[[quoteright:350:[[Webcomic/MenageA3 http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/cigaretteofanxiety_2202.png]]]]
[[caption-width-right:350:Sometimes, things get worse rather than better.]]
->''"The entire fleet is after us."'' ''(lights up)''
-->-- '''[[TheCaptain Captain]] [[TheLancer Vasiliy Borodin]]''', ''Film/TheHuntForRedOctober''

So the world's [[TheEndOfTheWorldAsWeKnowIt about to end]], you [[ILetGwenStacyDie didn't save the girl]], you did but [[PanickyExpectantFather she's about to give birth]], or you just had a really bad day at work. While others might be [[INeedAFreakingDrink needing a freaking drink]] right about now, it's not going to cut it for you. What you ''really'' need is a cigarette. Possibly 20. This is also where the phrase "Smoke 'em if you got 'em" is likely to come in.

Stress smoking is a popular way to depict just how nervous or upset a character is, doubly so if they have previously quit and fall OffTheWagon because they cannot handle their anxiety any other way. If the only time the character lights up is when things have gone south, it's this trope. This is often spoofed in old cartoons, where a really stressed out character would be surrounded by cigarette butts, but can be used in dramatic works as well. A common method of showing stress is to show the character's shaking hands as they fumble to hold the light to the cigarette.

Somewhat of a TruthInTelevision, as smoking does help with stress, however, in the grand scheme of things, it's a short-term solution to a long-term problem; the user only thinks that their stress is gone from smoking, when in reality, their underlying stress has been covered up by the nicotine; not treated, and they now have to deal with the stressor of addiction.

Often goes hand in hand with MustHaveNicotine. Compare DrowningMySorrows and INeedAFreakingDrink.
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!!Examples:

[[foldercontrol]]

[[folder: Anime and Manga]]
* In ''Manga/{{Catseye}}'', the young male detective only lights up when he's really stressed, such as when the underage youngest sister pops up in bed with him (turns out she's a sleepwalker).
* In ''Manga/MensLove'', Kaoru spends an entire night chain smoking in attempt to fend off an anxiety attack after Daigo's father's henchmen try to bribe him to break up and tell him Daigo is getting married. In fact, TheVerse the story is set in is entirely populated by stress smokers.
* In ''Anime/DigimonAdventure'' Mr. Ishida (Matt and T.K.'s father) lights up when he sees his ex-wife.
* Doctor Stein in ''Manga/SoulEater'' tends to do this when he needs to calm down. It's subverted once [[spoiler: after his second fight with Medusa, where rather than calming down he's has a bout of {{Laughing Mad}}ness because of the Kisin being released.]] This is later exploited [[spoiler: to frame him for the murder of BJ, by leaving a packet of his favorite cigarettes (which the local shopkeeper orders in for him specially) at the scene.]]
* In ''Manga/WolfsRain'', Hubb takes a ''cigar'' of anxiety when he realizes [[spoiler: he's going to die on the cliffside]].
* One chapter of ''Manga/{{Oishinbo}}'' is about a young apprentice chef who needed a cigarette to settle his nerves when cooking for Kaibara Yuzan and was fired for it. Yamaoka gives him a spiel about just how bad smoking can be for a chef and he quits.
* Sanji from ''OnePiece'' is a chain smoker, usually smoking one cigarette at a time, but when he becomes really upset (like when Keimi was kidnapped and about to be sold as a slave), he has been seen smoking five cigarettes at a time.
* Jigen, from ''Franchise/LupinIII'' [[InvertedTrope inverts]] the idea. The cool gunman is only smoking when he's relaxed. (He's nearly always relaxed) Putting the cigarette out if the situation is getting tense/excited.
* Inverted with Asuma from ''Manga/{{Naruto}}'', as well. He stops chain smoking [[spoiler: when his friend is killed by Akatsuki, because he's taking them as a serious threat.]]
[[/folder]]

