One Weird Trick to Stop Smoking Now

Jan 8, 2014 | Bits & Pieces, Featured Posts by Holly Jahangiri, Health & Fitness, Resolutions

I know you’re out there. You, with the shiny New Year’s resolutions and nicotine stained fingers. And now you’re desperately pleading with Google to find you an easy way out – kind of like us writers, buying “how to write” books in order to feel productive when, in fact, we’d rather pick lint from the carpet under the bed than apply pen to paper and write.

I’m going to share with you – absolutely free – one weird trick that helped me to stop smoking and avoid all cravings. No kidding, seriously, this is absolutely not going to cost you anything and the supplies are like $0.98/lb., last time I checked, and you can grow your own. Legally. In all 50 states. No doctor’s prescription required.

And I realize, right about now, that if I don’t straighten up and stop laughing my way through this post, I’m going to be inundated with spam fit to drive a massive server to its knees before midnight.

How I Did It, and You Can, Too

I recently celebrated my six-year quit anniversary (December 8, 2006 at 2:00 PM). Nobody asks me, anymore, “What’s your secret? How did you do it?” After six years as a non-smoker, I can only share with you what worked for me, and I share it freely, provided you do the same (if you charge anyone for this info, you will receive 100 years of bad karma and a bill from me in return).

“Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, the providence moves too. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents, meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamt would have come his way. I learned a deep respect for one of Goethe’s couplets:

Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it.
Boldness has genius, power and magic in it!?”

 — W. H. Murray in The Scottish Himalaya Expedition, 1951

Post that quote where you can see it daily. Take it as truth.

Do not think of yourself as a smoker trying to quit, or as a former smoker, etc. You are a NON-SMOKER. Believe that from day one. (If trying to lose weight, you are a THIN PERSON. You are what you want to be. Period. Think of Michelangelo, seeing the angel inside the stone and chipping away to release it. That “angel” is whatever is trapped inside you, and has only to be released. Please do not be a smart ass and say, “I am a billionaire.” Some people believe it works that way; I’m not one of them.)

Now, go out and buy yourself about ten raw jalapeño peppers, to start. When you get a craving for a cigarette, eat enough jalapeño pepper to get a good burning sensation in your mouth. If you are already a hot pepper addict, you may have to get acquainted with the Naga Jalokia pepper, and if you can eat those, raw… I’m not sure what to tell you. Anyway, I believe this will have several beneficial effects to aid in your quest to quit smoking (aside from the nutritional value of the pepper, itself): One, it will draw your attention away from the craving by causing a small amount of pain. The pain, in turn, will release a pleasant rush of calming endorphins. More importantly, perhaps – well, there are no scientific studies I know of to back this up, but I have a theory – a simple substitution theory.

Jalapeño peppers are in the Nightshade family (yes, the same family as “Deadly Nightshade” aka Belladonna, from which a number of interesting pharmaceuticals are derived).

I noticed, as I quit smoking six years ago, that I developed an intense craving for spicy salsa. I mean to the point of practically forgoing the chips and drinking the stuff from the cups they serve it in at restaurants. So I tried to figure out what was up with that (I was sure I was not pregnant). At first, I thought maybe it was a nutrient I was craving. What’s in salsa? Not much, really – mostly tomatoes, onions, cilantro, and hot peppers.

I found out that the jalapeño peppers are surprisingly nutritious and low-calorie. I think you might burn more calories hopping around, fanning your mouth, muttering “Ow, ow, ow!” than you could reasonably ingest in one sitting, though I will tell you that tolerance for the heat of Capsaicin is likely to increase, fairly quickly, over time. I can now pop one in my mouth and chew without getting a horrified expression on my face.

Unfortunately, consuming a half cup or more of spicy salsa a day, I soon began to itch. I remembered that I’ve always had a bit of an allergic reaction to tomatoes – if I eat huge quantities of them over a short period of time. I just itch. There’s nothing visible, no adverse effect on my breathing, nothing scary – just this nasty phantom itch that can’t quite be scratched. Out of curiosity, I wanted to know if I was the only one that had this problem. I started searching the Internet for answers.

As it turns out, I’m not the only one, but there appear to be more people who react to potatoes or to green tomatoes. Huh? Potatoes? Where did potatoes enter into it? Interestingly enough, they’re in the Nightshade family. And apparently, when green (same with green tomatoes and green peppers), they can be somewhat toxic, and they can cause itching. (Hot tip: Do not buy potatoes that have been kept in lighted areas and show any signs of turning green. Store them in a cool, dry, dark place. Green potatoes really aren’t good for you.) Green sweet peppers have a tiny bit of this toxicity; however, red peppers lose most of their toxicity, and also pick up a load of Vitamin C. No wonder they’re more expensive! I mean, the orange growers couldn’t hold a candle to the pepper growers of the world, if the pepper growers ever started pushing the health benefits of red Bell peppers and pointed out how much more Vitamin C they have than your average orange.

