A Day in the Life of a Smoker

Serious woman in car smoking a cigarette
Westend61 / Getty Images
Table of Contents
View All
Table of Contents

Does this day in the life of a smoker sound familiar? You may think that you don't want to quit, or you may have tried quitting many times only to fall back into your familiar smoking pattern. It's worth considering how much of your life is tied up with smoking, on top of the health risks it poses.

Quitting smoking is not an easy task. Everyday life can present many triggers that may prompt someone to want to pick up a cigarette, from nicotine cravings first thing in the morning to routines like having a cup of coffee and a cigarette that feel impossible to shake. Here, we take a look at what someone who's addicted to nicotine may encounter in their day.

Morning for a Smoker

Here are a few experiences starting first thing in the morning that may sound familiar to someone who smokes.

Morning Cough

You wake up coughing. It's common for people who smoke to cough early in the morning. This is known as "smoker's cough." It may continue until you smoke your first cigarette of the day.

Getting That First Nicotine Fix

Your focus in the morning is likely on getting your nicotine fix, which may involve smoking a cigarette on the way to work or even first thing upon waking up. Knowing you may have to go for several hours without another cigarette while you're at work may prompt you to smoke more.

What to Do Instead

Nicotine cravings can be intense, but there are a few things you can try to beat the urge:

Work Day for a Smoker

If you work outside the home, your opportunities to smoke are often limited. You have to exit the building or even the work campus to a place where smoking is allowed. As a result, you may have to go hours without smoking during your workday.

Withdrawal at Work

Every hour without smoking can make you feel more irritable, and your next cigarette may be at the forefront of your mind throughout your day at work. In fact, symptoms of nicotine withdrawal can appear within just a few hours of your last cigarette. As the hours pass since your last cigarette, you may find yourself getting more and more irritable and your ability to concentrate on your work may wane.

Smoke Breaks

It's likely that you look forward to your lunch or coffee breaks if they also double as your smoke break, but you may find that getting in a cigarette takes priority. Rather than enjoying lunch or sitting comfortably, you may instead find yourself sitting in your car or standing outside rain or shine so you can smoke.

Ans if you haven't had a smoke for hours, you may be tempted to have several cigarettes as soon as you are able to appease the cravings, relax, or stock up on nicotine for the rest of the afternoon.

What to Do Instead

You may associate daily rituals such as the smell of your morning coffee, work breaks, meals, or getting in the car to drive to and from work with smoking, which can trigger a craving. If you're trying to quit smoking, plan ahead to ensure you're prepared for when it happens.

This could involve changing up your routine. Identifying these triggers ahead of time can help you avoid becoming susceptible to them down the road.

Evening for a Smoker

You may have more opportunities to smoke outside of work, but smoking still likely affects your social life.

At Home

If you with with a partner or housemate who also smokes, you may have no problem lighting up in the evening at home, but you may still have to go outside to smoke. If the people you live with don't smoke and don't support your smoking, you may find that smoking at home regularly causes conflict in your relationships.

Eating Out

Just as you might be used to smoking at lunch or during a coffee break at work, you could feel similarly in a bar or restaurant. This is especially true if you're used to smoking while drinking alcohol, or if there are others with you who also smoke.

Many states have smoke-free indoor air laws that prohibit smoking in these locations, however, so you may have to go outside. If this is the case in your state, you may also have to smoke on the way in anticipation of these regulations.

If you're trying to quit and finding that you're really tempted to smoke if you go to certain places, you may try taking some time to avoid these places altogether for the time being.


If you're in the dating scene, you may face additional difficulties. It used to be that offering a cigarette to a person you were attracted to was considered polite, even romantic. Now you might worry about admitting you smoke. On the other hand, you may avoid the issue by only dating other smokers, but you'll likely find that it really narrows down your choices.


Spending time with friends who don't smoke may prove challenging as well. You may find yourself having a cigarette alone outside while your friends continue catching up and socializing. Smoking can be lonely. If most of your friends have quit and don't smoke, you may find yourself wondering if it is worth all the hassle and cost to carry on smoking.

What to Do Instead

Stresses and annoyances throughout the day may cause you to reach for a cigarette. Remember: Smoking a cigarette doesn't get to the root of what's causing you stress. It just masks the issue. When you quit smoking, try other ways to handle stress. Do something that relaxes you, like taking a bath or a deep breathing exercise, or find a way to move your body, such as practicing yoga.

Resources for Quitting

It's common for someone to attempt to quit smoking more than once, so don't give up if you've tried before and were unsuccessful. To give yourself a good chance at success, have reliable resources and a solid plan in place. Here are some places to look:

  • Online resources: There are online support groups, forums, and information readily available at your fingertips.
  • Healthcare provider: Speak to a doctor about quitting. They'll be able to recommend any treatments they think would be best for you specifically. That might include a nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) product or smoking cessation medication that could help.
  • Therapy: See if behavioral interventions such as counseling might be beneficial for you.

Medication and counseling are particularly effective in helping people quit smoking, especially when used together.

Talking to your family and friends about your plan or desire to quit can also be helpful. Ensure your immediate support network is ready to be there for you when you need them.

A Word From Verywell

It can be easy to fall back into the habit, go back to what you're used to every day, and start smoking again even after you've decided you want to quit.

There's no doubt about it: Conquering a nicotine addiction is hard. It's a physical and mental dependence, and both will take time to overcome. But above all, in addition to ridding yourself of the inconveniences to your daily life, the health benefits you'll gain once you quit for good are more than worth it.

If you or a loved one are struggling with substance use or addiction, contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357 for information on support and treatment facilities in your area.

For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database.

15 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. American Cancer Society. Health risks of smoking tobacco.

  2. Lotfalian S, Spears CA, Juliano LM. The effects of mindfulness-based yogic breathing on craving, affect, and smoking behavior. Psychol Addict Behav. 2020;34(2):351-359. doi:10.1037/adb0000536

  3. Smokefree.gov. Managing withdrawal.

  4. American Cancer Society. Help for cravings and tough situations while you're quitting tobacco.

  5. Smokefree.gov. How to manage cravings.

  6. American Cancer Society. Why people start smoking and why it's hard to stop.

  7. Department of Health and Human Services. Smoking Cessation: A report of the Surgeon General.

  8. Smokefree.gov. Know your triggers.

  9. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Prepare to stay smokefree.

  10. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. STATE system smokefree indoor air fact sheet.

  11. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Reduce your stress.

  12. Smokefree.gov. Coping with stress without smoking.

  13. Chaiton M, Diemert L, Cohen JE, et al. Estimating the number of quit attempts it takes to quit smoking successfully in a longitudinal cohort of smokers. BMJ Open. 2016;6(6):e011045. doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2016-011045

  14. American Lung Association. I want to quit smoking.

  15. American Cancer Society. Dealing with the mental part of tobacco addiction.

By Elizabeth Hartney, BSc, MSc, MA, PhD
Elizabeth Hartney, BSc, MSc, MA, PhD is a psychologist, professor, and Director of the Centre for Health Leadership and Research at Royal Roads University, Canada.