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The 5 Ds of Quitting Smoking

These techniques can help you beat your cravings for tobacco.

image of broken cigarette

When you’re trying to quit smoking, the urge to reach for tobacco will come and go. A craving only lasts a few minutes, but it can be strong, especially in the early days of quitting. It’s important to be ready with coping techniques to get through the tough moments.

Sometimes the simplest methods can be the most helpful. Here are five easy-to-remember strategies that can help smokers cope with urges. They are called the “5 Ds.”

  • Distract yourself. When you want to smoke, consciously do something else. Call a friend. Grab a puzzle, book or activity like knitting or a craft. Go for a quick walk around your home or office. Turn on the TV, listen to music or watch cat videos online. Anything that can keep your attention for a few minutes while you wait for the urge to pass.
  • Drink water. Have a glass of water first thing in the morning, when you might be used to having a cigarette or when you feel the urge to smoke. Water has zero calories, which can be important if you’re worried about gaining weight after you stop smoking. It can also help to make you feel full.
  • Delay. Say to yourself, “I’m not going to smoke for the next five minutes.” If you can get through a few minutes’ delay without smoking, the urge might weaken or even disappear.
  • Deep breaths. Taking slow, deep breaths is a great relaxation technique when you’re feeling stressed. Use it at home, at work or any time you have the urge for a cigarette. Inhale slowly through your nose and after a few seconds, exhale through your mouth. Do this about 10 times.
  • Discuss. To help cope, share your feelings and thoughts with someone you trust. You might try working with a coach who is trained in helping people quit. Studies show that people who work with a coach have a greater likelihood of staying smoke-free.

There are lots of other ways to get through a craving. Your doctor (another D!) can guide you to resources that may help you manage the urges. Nicotine-replacement aids such as nicotine gum, lozenges or patches can be useful in managing urges and weaning yourself off of tobacco.

The beauty of the 5 Ds, though, is that you can do them almost anywhere, any time a tobacco urge hits you. They can come in handy even months after you quit. The more tools you have, the better your chances of success as you pledge to stay tobacco-free!

By Ginny Greene, Contributing Editor

Smokefree.gov. How to manage cravings. Accessed: August 10, 2017.
American Cancer Society. Quitting smoking: Help for cravings and tough situations. What does it take to stay tobacco-free? Accessed: August 10, 2017.
NIH. Effective tobacco cessation via health coaching: An institutional case report. Accessed: August 10, 2017.
National Cancer Institute. How to handle withdrawal symptoms and triggers when you decide to stop smoking. Accessed: August 10, 2017.
American Cancer Society. Child and teen tobacco use. Accessed: August 10, 2017.

Last Updated: August 13, 2017