Next time you reach for the nicotine gum, consider a perfume bottle instead.
Scientists have found that deliberately sniffing a pleasant scent can reduce the urge to light up another cigarette.
They believe sweet smells could be used as part of an effective strategy to help people quit smoking.
While most smokers want to be free of their habit, half of those who try to give up relapse within two weeks.
To investigate an alternative approach, researchers recruited 232 smokers aged 18 to 55 who were asked to avoid tobacco for eight hours prior to the study.
First, participants were invited to smell and rate a number of odours generally considered to be pleasant, including chocolate, apple, peppermint, lemon and vanilla.
Then they were asked to light a cigarette and hold it in their hands, but not smoke it.
After 10 torturous seconds, the volunteers rated their urge to smoke on a scale of one to 100 before extinguishing the cigarette.
Participants then went on to sniff from a container that held either the scent they rated most pleasant, the smell of tobacco, or nothing that caused an odour.
All of them experienced a reduced urge to smoke after sniffing the container, but average scores dropped significantly more for those smelling their favourite pleasant odours.
Lead researcher Dr Michael Sayette, from the University of Pittsburgh, US, said: “Our research suggests that the use of pleasant odours shows promise for controlling nicotine cravings in individuals who are trying to quit smoking.
“Using pleasant odours to disrupt smoking routines would offer a distinct and novel method for reducing cravings, and our results to this end are promising.”
The findings are published in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology.
- Press Association