Tracking your smoking can be helpful both while you prepare to quit and after you quit. Use it to record information about your smoking behavior, such as:
- Your list of reasons to quit.
- Your smoking triggers, which are those times, places, and situations when you reach for a cigarette.
- Contact information for your support people.
Start tracking your smoking before your quit date, if possible. Make entries for at least 7 days (one full week). Record:
- The time, place, and situation (for example, after a meal or during a coffee break) for each cigarette you smoke.
- The level or degree of your urge to smoke and your feelings about not smoking. Describe the feelings and thoughts you have while smoking.
Take a look at your weeks' worth of notes, and identify when or where you will be most likely to relapse. Think about whether you can avoid these situations. If you cannot avoid them, make a plan of action that lists what you will do instead of smoking when you find yourself in those situations. Add this action plan to your tracker.
After your quit date, record:
- Each urge or craving for a cigarette and the time, place, and situation.
- The level or degree of your urge to smoke and your feelings about not smoking.
- Anything you do to help you get through the urge (for example, changing activities, breathing as though you are smoking, chewing on a straw).
Tracking doesn't have to be hard or complex. For example, you can make a chart with four columns and a row for each cigarette you smoke. Title the columns "Cigarette," "Time," "Place or situation," and "Level of need." Rate your level of need from 1 to 5, with 5 being the strongest urge to smoke.
Here's a sample of what this smoking tracker might look like for someone who is preparing to quit:
Place or situation
Level of need (1–5)
In car, on way to work
Outside work, 1st coffee break
If you prefer to track electronically, try a free stop-smoking app, such as the National Cancer Institute's QuitPal. These apps allow you to track your progress and share your successes on social-networking sites. They also let your friends and family record inspiring video messages that you can play when you are having a hard time with cravings or stress.
Current as of: March 12, 2020
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review: Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
Christine R. Maldonado PhD - Behavioral Health