One of the biggest reasons people relapse into smoking after they’ve quit is because they see or hang out with someone who lights up.
Seeing someone else smoking triggers all those cravings. If you’re in a social setting where a lot of people are smoking, it can be tough to keep your resolve when there’s peer pressure to light up.
Or maybe you’re watching a film or TV show where everyone’s smoking. You can’t focus on the plot because all you can see are those little tendrils of smoke curling across the screen, and you want a cigarette so bad.
How do you deal with other smokers after you quit?
Understand why you get these feelings
There is actual science to explain why seeing other smokers gives you these cravings. Todd Heatherton, PhD, and Dylan Wagner of Dartmouth College conducted a study that showed that parts of the brain that control the routine gestures you go through when smoking are triggered by seeing someone else go through those same gestures.
Your addiction to smoking isn’t just about the physical dependence to nicotine, it’s also about the habit and ritual that’s formed by your brain.
How to beat the cravings
Knowing that your brain is basically wired to want to emulate other smokers you see, how do you beat these cravings? You could just turn off the TV, avoid going out, and stay inside with the doors locked, but where’s the fun in that?
There are some simple tips you can use to help deal with the cravings:
- Have gum or candy close at hand, so instead of smoking you can pop something in your mouth. This helps your brain to deal with the reflexive need to emulate the action of smoking by doing something with your hand and mouth.
- Grab a big haul of your favourite movies and shows that don’t include smoking, and watch those for the first few weeks after you quit. Not only will you avoid some of the worst triggers in media, but you’ll get to see a ton of old favourites again.
- Try to encourage your friends to do other activities where they can’t smoke. Organise an outing to see a show or performance, or go out to a restaurant for dinner instead of hanging at someone’s house and smoking.
- Try vaping. Vaping can help you deal with nicotine withdrawals. If you’re around other people and they’re lighting up, then having a vape on hand will allow you mind to emulate the smoking actions, without letting a cigarette pass between your lips. Many smokers use vaping as part of their quitting plan for precisely this reason. Vaping is also healthier than smoking.
It’s going to be hard for a little while, even with these coping techniques. But if you’re strong and you push through, the cravings will shrink, and you’ll come out the other side stronger and healthier than ever.
If you’re struggling with your smoking journey, the SmokeFree website provides a list of services (many of them free) across NZ you can access. You don’t have to do this alone!