101 Alternatives for Smoking

Distract yourself and the urge to smoke will pass

As of Dec. 20, 2019, the new legal age limit is 21 years old for purchasing cigarettes, cigars, or any other tobacco products in the U.S.

Quitting smoking is tough. There's no doubt about that. But research has found that when you can distract yourself—such as by finding a substitute or alternative for smoking—it can help you reduce your cigarette consumption and successfully kick the habit.

Here are 101 alternatives for smoking based on whether you're having cravings, feeling deprived, and more. Turn to these every time you feel like lighting up a cigarette and it can help you break your nicotine addiction for good.

Alternatives for Smoking That Help Stop Cravings

Cigarette craving busters

Verywell / Jessica Olah

Find a way to regulate your cravings and you can reduce your smoking behaviors while also lessening your likelihood of relapse. Cravings play such an important role in addiction that they are listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) as one of the criteria for addiction diagnosis.

It's always good to have something quick and easy that you can do at a moment's notice to stop cigarette cravings dead in their tracks. These alternatives for smoking don't take a lot of effort or time, making them great activities whenever you feel the urge to smoke.

Five-minute craving busters to try include:

  • Drink a glass of water.
  • Eat a dill pickle.
  • Suck on a piece of tart candy.
  • Eat a popsicle (or wash and freeze grapes on a cookie sheet for a healthy frozen snack).
  • Floss and brush your teeth.
  • Chew gum.
  • Eat a hot fudge sundae.
  • Whistle or hum for five minutes.
  • Practice smiling in the mirror. (Smiling releases endorphins, which are feel-good hormones.)
  • Do three sets of ten jumping jacks.
  • Run in place.
  • Crank up the radio and sing at the top of your lungs (this is a good distraction when you're driving).
  • Turn on music and dance like no one is watching.
  • Slather on hand lotion, using a scented version to remind you how much better your hands smell when you don't smoke.

Many of these alternatives for smoking involve keeping your mouth busy. This type of activity works by helping to psychologically stop your need to smoke.

Alternatives for Smoking When You Feel Deprived

When changing a habit, it can be easy to dwell on the things you'll miss. Unfortunately, this only heightens your feelings of deprivation. Turn the tables on that way of thinking and concentrate on the things you will gain by not smoking instead.

Educating yourself about the good things you have to look forward to—or the bad things you might avoid—by not smoking is a great reminder of why you've made this decision. It's also a strategy that has been linked to a reduction in smoking.

Substitutes for smoking that can help you feel not so deprived include:

  • Learn what to expect when you quit smoking.
  • Make a list of the pros and cons of smoking.
  • Research the facts and statistics about smoking and tobacco use.
  • Write a goodbye letter to your cigarettes, telling them all the benefits you will enjoy by letting them go.
  • Create a budget and decide how you'll spend the money you will save by not smoking
  • Start planning a vacation that will be funded by the money saved by not smoking for a year.
  • Make a list of treats—no matter how small—that you'll give yourself for every day that you don't smoke.
  • Start a reward fund and use the amount you spend on cigarettes to help pay for your daily treats.
  • Create a list of activities you will enjoy doing when cravings strike.
  • Write a list of things you are grateful for.
  • Make a to-do list for the week ahead, outlining all the things you will do instead of smoking.
  • Do something nice for others, such as donating blood.

Alternatives for Smoking That Bolster Social Support

Smiling and laughing friends sharing dinner at table in backyard
Getty

It's easy to isolate yourself when you're trying to tackle a big change in your life like quitting smoking. However, social support is important to smoking cessation and can even buffer the effects of withdrawal symptoms while also reducing feelings of depression. You can maximize these benefits by making it a priority to interact with others.

Activities that can help you avoid isolating yourself include:

  • Call a friend.
  • Call your parent or grandparent.
  • Give someone you love a huge hug and tell them how much they mean to you.
  • Spend time with a child.
  • Write a handwritten letter to someone you care about.
  • Volunteer in your community.

When trying these alternatives for smoking, you may decide to talk about what you're going through by quitting smoking if you like, but it's not required. Sometimes a simple conversation about everyday life can be just the lift you need to keep your resolution going.

Alternatives for Smoking That Maximize Productivity

When you're not spending so much time smoking, you will be amazed at what you can get done. In fact, studies have linked quitting smoking with improvements in productivity. That makes this the perfect time to work on your to-do list around the house.

Cleaning and decluttering your environment can also help you feel more in control and have greater peace of mind. Both of these effects can be incredibly helpful when you're working to quit smoking.

Alternatives for smoking that capitalize on your newfound levels of productivity (and result in cleaner, more organized surroundings) include:

  • Wash and wax your vehicle, inside and out.
  • Do a checkup on your vehicle, such as by checking the oil and tire pressure.
  • Clean the basement or garage.
  • Scrub the floors in your house.
  • Do the laundry—including bed sheets.
  • Clean out a closet (or two).
  • Organize your boxes of pictures.
  • Alphabetize your bookshelves.
  • Go through the junk drawer and toss what you don't need.
  • Paint a room.
  • Go outside and do some gardening.
  • Shred that pile of paper you've been meaning to get to.
  • Wash the dog.