So we’ve found this commonality between potatoes (funny, I also like baked potatoes with raw jalapeño slices on them), tomatoes (great in salsa and spaghetti, especially paired with jalapeño peppers), everything in the pepper family except peppercorns (which really aren’t in the same family as all the other peppers in the world), and…oh, let’s not forget eggplant. Yep, it’s also in the Nightshade family. Guess what else is?

TOBACCO. Yep, this is where the weirdness in my “one weird trick” comes in.

Apparently, I had substituted an unhealthy craving for tobacco with a healthier one for other nightshades, particularly hot peppers. Now, every time I feel stressed or annoyed or tired or in need of a break – any of the things that used to trigger an urge to smoke – I crave jalapeño peppers. If they come with tomatoes, sweet peppers, or potatoes, that’s fine by me!

I honestly have not had one craving for a cigarette since about the three-week mark after I quit. But my appetite and tolerance for jalapeño and Serrano peppers is legendary.


I am not a doctor or a botanist. I’m a writer and, for the last six years, a non-smoker. This is my personal experience. Your results may vary. I am not selling anything; these tips are freely given, and unlike some of the humor on this blog, the suggestions are not a joke. I am not offering any guarantees; your success is ultimately up to you. You have to want to quit more than you want to smoke. If you don’t smoke now, I strongly recommend you never start – it’s much easier not to ever have to quit, and that goes for most bad habits.

Thanks to Debbie and her post, MY CIGARETTE ADDICTION AND HOW TO COPE WITH NICOTINE WITHDRAWAL, for inspiring me to dig out this post and update it. I hope it helps someone stick to their new year’s resolution!

Holly Jahangiri is the author of Trockle, illustrated by Jordan Vinyard; A Puppy, Not a Guppy, illustrated by Ryan Shaw; and the newest release: A New Leaf for Lyle, illustrated by Carrie Salazar. She draws inspiration from her family, from her own childhood adventures (some of which only happened in her overactive imagination), and from readers both young and young-at-heart. She lives in Houston, Texas, with her husband, J.J., whose love and encouragement make writing books twice the fun.


  1. Debbie

    Fascinating! I had no idea that tobacco, peppers, egg plant etc. were all part of the nightshade family. Personally, I can’t stomach anything as hot as jalapeno peppers, but I do like the sweet variety and will now make a point of selecting the red ones. Most people tend to gain weight when quitting smoking and it has been written that spicy foods speed up metabolism, so there you have a double benefit. Thank you Holly, for such a helpful and educational article and kudos for giving up the demon nicotine! Thanks also for the link up.
    Debbie recently posted…REFLECTIONS OF 2013My Profile

    • HollyJahangiri

      Debbie, I’ve always liked spicy foods, but the first time I tasted a jalapeno pepper, it must’ve been at its upper Scoville range. I hit the ground gasping for air, grabbed a large (family size) bag of Fritos, and started cramming them into my mouth.

      You really do build up a tolerance to the heat – and jalapenos are at the mildest end of hot. But you don’t need them – you probably need the sweet, red, Bell peppers more (for the vitamin C). I think the hot peppers help MORE with the cravings because not only do they have similar chemicals in them to the ones in tobacco, they give you that moment of distraction and endorphin rush. So maybe for the unadventurous, squeezing a handful of ice till it burns and eating a whole tomato might do the trick. I don’t know – but welcome any anecdotal evidence!
      HollyJahangiri recently posted…We All See the World Through Our Own Set of LensesMy Profile

  2. Marian Allen

    Thinking of yourself as a NON-smoker really helped me, when I quit! I eased off by not smoking at work, then by limiting myself to five cigarettes a day outside of work, then thinking of myself as a NON-smoker. I substituted a handful of trail mix; my reasoning was that the trail mix was a different combination of flavors and textures in every bite, so I ended up not substituting one addiction for another, just distracting myself. I haven’t had a cigarette in about 20 years.
    Marian Allen recently posted…Same Old SIDESHOW, New PubMy Profile

    • HollyJahangiri

      I’ve never done as well “cutting back.” When I was done, I was done. I even planned it out – 2:30 PM, to avoid that “clean slate mentality.” My biggest problem was driving home from work. I hadn’t really thought that one through, and starting the car was a big trigger for me, at the time. It was my space, and a way to unwind after work.

