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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 may only last 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 help get you 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, do something else. Sounds simple, but it’s effective. 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 until the urge passes.
  • Drink water. Have a glass of water when you’re used to having a cigarette, maybe first thing in the morning. Or have a glass 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 way to relax when you’re feeling stressed. Do 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

American Cancer Society. Help for cravings and tough situations while you’re quitting tobacco. Accessed June 18, 2021.
American Cancer Society. Staying tobacco-free after you quit. Accessed June 21, 2021.
Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Five reasons why calling a quitline can be key to your success. Accessed June 20, 2021.

Last Updated: June 21, 2021