Chris’ story: “surfing the urge” to manage cravings

Chris has been a smoker for 28 years, and has stopped smoking before. However, he keeps smoking because of cravings. Dr Hester Wilson talks to Chris about “surfing the urge” to smoke, and not giving in to cravings.1,2

Having visited his GP, Chris found out that his blood pressure was abnormally high; “…my blood pressure was through the roof…”, as Chris tells GP Dr Hester Wilson.

Chris wants to stop smoking for good, and has actually gave up cigarettes before for about six months. However, as Chris puts it to Dr Wilson, “…it’s one of those things that just gets a grip on me…”. So, although he has stopped smoking before, Chris has relapsed and started smoking again.

Chris isn’t alone; a lot of people try to stop smoking but relapse. And, this can act as a barrier – preventing some smokers from making future attempts to stop smoking.3

Cravings are a very real part of going smoke-free.4 And, an important part of preventing relapse is having coping methods in place for when cravings start. For example, exercise has been shown to help reduce cravings and improve mood in people who have stopped smoking.5

Because Chris struggles with cravings, Dr Wilson recommends “surfing the urge to smoke”. This is a mindfulness technique that may help smokers deal with cravings when they first stop smoking.1,2

Surfing the urge means accepting the urge to smoke, not attempting to fight it, but at the same time, not giving in to it – it’s all about staying in the moment, and detaching yourself from the urge to smoke.1 As Dr Wilson tells Chris, the urge to smoke will be there but “… at a certain point it will peak, and then it will die away.” 

She also explains to Chris that as he experiences more cravings, if he just “surfs the urge” he may find that the cravings diminish in intensity over time. A study has shown that people who engaged in mindful meditation when they stopped smoking reported having fewer cravings compared to people who didn’t use mindfulness.6

Talking to your doctor is a good place to start; your GP may be able to give you advice on techniques to help improve your chances of stopping smoking.4

Start a quit chat with your doctor today!

©Pfizer 2020. Pfizer Australia Pty Limited. Pfizer Medical Information: 1800 675 229. Sydney, Australia. PP-CHM-AUS-1037 02/20

1. Marlatt GA, Donovan DM. Relapse Prevention: Maintenance Strategies in the Treatment of Addictive Behaviors. New York, NY: Guilford Press; 2005.

2. Bowen S, Marlatt A.Psychol Addict Behav 2009; 23(4): 666-71.

3. Borland R, et al. Addiction 2012; 107(3): 673-82.

4. The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners. Supporting smoking cessation: A guide for health professionals. 2nd edn. East Melbourne, Vic: RACGP, 2019.

5. Bernard P, et alNicotine & Tob Res 2013; 15(10): 1635-50.

6. Tang YY, et alProc Natl Acad Sci USA 2013; 110(34): 13971-5.