Tracking your tobacco use means recording things like when and where you use tobacco. When you know this, you can take steps to avoid these situations. And you can make a plan that lists what you will do instead of using tobacco when you find yourself in those situations.
Tracking your tobacco use can be helpful both while you prepare to quit and after you quit.
Tracking before your quit date
Start tracking your tobacco use before your quit date, if you can. Make entries for at least 7 days (1 full week). Record:
- The time, place, and situation (for example, after a meal or during a coffee break) for each time you use tobacco.
- The level or degree of your urge to use tobacco and your feelings about not using it. Describe the feelings and thoughts you have while using tobacco.
Take a look at your week's 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 can't avoid them, make a plan of action that lists what you will do instead when you find yourself in those situations. Add this action plan to your tracker.
Tracking after your quit date
After your quit date, record:
- Each urge or craving for tobacco and the time, place, and situation.
- The level or degree of your urge to use tobacco and your feelings about not using it.
- Anything you do to help yourself get through the urge. (For instance, you could change activities or chew on a straw.)
Using a tracking form
Tracking doesn't have to be hard or complex. For example, you can make a chart with four columns and a row for each time you smoke or use tobacco. Title the columns "Tobacco use," "Time," "Place or situation," and "Level of need." Rate your level of need from 1 to 5, with 5 being the strongest urge to use tobacco.
Here is a sample of what a tracker might look like for someone who is preparing to quit. To use this form after your quit date, add another column for the things that helped you get through the urge.
Place or situation
Level of need (1–5)
In car, on way to work
Outside work, 1st coffee break
Also include on your tracking form your list of reasons to quit and the contact information for people who can support you when you need it.
If you prefer to track on your phone or tablet, try a free quit-tobacco 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're having a hard time with cravings or stress.
Current as of: August 2, 2022
Author: Healthwise Staff
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
Christine R. Maldonado PhD - Behavioral Health