101 Things to Do Instead of 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. When a craving hits, it's often best to redirect your attention and find something to do that will replace that cigarette. The majority of the time, the urge to smoke will be gone within moments.


There are countless things you can do to get through the first stages of 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 any negative thought patterns that come up when trying to break nicotine addiction.

Let's explore some of the many activities that ex-smokers have used to help them quit. After reading these, you'll probably come up with a few of your own. Embrace those and turn to them every time you feel like smoking. With time, practice, and diligence, it becomes easier.

Cigarette craving busters

Verywell / Jessica Olah

5-Minute Craving Busters

It's always good to have something quick and easy that you can do at a moment's notice and these five-minute craving busters can do the trick. They don't take a lot of effort or time, but they're enough to replace the habit of grabbing for a cigarette.

  • Drink a glass of water. It's surprising how well this works.
  • 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 a while.
  • Do three sets of ten jumping jacks.
  • Run in place.
  • Crank up the radio and sing at the top of your lungs (works great while driving).
  • If music is playing, dance like no one is watching.
  • Slather on rich, creamy hand lotion and rub, rub, rub! It keeps fingers busy and reminds you how nice it is that they don't smell like tobacco.

Work on Not Smoking

Whenever you're changing a habit, it can be easy to dwell on the things you'll miss, which only heightens your feelings of being deprived. Turn the tables on that 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.

Avoid Isolation

It's very easy to isolate yourself, especially when you're trying to tackle such a big change in your life. Do your best to avoid this and take some time to interact with people. You can talk about what you're going through if you like, but it's not required. Sometimes a simple conversation about everyday life can be just the lift you need.

  • Call a friend.
  • Give someone you love a huge hug and tell them how much they mean to you.
  • Spend time with a child.
  • Write an old-fashioned, hand-written letter to someone you care about.
  • Volunteer somewhere in your community.
  • Call your parent or grandparent. You know they'd love to hear from you!
  • Write a list of things you are grateful for.

Distract Yourself at Home

When you're not spending so much time smoking, you will be amazed at what you can get done. This is your chance to knock off your to-do list around the house and there's probably plenty to keep you busy.

Some of these chores are just busy work and they might not even need to be done. However, they will keep your hands busy and offer an hour or two of distraction. Besides, when things are clean and organized, you'll feel better.

  • Wash the car.
  • Wax the car.
  • Check your car's tire pressure.
  • Clean the inside of the car.
  • Clean the basement or garage.
  • Scrub the floor.
  • Do the laundry.
  • Clean out a closet in the house.
  • Organize your boxes of pictures.
  • Alphabetize your bookshelves.
  • Organize the junk drawer.
  • Paint a room in the house.
  • Go outside and do some gardening.
  • Start a vegetable garden.
  • Make a to-do list for the week ahead.
  • Start a home budget.
  • Shred that pile of paper you've been meaning to get to.
  • Start planning a vacation that will be funded by the money saved by not smoking for a year.
  • Plan next week's dinners and make a shopping list to match.
  • Try a new recipe.
  • Bake a cake.
  • Chop up veggies for a stir-fry or quick, healthy snacking.
  • Wash the dog.
  • Play with the cat.
  • Read a book.
  • Watch a funny movie on TV.

Keep Your Hands and Mind Busy

Many ex-smokers find that they not only need a mental distraction, but they also need to find ways to keep their hands busy. Cigarettes are interactive, after all, and this can be one of the biggest obstacles you face.

Now may be a great time to take up a new hobby. There are plenty of options available and it doesn't have to be anything too involved or long-term. Yet, you may find that you're really good at something you never thought of pursuing before.

  • Take up a new hobby or interest. 
  • Get your camera out and take some pictures.
  • Knit a scarf. Learning to knit or crochet is one of the top recommendations from ex-smokers.
  • Start a sewing project.
  • Write a poem.
  • Write a short story.
  • Paint a picture.
  • Grab crayons or colored pencils and color a picture.
  • Make a greeting card.
  • Spend some time scrapbooking.
  • Digitize the family photos or print out your digital photos.
  • Create a puzzle from a family photo.
  • Create a family cookbook.
  • 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 at Jigzone.com.
  • Do a crossword puzzle.
  • Play a game of internet scrabble.

Be Active

One thing that deters many people from quitting is the fear of gaining weight. You can help avoid that while distracting yourself by doing small things to stay active. If you're going to pick up a new habit to replace the old, it might as well be a healthy one, right?

  • Go for a walk.
  • Go to the gym and work out.
  • Try a new exercise routine.
  • Jump on the treadmill and work up a sweat.
  • Ride a bike.

Get Out and About

There are times when a change of scenery can do wonders for the mind. When you're tired of hanging around the house, step outside and find somewhere to go. It's a lot of fun and can be very relaxing.

  • 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.
  • Donate blood.

Embrace Relaxation

Possibly more important than anything else, do what you can to take care of your mental and physical health. Learning how to relax (and actually enjoy it) can do wonders for your outlook during this transition. Take some time for yourself and enjoy the moment, the rest you get will do you good.

  • Practice smiling in the mirror because it releases endorphins that make you happy.
  • De-clutter your home.
  • Stop and really smell the roses.
  • Turn your bathroom into a spa to relax and rejuvenate.
  • Take a shower.
  • Take a candle-lit bath.
  • Listen to a relaxation tape or some favorite music.
  • Do some deep breathing for a few minutes.
  • Practice meditation.
  • Take a nap.
  • Treat yourself to a massage.
  • Give yourself a manicure and pedicure.
  • Color your hair.
  • Let your partner cook supper for you.

A Word From Verywell

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

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