[[folder: Comic Books]]
* Silk Spectre II tried to light one of these on Mars in ''ComicBook/{{Watchmen}}''. Dr. Manhattan extended her air supply so she could light it.
* In ''ComicBook/{{Transmetropolitan}}'', dealing with Spider Jerusalem causes Royce to smoke several cigarettes ''at once''. On multiple occasions.
* Lucille from ''ComicBook/SinCity'', after revealing to Marv that [[spoiler:Kevin cut off and ate her hand, and [[ForcedToWatch made her watch]]]], breaks down in his arms and says that she could use a cigarette.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Fanfic]]
* In the ''Fanfic/LostInTimeSeries'', Terry Daniels does this when he's feeling the strain of his choices and so he smokes trying to relieve his nervousness about them in chapter ten before Frank confronts him to learn the truth about why he sided with Soto.
* Some fanfic writers like to have Series/{{Angel}} do this.
* Duncan [=McSmurf=] decides to get stoned out of his mind with [[FantasticDrug smurfnip]] in an ''Fanfic/EmpathTheLuckiestSmurf'' alternate timeline story where he witnesses Smurfette marrying Papa Smurf. Grouchy in the main timeline story "Smurfnip Madness" tries to resist the temptation of smoking a smurfnip cigarette, but ends up succumbing to it and almost being arrested by Brainy and Hefty posing as police officers.
* In the ''WebAnimation/{{RWBY}}'' fic ''[[http://archiveofourown.org/works/1048000/chapters/2122479 Going Through The Motions]]'', Adam has one of these after a bad breakup.
* [[Webcomic/AxisPowersHetalia Canada]] ends up becoming a very heavy smoker in ''[[https://www.fanfiction.net/s/9806609/1/What-a-Way-to-Fall What a Way to Fall]]'' as a way to deal with his crushing stress and grief. When his grief over America's death and anger over the circumstances that led to it come to a peak, he begins chain-smoking. The next chapter after that however has him trying to curb his habit, even using an electronic cigarette to get his nicotine fix.
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[[folder:Film]]
* This is used in ''[[Film/FourteenOhEight 1408]]'', the protagonist has a cigarette stored behind his ear for these types of situations.
* The baker Enzo tries to light a cigarette in ''Film/TheGodfather'' when he and Michael Corleone are guarding Vito Corleone; Enzo's hands are shaking too hard to light the cigarette, but Michael is completely calm and lights it for him.
* In the movie ''Film/ChildrenOfMen'', after [[spoiler: Julian]] dies Theo goes to light a cigarette but ends up falling to the ground sobbing.
* In ''Film/NationalLampoonsChristmasVacation'', Clarke's wife, Ellen, begins smoking while having a minor anxiety attack in the kitchen due to the stress of her parents and Clarke's parents staying in their house. Lampshaded when her mother somehow instantly knows that she's smoking, from the other room, the instant she lights up.
* In ''Film/TheWorldsEnd'' Sam declares she needs a cigarette after Gary tells her their hometown is overrun by robots. (The stress has less to do with the robots and more with how infuriating dealing with Gary is).
* ''Film/TheWarOfTheRoses'' starts out with Gavin smoking a cigarette that he had been keeping in a glass case for several years, vowing to never smoke again if he never smoked that cigarette. As he smokes, [[FramingDevice he tells a prospective client about ''why'' he took the cigarette out of the glass case to smoke it]]. Another one of his clients was Oliver Rose, who was in a DivorceAssetsConflict with his wife, Barbara. Said conflict turned nasty, including [[spoiler:an attempt by Barbara to seduce Gavin. The stress of having Barbara come on to him and yet restraining himself from giving in stressed Gavin out so much that he ''smashes'' the glass case to get at the cigarette to smoke it.]]
* In ''Film/{{Airplane}}'', Steve [=McCroskey=], ground support, picked the wrong week to quit smoking (which he says as he lights up a butt). Also the wrong week to quit drinking, taking amphetemines, and sniffing airplane glue.
* In ''Film/StrangerThanFiction'', Karen Eiffel has a particularly affecting scene after [[spoiler:she might have killed Harold Crick]] where she tries to anxiously light a cigarette before just grabbing it and tearing it apart.
* In ''Film/HoneyIShrunkTheKids'', Big Russ Thompson is shown lighting up despite apparently having quit several years before, demonstrating to the kids how worried he is about them. Russ Jr mentions how Big Russ only smokes when he's really worried.
