Woman stretching before open laptop

Taking time for yourself is vital to a healthy workday: breaks can improve our moods, overall well-being and productivity.1 However, a smoke break isn’t always the answer. If you’re looking to quit smoking but don’t know how to break up your workday, try some healthy alternatives to the traditional smoking break that can both help you focus and prevent you from forming unhealthy habits.

The Importance of Taking a Break from Work

Stepping away from your desk can enhance focus and creativity: by resetting your mind from complex or tedious tasks, you can rest for just enough time to refocus. Even short breaks can help us perform at our best: a 5-minute break every hour has been proven to optimize our ability to focus.1

How Smoking Breaks Can Add Up

Unfortunately, most people who smoke consider a work break to be a smoking break. In an 8- hour workday, a 10-minute break each hour with one cigarette every few breaks can add up to 8 cigarettes per day—which means nearly four packs per week! With cigarette packs costing nearly $11 in some states, this will add up.2 Additionally, the impact of smoking on your body means that all of these cigarettes add up, leading to increased risks of cancers, lung diseases, and coronary heart disease.3 While taking a break from work has a number of benefits, taking a smoke break has a decidedly negative impact, including increased absenteeism and decreased productivity, which may cause your performance to suffer.5

Alternative Work Break Ideas Instead of Smoking

Eat Healthy Snacks For Work Breaks

If you have an oral fixation, eating healthy (and crunchy!) snacks like mixed nuts, vegetable sticks, and crispy apples can satisfy your cravings. Create a fruit salad by combining crunchy melons and sweet berries, or use seeds, nuts, chocolate and raisins to make your own trail mix. Vegetable sticks like celery and carrots make great cigarette substitutions.

Walk Outside With a Colleague

If your office has walking space, and the weather is nice, take advantage by stepping outside for a short walk. You can walk to a nearby coffee shop, pick up lunch, or even rope in a colleague for a casual conversation. Even a walk by yourself has proven to foster better concentration afterwards.1

Stretching and Breathing Exercises

Add simple stretches and exercises into your break routine so you can alleviate the effects of prolonged sitting and immobility. Engage in deep breathing exercises by inhaling, slowly, holding your breath, and exhaling sharply to release tension and improve focus. Completing these exercises and relaxation techniques can lead to less strain, less fatigue and greater concentration.1

Read a Book

Got a fast-paced thriller to catch up on? Read a chapter every work break and focus on the tantalizing story instead of lighting up. Reading books, magazine articles, or checking up on your favorite news categories can be a welcome cognitive break.1

Listen to Music

Nicorette had teamed up with the Berklee Music and Health Institute to create tracks designed to help curb nicotine cravings through the science of music! Learn more about a Smokeless Break.

How to Deal with Cigarette Cravings At Work

If you feel the urge to light up a cigarette before an important meeting, or you just had a stressful presentation, you’re not alone. Curbing your cravings at work isn’t always easy, but the change in your office habits can do wonders for your health—for instance, your heart rate can drop within minutes after you stop smoking.4 While you’re at the office, you can use a product designed to curb your cravings, like Nicorette Lozenge or Nicorette Gum, which can help ease cravings during your entire workday.

  1. Give me a break. American Psychological Association. https://www.apa.org/monitor/2019/01/break/. Accessed 3/13/2024.
  2. Economic Trends in Tobacco. Centers for Disease Control. https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/data_statistics/fact_sheets/economics/econ_facts/. Accessed 3/8/2024.
  3. Health Risks of Smoking Tobacco. American Cancer Society. https://www.cancer.org/cancer/risk-prevention/tobacco/health-risks-of-tobacco/health-risks-of-smoking-tobacco.html/. Accessed 3/8/2024.
  4. Benefits of Quitting. Centers for Disease Control. https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/quit_smoking/how_to_quit/benefits/index.htm#health-benefits-over-time/. Accessed 3/8/2024.
  5. Do You Need to Smoke to Get a Break?: Smoking Status and Missed Work Breaks Among Staff Nurses. ScienceDirect. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0749379709002852/. Accessed 3/13/2024.