Do you smoke out of habit? For example, you might associate your morning kopi with smoking, and it just doesn’t feel right if you skip the cigarette.

One way we can break our smoking habit is to replace it with something else. Let’s find out more!

How do Habits Work?

A habit is a behaviour we do on autopilot, and can be broken down into ​three parts.

  • Cue — the trigger that starts the habit.

  • Routine — the habit.

  • Reward — what we gain from the habit.

Here’s an example of a smoking habit:

  • Cue: You feel stressed out at work.

  • Routine: You go for a smoke break with your colleagues.

  • Reward: You chit-chat with your colleagues, have a good laugh, and feel less stressed.

We can change our habits by breaking the cue-routine-reward cycle.

In the example above, the reward isn’t just the act of smoking, but also how you've spent time chit-chatting with your co-workers, and sharing your thoughts and inside jokes.

Good news: you can still get this feel-good social reward without lighting up. Switch your smoke break for a tea break and a chat in the pantry, and socialise without smoking!

Shake Up Your Habits

Let’s look at other examples of how we can shake up our habits to increase our chances of successfully stubbing out.

Bust Your Boredom

Cue: You feel bored waiting for the bus.

Routine: You walk away from the bus stop to light up.

Reward: You have something to do to take your mind off boredom

Smoking cigarettes doesn’t actually make you less bored — the walking and doing something to keep yourself busy seems to be doing the trick instead.

So, switch to another routine that will keep you busy while you wait for the bus. You can play a smartphone game to kill time or carry a book so you have something to keep your mind occupied.

Remake Mealtime

Cue: You finish your lunch

Routine: You head out for a smoke

Reward: Smoking

Do you smoke after lunch, rain or shine? In this case, the reward might be the familiar act of smoking — you just don’t feel right if you don’t smoke after lunch.

An easy way to break this habit is to replace smoking with something enjoyable. Perhaps switch your post-lunch cigarette to drinking a cold unsweetened beverage or eat a slice of your favourite fruit.

Another way to break the habit is to shake up your routine. Try brushing your teeth immediately after lunch — you’ll feel all minty fresh, which might put you off smoking altogether.

Try coming up with your own habit-breaking strategies! Write down your habits, identify the cue, routine, and reward, then think of ways to either avoid the cue, or replace the routine or reward.

Resources for Quitting

Join the I Quit 28-Day Countdown now! Call QuitLine at 1800 438 2000 for support, and visit participating retail pharmacies for advice and products that can help you quit.

Read these next:


  1. How Habits Work. The Power of Habit.
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