      I figured, when I got home, if I could survive that 4 mile drive, I could survive anything. 🙂
      HollyJahangiri recently posted…We All See the World Through Our Own Set of LensesMy Profile

  3. Peter Wright

    Congratulations on getting up to full blogging speed so early in the New Year Holly. I am struggling to keep up with your posts.

    I had been a smoker on and off since my twenties, with cigarette consumption varying between 5 and 40 a day depending on stress levels in Africa. When I was running marathons in my 30s and 40s, I gave up completely for several years – until I returned to farming!

    Moving to Canada the tax-inflated high prices of cigarettes caused me to switch to 5 or 6 filter cigars a day.

    What eventually stopped me smoking, was lying on an operating table 2 days after a heart attack with a pencil sized catheter in my groin, watching a computer screen with the cardiologist pointing out the damaged heart tissue.

    When he said quietly that it might be a good idea to stop smoking, I suddenly developed the ironclad commitment to do so.

    It’s been over 3 years, my commitment has never wavered, I had no withdrawal symptoms, no need for gum, patches or anything. I can see people smoking, smell the smoke without having the slightest desire to indulge.

    Given enough motivation – life – I found it easy.
    Peter Wright recently posted…Life lessons from the Arctic VortexMy Profile

    • HollyJahangiri

      That’s a tough way to get motivated, but you’re a pretty tough man, Peter. I guess given all the other things life’s dished out at you, it took something a little less…abstract to convince you. But I’m with you, once you make up your mind that you’re done, that you’re not a smoker anymore, period – forget “quitting” – cold turkey, at least for me, was the easiest way.

      I’m glad you’ve quit smoking, and chosen life.

      Losing weight is proving a bit harder, if only because there’s no quitting FOOD “cold turkey.” Shoot, even the phrase “cold turkey” doesn’t help…

      As for getting up to blogging speed… I have the Ultimate Blog Challenge to thank for this madness, and I am still two days behind! 30 days… should be doable. As I recall, I once wrote 19 posts in one day. (That was freakishly miserable, though. Not something I feel compelled to repeat.)
      HollyJahangiri recently posted…We All See the World Through Our Own Set of LensesMy Profile

  4. jan

    I had a TIA last Nov. 18. So I’d do what worked for you. I simply have to choose life and duplicate what you did. I like that bit about endorphin rush one gets from jalapeño peppers.

    • HollyJahangiri

      Yikes! Okay, Jan, heed the warning now and do just that. I wasn’t even going to ask and risk you disappearing on me. 😉 But I’d like to keep you around a good while longer.
      HollyJahangiri recently posted…Trying New Things: ChayoteMy Profile

  5. Mandy Yates

    All we need is a little motivation. You can trick your body, but you can’t trick your mind. You have to conquer your passions. You can find your motivation to quit smoking anywhere. Find a new hobby. Start something new. Why not start a dancing class? Or go crazy in the kitchen and try cooking like a chef? It’s about to you! Thanks and all the best to the ones that are trying to quit smoking!!
    Mandy Yates recently posted…Thank You Quotes: The Ultimate Collection for Every OccasionMy Profile

    • HollyJahangiri

      Good point – and good tips! Thanks, Mandy. I’d add that the new hobby or activity should be one where it’s exceedingly difficult to smoke. It’s very hard to overcome an addiction, and smoking is exactly that – although the addictive substance, technically, is out of your body within the first 72 hours (or so I was told, years ago). Not sure most people are all that “passionate” about smoking. What they ARE passionate about (assuming they’re still smoking, in this day and age) is not being told what to do, or how to live their lives, or that they’re stupid. Defensive or rebellious people can be awfully stubborn. Some part of me really did not want to quit, until the day I realized I was the only person I was rebelling against. Everyone else had backed off, wisely, and left me alone. And that’s when I quit for good. The jalapeno peppers still – eight years later – help me to relieve stress. I really do think that’s primarily from the endorphins, as it takes a good half cup, these days, to feel that craving satisfied. But I don’t EVER crave cigarettes, anymore. Not a bit.
      HollyJahangiri recently posted…Don’t My Profile

  6. Mark Noo

    I like this post. You have a very inquisitive mind to follow up on all of different plants in the NightShade family.

    I think your reasoning is flawed but that is overshadowed by the outcome you achieved. Qutting cigarettes is no small feat.