Alternatives for Smoking That Keep Your Hands Busy

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Many ex-smokers find that they not only need a mental distraction, but they also need to find ways to keep their hands busy. This can be especially helpful when engaged in activities in which you used to smoke, such as when drinking your morning coffee.

Cigarettes are interactive, after all, so now may be a great time to take up a new hobby. There are plenty of options available and they don't have to be anything too involved or long-term. You may even find that you're really good at something you never thought of pursuing before.

Substitutes for smoking that keep your hands busy include:

  • Get your camera out and take some pictures.
  • Learn to knit or crochet.
  • Learn a musical instrument.
  • Start a sewing project.
  • Write a poem.
  • Write a short story.
  • Draw pictures.
  • Paint a picture.
  • Grab crayons or colored pencils and color a picture.
  • Make a greeting card.
  • Spend some time scrapbooking.
  • Digitize your family photos or print out your digital photos.
  • Create a puzzle from a family photo.
  • Create a family cookbook.
  • Plan next week's dinners and make a shopping list to match.
  • Try a new recipe.
  • Bake a cake.
  • Build something with wood.
  • Refinish or reupholster a piece of furniture.
  • Make a terrarium.
  • Make homemade candles or soap.
  • Do a jigsaw puzzle (or find one online).
  • Do a crossword puzzle.
  • Play a game of internet scrabble.
  • Play with your pet.
  • Read a book.
  • Watch a funny movie on TV and write down your favorite lines.
  • Write out your to-do list for the day, week, or month.

Alternatives for Smoking That Prevent Weight Gain

One thing that deters many people from quitting smoking is the fear of gaining weight. This is a fair fear since one study found that the mean weight gained when stopping smoking was around 4.1 kilograms, which equates to just over 9 pounds.

This doesn't mean that gaining weight has to be an absolute as there are several alternatives for smoking that can help reduce this effect. Besides, if you're going to pick up a new habit to replace the old, it might as well be a healthy one.

Options to consider that can help you keep your weight in check include:

  • Start and maintain a vegetable garden.
  • Chop veggies and keep them in the fridge for a stir-fry or a quick, healthy snack.
  • Go for a walk through the woods or around the block.
  • Go to the gym and work out.
  • Try a new type of exercise, such as reverse running or hula hooping.
  • Start lifting weights or do bodyweight exercises.
  • Jump on the treadmill and work up a sweat.
  • Ride a bike, indoors or out.

Alternatives for Smoking That Involve a Change of Routine

Smoking is often something people do in relation to their other daily routines—which is one reason why many former smokers say that quitting is so difficult. Smoking every time you take a work break is an example of this, as is lighting up directly after a meal or whenever you're on the phone.

Finding ways to change your routines can help make it easier to quit. When you feel the urge to reach for a cigarette out of habit, try these alternatives for smoking instead:

  • Window shop at the mall. (It's a great place to walk, too.)
  • Grab your pole and tackle and head out to the pond for some fishing.
  • Take a day trip.
  • Go out to lunch or dinner.
  • Go antique shopping.
  • Get out into nature.
  • Go play mini-golf.
  • Go out to the movies.
  • Watch the sunset.

Alternatives for Smoking That Help You Relax

Woman relaxing reading book

Kathrin Ziegler / Getty Images

Many people smoke as a way to cope with stress or anxiety. Using alternatives for smoking that induce relaxation works by increasing your parasympathetic system's response, helping you to feel less anxious and more calm while also improving your ability to focus.

Learning how to relax (and actually enjoy it) can also do wonders for your outlook during the transition from current smoker to former smoker. Take some time for yourself and enjoy the moment with these relaxation-based alternatives for smoking:

  • Do a few breathing exercises.
  • Stop and really smell the roses or other flowers.
  • Turn your bathroom into a spa to relax and rejuvenate.
  • Take a warm shower.
  • Take a candle-lit bath.
  • Download and use a relaxation app.
  • Listen to soothing music.
  • Take a nap.
  • Treat yourself to a massage.
  • Give yourself a manicure and pedicure.
  • Let your partner cook supper for you.
  • Practice meditation.

A Word From Verywell

There are countless alternatives for smoking that can help you get through the first stages of nicotine withdrawal. From chores around the house to exercise or even taking up a new hobby, the key is to find the distractions that work for you. Even the simplest things can jolt you out of a certain mindset and break negative thought patterns that come up when trying to break nicotine addiction.

Above all, be patient with yourself and you will get through this phase—just as others have. You may even emerge with a new hobby or interest that you can pursue with the time that you're no longer devoting to cigarettes.

12 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.
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  12. Cleveland Clinic. How to quit smoking: 7 ways to kick the habit.

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