Skip links and keyboard navigation

Know your habits

It helps to know exactly how smoking affects you and hooks you in. Once you understand just how powerful your habit is, you can overcome it. Nicotine is the drug that constantly draws you in to wanting a cigarette and the habit is what makes you go out and have one again and again.

What’s in a cigarette

There are over 7000 harmful chemicals in a cigarette. Some real nasty stuff too. The same kind of chemicals you’ll find in places like your tool shed, under the bonnet of your car or contained within cleaning products under your sink. One thing’s for sure, they don’t belong in your blood stream. Check out what’s in a cigarette. You’ll be surprised.

See what’s inside

Nicotine addiction

Nicotine is what hooks you on cigarettes. It works by stimulating reward centres in the brain. Dopamine is released and creates temporary feelings of happiness or calm. The problem is that nicotine changes your brain chemistry. So when you don’t get a hit, you’ll feel stressed or down. The good news is, when you quit – you break the addiction cycle. And in time, your overall mood improves as your brain heals.

The more you’ve smoked, the more likely you are to be nicotine dependent. If you experience cravings within an hour of waking up, or smoke more than 10 cigarettes a day, or have experienced withdrawal symptoms in previous quit attempts, you are nicotine dependent. It’s recommended that you use nicotine replacement products or medication when quitting. Research shows that using a support system (such as Quitline), in combination with nicotine replacement therapy or prescription medication, is your best bet for staying smoke-free.

Habit and routines

Daily habits, such as having a coffee, can remind you of smoking. So when you quit, it’s important to know your triggers. Think about your daily routine and when you’d normally have a cigarette. Take your time, and make a list of activities that remind you of smoking. Consider how you can change up your daily routine, so that it doesn’t include smoking. This could include a change in environment, distracting yourself or trying new things.

Some suggestions include:

Usual habits: Coping strategies:
When you wake up Have a shower and plan the day ahead.
With coffee Change your drink type or take the time to experience its full flavour. Consume your drink in a new location.
When driving Listen to your favourite music when driving. Make your car smoke-free and remove cigarettes from sight.
After work Go for a walk with friends.
After dinner Chew gum or call a friend.
When watching TV Fiddle with a stress ball.
Just before bed Have a warm drink or watch a funny video.
With alcohol Avoid alcohol as much as possible in the first few weeks. Have a non-alcoholic beverage – hold it in the hand you usually hold your cigarette.
As a reward Buy a copy of your favourite magazine and enjoy reading and flipping through it.
When you’re with another smoker Hold a water bottle in your hand and have regular sips.
When working on your computer at home Move the room around or put your computer in another room. Take regular sips of water.

Overcoming cravings

Try the ‘I’m craving’ button on this page for coping strategies to overcome cravings.

Sign up now to start your quit journey Register for support


You have successfully been unsubscribed from receiving ongoing guidance emails.

Was this a mistake?

If you have a moment, why did you unsubscribe?

You have been resubscribed.

You have successfully been resubscribed to receiving ongoing guidance emails.

Thanks for letting us know.

The reason you provided will be added as feedback and used to improve further emails.


You have successfully been unsubscribed from receiving research emails.