep busy and distract yourself during the first couple of days. Keep a “to-do list” at hand and start crossing things off the list rather than looking for a cigarette.

NYS Smokers Quitline

If you or a loved one is trying to quit smoking, and are a resident of New York state, you can call the NYS Smokers Quitline at 1-866-NY-QUITS (1-866-697-8487) or visit www.nysmokefree.com. Eligible callers can get access to free nicotine replacement therapy products in addition to telephone counseling. Telephone counseling is also available now for e-cigarette users as well.