Why You Crave Cigarettes Months After Quitting

Woman with headache

Jamie Grill / The Image Bank / Getty Images

You may have quit smoking months ago, but you still find yourself craving a cigarette. It's common for former smokers to be become triggered by the time of day, places, activities, emotions, and other people who smoke. Suddenly, you have the urge to smoke again.

It is unnerving to have urges and thoughts of smoking resurface months after quitting. However, this is a very common part of recovery from nicotine addiction. Fortunately, you can learn what is behind your urges, develop healthy coping mechanisms, and regain control over your cravings.

Tips to relieve smoking cessation cravings
Verywell / Cindy Chung

How Long Do Cravings Last?

Right after you quit smoking, your body goes through nicotine withdrawal. Extreme cravings for cigarettes throughout the day are normal, but they generally subside (along with other symptoms of withdrawal) about three to four weeks after quitting.

Months after you quit smoking, you may still experience urges to smoke—although they are usually less frequent than when you first quit. Participants of one study reported they felt cravings for as long as six months after quitting smoking.

Another study found that people who quit smoking were much less likely to experience cravings after their one-year mark of quitting. In other words, the longer you go without smoking, the less intense your cravings should become.

What Causes Cravings?

You're not alone if you experience cravings months after quitting. These can be triggered by:

  • Alcohol use
  • Being in a place where they used to smoke
  • Depressed mood
  • Seeing someone smoke

If you're experiencing cravings months after you quit smoking, they're likely being triggered by something you're feeling or something in your environment. Your emotions—like happiness, sadness, and boredom—can also increase cigarette cravings.

Emotions can act as triggers for smoking. When you're really happy or really upset, you might notice a sudden craving for a cigarette.

Maybe you would always smoke when drinking alcohol. Or maybe you're used to smoking while you drive, or when you go out with friends. Doing these things after you've quit smoking can trigger a craving.

Research has shown that genetics may even play a role in cigarette cravings. You may be genetically predisposed to having longer-lasting cravings after quitting.

Remind yourself that you're doing the work now to change the mental responses you have to your smoking triggers. With practice, those thoughts (and the urges that come with them) will fade away.

How to Relieve Cravings

As you did during the first days of smoking cessation, it's helpful to get your mind off smoking. Be proactive and deal with each craving as it comes up. This is a phase in the recovery process that almost everyone goes through.

Try Some Lifestyle Changes

Managing these bumpy days and months into your smoking cessation journey will be much easier when your batteries are fully charged.

Find activities that relax and rejuvenate you. Good nutrition and regular sleep can help ease your tension. Daily exercise, even a short walk, can improve your mood and energy levels.

If you feel like your cravings are becoming more intense, take it as a cue to engage in more self-care. You might avoid certain situations temporarily—like going to a bar or to a party where people will be smoking—if you know they're likely to trigger you.

If an urge to smoke catches you off guard, you might engage in some mindfulness meditation or breathing exercises. Simply stay in the moment without acting on your urges. This exercise can remind you that the moment will pass and so will the craving.

You can find more coping strategies that work for you by following the five Ds of smoking cessation: delay, distract, drink water, deep breathing, and discuss.

Reach Out for Support

Make a plan for when you feel a craving. Reach out to a trusted family member or friend who can offer encouragement while you wait for the craving to pass.

Becoming part of a support group for quitting smoking can give you support and motivation as well. If you can, reach out to someone from your in-person or online support group. Or, try downloading a quit smoking app on your phone. You can check the app any time you are craving a cigarette.

Talk to Your Doctor

If you're having trouble managing your cravings, talk to your doctor about your options. Some people find nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) a useful method to stay away from cigarettes. NRT gives your body small doses of nicotine without the toxic chemicals in cigarettes.

NRT comes in lozenges, mouth sprays, gum, and patches. Talk to your doctor about the best type of NRT for you. There are also medications to help you quit smoking such as Zyban (bupropion) and Chantix (varenicline tartrate); however, these may be most effective when taken before quitting smoking, so it's best to talk to your doctor.

A Word From Verywell

Try not to fear the ups and downs that come with quitting smoking. Although you might be feeling frustrated by cravings, all of this discomfort can pass in time if you just keep applying yourself to your goal of staying smoke-free, one day at a time.

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.

9 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. Masiero M, Lucchiari C, Maisonneuve P, Pravettoni G, Veronesi G, Mazzocco K. The attentional bias in current and former smokersFront Behav Neurosci. 2019;13:154. doi:10.3389/fnbeh.2019.00154

  2. McLaughlin I, Dani JA, De Biasi M. Nicotine withdrawal. In: Balfour DJK, Munafò MR, eds. The Neuropharmacology of Nicotine Dependence. Springer International Publishing; 2015:99-123. doi:10.1007/978-3-319-13482-6_4

  3. Potvin S, Tikàsz A, Dinh-Williams LL, Bourque J, Mendrek A. Cigarette cravings, impulsivity, and the brainFront Psychiatry. 2015;6:125. doi:10.3389/fpsyt.2015.00125

  4. Taniguchi C, Tanaka H, Nakamura S, Saito S, Saka H. Development of a new craving index for anticipating quitting smoking in patients who undergo the Japanese smoking cessation therapyTob Induc Dis. 2019;17:89. doi:10.18332/tid/114164

  5. National Institutes of Health. Know your triggers.

  6. Oftedal S, Vandelanotte C, Duncan MJ. Patterns of diet, physical activity, sitting and sleep are associated with socio-demographic, behavioural, and health-risk indicators in adultsInt J Environ Res Public Health. 2019;16(13):2375. doi:10.3390/ijerph16132375

  7. Tang YY, Tang R, Posner MI. Brief meditation training induces smoking reductionProc Natl Acad Sci USA. 2013;110(34):13971-13975. doi:10.1073/pnas.1311887110

  8. National Institutes of Health. How to manage cravings.

  9. Heydari G, Masjedi M, Ahmady AE, et al. A comparative study on tobacco cessation methods: A quantitative systematic reviewInt J Prev Med. 2014;5(6):673-678.

By Terry Martin
Terry Martin quit smoking after 26 years and is now an advocate for those seeking freedom from nicotine addiction.