Quitting smoking is tough enough on its own. However, it’s extra challenging when you’re surrounded by temptation.
Science backs this up: a Cornell University economist explains it’s “behavioral contagion” and the significance of the social situation, not the individual’s attitude, that influences decision-making. This means that we need to consider how societal and peer pressure is an overwhelming reason for tobacco addiction.
Quitting smoking sometimes isn’t up to the individual, but their environment. So, here are some tips below to make the process easier.
Establish smoke-free spaces
Clear boundaries are imperative. Mainstream smoke, according to Verywell Mind, also known as secondhand smoke, contains nicotine, which is the addictive substance in cigarettes. Communicate to your peers that you are quitting and that their support, such as limiting their smoking to specific locations, could go a long way in helping you kick the habit.
This is particularly important because smoke exposure increases vulnerability to nicotine addiction. A study by the NIH in 2011 confirmed that smokers see a significant increase in cravings following exposure to secondhand smoke. This is because 1 in 5 nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChRs) in the brain become occupied by nicotine after only one hour of exposure.
To avoid this, adapt a no-smoking policy in your home or restrict smoking paraphernalia to only one room or area. Resist the urge to accompany your friends “for company” when they smoke as well.
Smoking has evolved to become a social activity, and this can be difficult to avoid if your friends or family members are smokers. In the NCI’s article on social smoking, it’s stressed that every cigarette is harmful, and can lead to a downward spiral towards long-term consequences and addiction. “Just one wouldn’t hurt” is a false narrative that can often result in a relapse.
Nicotine replacement products are a good solution for resisting the temptation for a cigarette. These alternatives satiate nicotine cravings without the negative effects of tobacco, and can include things like nicotine patches, lozenges, or nicotine pouches.
Prilla explains that using nicotine pouches in public is a particularly convenient option because they don’t produce any smoke. The best part is that you can even use nicotine pouches in tobacco-free zones like hospitals or most restaurants, where your smoking buddies cannot use have their cigarettes.
These pouches steadily deposit small doses of nicotine in your body, reducing withdrawal symptoms while easing the quitting process. This makes it easier to later resist cravings when around active cigarette smokers.
Eat or chew!
Keeping your mouth busy is one of the best ways to resist cravings. This is because cravings come and go, mostly lasting around three to five minutes at a time. Redirect your focus from the physical or psychological craving by shifting gears and doing something entirely different for a few minutes.
Chewing gum is a common option, and another popular choice in nicotine replacement therapy. Alternatively, Doctor Mathangi J suggests curbing tobacco cravings with non-carbonated beverages, like water or fruit juices, and dairy products that tend to make cigarettes taste bad. Cinnamon sticks, carrots, and celery can also be used to mimic the chewing of a cigarette.
When distractions aren’t enough, you need to exercise discipline. Quitting an addiction is a difficult process, and relapse rates within the first year of abstinence range from 60% to 90%. The temptation to participate when surrounded with smokers will inevitably be overwhelming, and it’s thus important to have an exit strategy ready.
Prepare a bag with essentials and an escape plan — whether this means walking to the store, a friend’s house, or a nearby Airbnb — so that the stage is pre-emptively set. This allows you to tear yourself away from temptations when you feel yourself getting overpowered.
Temptations can be strong, but mentality is a powerful tool for success. It’s important that you reframe your mindset as a non-smoker. By putting your foot down and setting goals, because being smoke-free may be more attainable than you think.