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It’s no secret that giving up smoking is no easy feat. But understanding what’s fuelling tough cigarette cravings, and reminding yourself that managing them gets easier with time can help you on your way.


When you smoke a cigarette, nicotine enters your bloodstream and quickly gets transported to the brain.

Illustration of 3 arrows moving upward inside a person’s head and through the brain


Nicotine then stimulates your brain for receptors that release chemicals and give you a feeling of pleasure.

Illustration of receptors in the brain releasing chemicals


With prolonged smoking, nicotine receptors grow in numbers. For a serious smoker, there might be many millions of them.

Illustration of a large arrow inside a brain indicating that the number of nicotine receptors increases with prolonged smoking


The brain of a smoker becomes reliant on nicotine for the release of these feel-good chemicals. The average smoker gets about 200 hits of nicotine a day, so the brain always has an ample supply of nicotine to keep the smoker feeling happy and stable.

Illustration of an infinity symbol inside a brain of a smoker to represent the ongoing requirement of nicotine in order to release the feel-good chemicals


Nicotine from smoking doesn’t linger in your body. Within 72 hours of quitting, the supply in your bloodstream is gone. And suddenly, your brain receptors aren’t getting the nicotine they crave.

Illustration of a head indicating that the supply of nicotine in the bloodstream is gone within 72 hours of stopping smoking.


This absence of nicotine upsets brain chemistry, causing the powerful cravings and strong emotional reactions common in the first weeks of quitting.

Illustration of a powerful impact inside the brain to represent the powerful cravings and strong emotional reactions that are commen upon quitting smoking


The good news is that these nicotine receptors go away over time, giving your brain time to lose these receptors and adjust to life without nicotine. This is a big part of the quitting process, which is usually well underway by your second or third week of quitting.

Illustration of a brain with a thumbs-up, indicating that the brain will, in time, lose the receptors and adjust to a life without nicotine once again.