Those first few days can feel like forever. You feel angry, anxious, achy… but you will start to feel better and better as the weeks go on. So why do some people still have cravings weeks, months or even years after the nicotine has left their bodies?

There are actually three types of nicotine addiction that can keep you wanting more. Understanding which type of addiction you’re dealing with at any one time will help you quit the habit for good. So grab a notepad and get ready to sort through those cravings.

1: Physical addiction

When your body is getting low on nicotine, physical addiction shows up with the headaches, chills, low mood, stress, anxiety and restlessness. Uncomfortable is an understatement.  

Homer Simpson on the couch rocking back and forth saying 'Can't sleep'

But remember, your body doesn’t need nicotine to survive. If you can find a way to ride it out, the symptoms will fade away.  

That looks different for everyone. It could be using music, meditation or physical activity to distract you, laying off alcohol in the short-term or quitting with a friend. Keep track of when you have cravings, what it feels like can help you manage your symptoms and give you a sense of control. Many people find symptoms start to let up from day 3 onwards.

Using stop smoking medications can help ease withdrawal symptoms, so if they’ve got the better of you in the past, check in with your doctor for extra support strategies.  

Using multiple quit methods together can even double your chances of success.

2: Emotional addiction

Maybe you’ve been there yourself, you’ve done the hard yards and been enjoying your nicotine-free life and then something big happens - loss of a job, a loved one or another stressful event and you find yourself back where you started.

Emotional triggers to smoke or vape can be so ingrained in your body that your brain sends you reaching for a hit, even when your body is actually nicotine-free. This could happen months or even years after quitting. Your brain is linking those tough emotions with the short–term rush of nicotine.

To beat the urge, you need to learn coping techniques to replace cigarettes and vapes before you hit these tough times. This can take some trial and error. Try reaching out to friends for support, take a walk to clear your head, blast your favourite tunes or try mindfulness techniques to calm your nerves. The Quitline are on-call if you need support through your cravings, or contact Beyond Blue to take care of your mental health.

Circle with numbers counting up to 4 and down to 0 with the words 'hold' and 'breathe out'

3: Habits (behavioural addiction)

Enter the routine aspect of smoking or vaping. For many people, smelling that first cup of coffee in the morning gets the brain screaming, ‘NICOTINE NOW’. For others it’s the commute to work, when drinking or hanging out with certain friends.  

Breaking these habits means shaking up your routine - at least for a few weeks. Swap out that coffee for a different drink or drink it somewhere new. Take a different route to work or catch public transport (which is smoke & vape-free), let your mates know you’re nicotine-free and hang out in smoke-free areas. Quitline counsellors are trained in behaviour change strategies and they'd love to help.

It’s ok to feel nervous about quitting, but knowing what you’re up against makes it easier to fight the cravings.

You can get started on your next quit attempt right now. Check out our tips page to find a quit hack that works for you, or head over to our Quit Planner which will guide you through quitting step-by–step.

Post it notes of a board with strings linking them together like clues

About author:

Other stories you may like

Photo of a man rubbing his head in his hands, irritable and restless

I’ve just quit nicotine - how long until the cravings go away?

Why do some of us still get cravings weeks, months or even years after quitting nicotine?

young girl standing in front of a wire fence, looking to her right where there is a 'no smoking' sign on the fence.

Keeping Australian Kids Safe from Tobacco Industry Tactics

Why in 2024 are we still dealing with the harmful influence of tobacco companies on our young people?

Formula One cars on a race track

Big Tobacco's sneaky grip on Formula One

Is your favourite team driven by them?

Stack emitting clouds of smoke

Is air pollution worse than smoking?

Tl;dr: air pollution and tobacco smoke both cause death and disease, but tobacco causes more of it.

Free Quit Support

Talk to the Quitline

The Quitline is a confidential telephone advice and information service for people who want to quit smoking.

My QuitBuddy App

The My QuitBuddy App tracks your quitting progress, such as days smoke-free, cigarettes avoided, health gained and dollars saved.

Google Play ButtonApp Store Button
Proven Tips To Quit

Some people think quitting is about willpower, but to quit successfully means being prepared, and understanding your smoking triggers.

Find tips on quitting