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Smelling Vanilla, Coffee, Or Peppermint May Reduce Cigarette Cravings

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If trying to quit smoking has become a bit of a challenge, researchers advise sniffing peppermint, coffee, and vanilla to curb the craving for cigarettes.

Smoking is a hard habit to break, and disrupting smoking routines may require more than just nicotine replacements such as gums and patches. A research from the University of Pittsburgh offers a new and promising intervention — smelling pleasant odors that act as olfactory cues.

The findings of the study may help increase the success rate of giving up smoking.

"Even with nicotine replacement, relapse is common," said Dr. Michael Sayette, lead author of the study published in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology.

Training The Olfactory Senses

In the study, smokers were randomly assigned to sniff one of the three types of olfactory cues or aromas during their peak cravings. It turned out that smelling their favored scent has significantly decreased their cravings for cigarettes as compared to smelling only neutral odors or tobacco-related scents.

The effect of this reduced craving lasted for five minutes. About 90 percent of the participants said they could use pleasant smells to stave off their cravings for cigarette.

Coffee, vanilla, lemon, or other aromas could be used to control the urge to smoke. Chocolate, apple, and others scents that are generally considered as pleasant can also be used.

"Our research suggests that the use of pleasant odors shows promise for controlling nicotine cravings in individuals who are trying to quit smoking," said Sayette.

Curb The Cravings

Cravings and urges are inevitable part of quitting. Even those who have been smoke-free for some time can experience certain triggers that may cause cravings for cigarettes to come back. Experts say cravings usually last five to 10 minutes, and learning how to manage it takes practice.

Breathing through the cravings may also help. To do a breathing exercise, take slow, deep breaths while inhaling through the nose and exhaling through the mouth. Repeat this breathing pattern up to 10 times.

As for why the pleasant odors aided in reducing the cravings for cigarettes, Sayette said the aroma may have helped distract smokers from their thoughts of cravings to memories linked to the scents. However, further study is needed to confirm this hypothesis.

The study also highlights the need to conduct further research to test if pleasant odors may prove useful alone or in combination with existing approaches to smoking cessation interventions.

Current smoking rates have declined from 20.9 percent in 2005 to 14 percent in 2017, but about 34 million Americans still smoke. Many adult cigarette smokers want to quit smoking, but half of those who try relapse within two weeks. The Centers of Disease Control and Prevention is conducting the Tips From Former Smokers Campaign to assist people who want to quit tobacco smoking.

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