Be Healthy Information

Understanding Tobacco Cravings

When you crave something, you want it very badly. The longer you go without it, the stronger that craving can become. If you use tobacco, you know how strong your cravings for it can be. And if you’ve ever tried to quit, you know that those cravings can be very hard to resist. The good news is that you can learn to resist tobacco cravings. But it’s helpful to understand why you crave it in the first place. 

Nicotine is addictive 

The main reason you crave tobacco is that your body has become addicted to nicotine. This is a chemical found in tobacco that makes it addictive. Nicotine fools your brain into feeling calm and alert. It triggers chemicals that make you feel good.  

You can get a similar feeling by exercising or doing something you enjoy. But the reward from nicotine can be a lot stronger. If you keep using nicotine, you will build up a tolerance to it. This means your brain needs more and more nicotine to feel calm and alert. 

Quitting nicotine leads to unpleasant withdrawal symptoms 

When you quit smoking, the levels of these “feel good” chemicals in your brain suddenly drop. This can lead to withdrawal symptoms. You may feel sluggish and grouchy—not like yourself. You might start to feel other withdrawal symptoms, too. These include: 

  • Cravings 
  • Fatigue 
  • Irritability 
  • Poor sleep 
  • Headaches 
  • Lack of concentration 
  • Constipation 
  • Coughing 
  • Dizziness 
  • Hunger  
  • Mood swings

 Your brain tells you that the only way to stop these bad feelings—and get the good feelings back—is to smoke or chew tobacco. 

Tobacco use is habit-forming 

The other main reason that you crave tobacco is that tobacco use has become a habit. When you do something often enough, for long enough, it becomes a habit. Maybe you have gotten into the habit of smoking after each meal or when you’re out with friends. Maybe you smoke when you drink alcohol. Or perhaps, out of habit, you reach for a smoke when you feel stressed or bored. These habits can be hard to break.  

Anything that you associate with your tobacco habit can trigger cravings

You may notice that there are certain situations and times of the day when your cravings are stronger than other times. Maybe it’s after you’ve poured your morning cup of coffee. Or maybe it’s when you’ve just finished a meal. Or, maybe it follows a stressful encounter with your boss or co-worker. It’s likely because you associate those things with your tobacco use. And now they can trigger strong cravings.  

You can conquer cravings 

The good news is that if you stick with quitting, you’ll start having fewer and fewer cravings. The cravings may also start to feel less strong. Over time, your cravings will fade away altogether.

View Credits
Primary Author: Jason Nielsen
Clinical Reviewer: Jossue Ortiz, DC
Final Review and Approval by Jossue Ortiz, DC
--> Date of Annual Review:12/21/2022
Healthyroads' Editorial Staff follow a quality assurance process to help promote each article’s accuracy:
  • A health expert provides input on topic.
  • Scientific evidence from widely accepted health texts, peer-reviewed journals, and other reliable sources is consulted.
  • Final article is reviewed and approved by a health professional.
View References