    Cheers to the Nightshade family.
    Mark Noo recently posted…Legal highs to be banned in New ZealandMy Profile

    • HollyJahangiri

      Thanks! Fair enough – but in what way do you think that my reasoning is flawed? I’d tried to quit, several times. Once for three full years. The cravings were still there. This time – well, it’s been 8+ years, and there are no cravings. But my husband teases me that I’m now a hot pepper addict. It’s true. I get irritable if I can’t get my peppers, and I crave them at the same times, in the same ways, as I did cigarettes. I’m pretty sure I’ve just substituted one unhealthy addiction for a fairly healthy one. I can’t say, though, whether it’s the nightshade or the endorphins. 😉
      HollyJahangiri recently posted…Reading Speed, or Why I Avoid Video BlogsMy Profile

  7. Vicky

    Hi Holly, wow it`s hard to believe that tomatoes are part of the nightshade family. Love your article, thanks for taking the time to post it 🙂
    Vicky recently posted…E Cigarette GlossaryMy Profile

    • HollyJahangiri

      I was surprised to find that link, as well. I think it’s funny that people will dismiss the connection – unwilling to eat hot peppers or up their intake of tomatoes, potatoes, and eggplant – preferring, instead, to use patches, gum, and other nicotine substitutes!

      Years ago, my dad and I had a great idea for a diet aid: A placebo with instructions to take one every hour with a full 8 ozs. of water. Because drinking more water helps with weight loss, but people would rather take a pill. We figured the FDA and FTC might not be so amused by our little experiment in human psychology, but I still think it would be at least as effective as most of the diet drugs currently on the market.
      HollyJahangiri recently posted…San Jacinto Monument & USS TexasMy Profile

  8. Marco Auciello

    Good to know about the tip to quit smoking. The two more important tips i want to share with you.

    *Change your drinking habits

    For many smokers, a cigarette goes naturally with their morning coffee, or their lunchtime beer. You will find easier to break the habit if you break your usual routines. Swap coffee for tea, and change the beer that you drink. That will help remove the association between drinking and smoking that you have probably built up in your mind.

    *Eat more fresh tasting food

    Cigarettes taste better after you have eaten heavy, strongly flavoured foods, but not so great after sweet foods. One research study found that smokers enjoyed smoking less after they had eaten fruit or vegetables, so changing your diet might help you stop smoking.

    This will also gonna help you in quitting smoking. Thanks for the share. By this post you are spreading awareness to quit smoking.
    Marco Auciello recently posted…Robert’s story…My Profile

    • HollyJahangiri

      Good ones! What about the car? I remember that being just about the worst, having an urge to light up behind the wheel. What do you suggest when walking, or public transportation are not an option?

  9. Marco Auciello

    Hey HollyJahangiri !!!

    It’s been really nice such blog that nice you healthy tips regarding quit smoking.Quitting smoking is hard. Everyone who’s tried knows it. A recent article in Psychology Today estimates that most of those who have tried to quit have relapsed within a year. There are all sorts of patches and drugs to help, but many people don’t have success with them. Some—like Chantix, for example—have been linked with an increased risk of aggression and suicidal thoughts and actions.
    Obviously, we need more options. Many smokers try 7-10 times before finally succeeding. Nowhere else does the old adage “try and try again” seem to apply!

    Keep posting
    Warm regards
    Marco Auciello recently posted…Why You Should Consider Hypnotherapy For Smoking CessationMy Profile

    • HollyJahangiri

      Hey, Marco! I think you left a comment on my blog back before you moved to NYC. How’s it going? I’d tried the gum and patch thing before finally quitting for good (and it’s now been over ten years, so I’d say that’s “for good”) using my “one weird trick” LOL. The nicotine in the patch was way more than I was inhaling, smoking, and made my heart race. I almost passed out and spent the day feeling jittery and sick. The gum tasted like crap. At least I LIKE hot peppers! Some days are six jalapeno days, still – but it works!
      HollyJahangiri recently posted…Coloring Creativity into BloggingMy Profile

  10. Marco Auciello

    Hye buddy

    It makes perfect sense that an e-cigarette would be the perfect tool to help you quite smoking. By definition, they are designed to simulate smoking. They are better than smoking in just about every simgle way. They are cheaper to use, better for your health, don’t smell bad and can be used in more places.

    Keep posting buddy

    • HollyJahangiri

      I disagree. If you want to quit smoking, quit smoking. I don’t think you can play with your addictions; you wouldn’t advise an alcoholic to switch to wine coolers or non-alcoholic soda that just TASTED like booze. The only way I was ever able to quit smoking, long term (and it’s been almost ten years, now, with no cravings at all) is to switch to a different, healthy habit (jalapeno and serrano peppers, in my case) and quit the addiction cold turkey (which may not work for all chemical/drug dependencies, but in that case, work with a doctor). I really think that COMMITMENT is key; flirting with the very thing you’re trying to quit, in another form, isn’t all that “committed.”


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