* Frank William Abignale's mom had these in ''Film/CatchMeIfYouCan''. At one point, Frank swiped the cigarette, threw it away, and said, "You promised me you would quit."
* Faye Dunaway gets so nervous in ''Film/{{Chinatown}}'' that she lights a cigarette while her previous one is still burning.
* ''[[Film/FinalDestination Final Destination 2]]'' has Ket Jennings, a nervous workaholic who smokes even when on the treadmill. When she's stuck in her car due to some logs, she lights up a cigarillo as she's waiting to be rescued.
* Used in the original ''Literature/TheManchurianCandidate'' when Marco tries to light a cigarette on a train, but is so nervous and wound-up that he keeps fumbling the matches.
* In ''Film/TheKingsSpeech'', Bertie tries to have a cigarette after a particularly bad session with a speech therapist. His hands are shaking too much, though, and his wife lights it for him.
* In the American film version of ''[[Literature/TheMillenniumTrilogy The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo]]'', Blomkvist is particularly stressed after losing his libel case against Wennerstrom and buys a pack of cigarettes. He lights one, and tosses the rest of the pack into the garbage.
* In the 1981 film ''Film/{{Looker}}'', the commercial actress who comes to warn Dr. Roberts about someone killing all the other actresses he had worked on breaks out a cigarette and tries to find a lighter when the doctor kindly lights it for her.
* ''Film/{{Evolution}}'': When it seems nothing can stop the alien menace, Harry Block lights up a [[ChekhovsGun cigarette]], mentioning there's no point to clean living now. He only takes a couple drags before he tosses it.
* In ''Film/NineToFive'', Violet's son offers to roll her a joint to get her mind off her problems at work, which she initially refuses and argues against, but when her son asks how long she's been waiting for the promotion, Violet casually says, "Slip it in my purse." Later on, the joint gets shared with Doralee and Judy in an "old fashioned lady's pot party" at Doarlee's house where they end up sharing their [[ImagineSpot revenge fantasies]].
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Literature]]
* Before the final battle in ''[[Literature/{{Lensman}} Children of the Lens]]'', one of the Kinnison girls is trying to chain-smoke, but is so wound up that she only manages one or two puffs before stubbing the cigarette out and lighting a new one.
* In the first ''Series/RedDwarf'' novel, we learn that Rimmer, a lifelong non-smoker, goes through 40 cigarettes a day when his astronavigation exams draw close.
* In Creator/EricPlume's ''Literature/MarginPlay'', Amber notes that "tobacco tastes better when your life is on the line." She also [[LampshadedTrope lampshades]] this trope during her second visit to Mrs. Kitsmiller's house, smoking while she waits for Burton on the porch, and noting that ordinarily it would be a bad choice, since it will make him think she's anxious. But that's exactly what she ''wants'' him to think.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Live Action TV]]
* One time on ''Series/BarneyMiller'' when Barney is passed over for promotion (again), he finds an old cigarette in his desk and smokes it. He had quit 3 years previously, and that cigarette was left over from before he quit.
-->'''Harris:''' You've smoked a 3-year-old cigarette?
-->'''Barney:''' Just wanted to make sure I didn't get hooked again.
-->'''Harris:''' That'll do it.
* Virtually everyone in ''Series/Borgen'' smokes, with the notable exception of Birgitte Nyborg herself for the most part, but the Smoking = Anxiety component is most noticeable with Katrine, Kasper and Bent, who are seen smoking quite regularly, while other characters such as Amir in season 2 and Nete in season 3 are shown smoking at certain points in their storyline to underscore the level of stress they are being put through. Although obviously, since we're talking about different actors of government and media, they're all obviously very stressed at the best of times.
* In an episode of ''Series/ClarissaExplainsItAll'', Clarissa has a dream sequence where she finds her mother smoking like a chimney. The mother explains that she used to smoke and had quit, but that recent stress had caused her to pick up the habit again.
* The lead character of ''Series/TheTwilightZone'' episode "Nervous Man in a Four Dollar Room" tries to light up to relieve the stress of being called on to kill someone for the first time. He can't because he's out of matches. His reflection, on the other hand, happily puffs away while berating him.
* Seen occasionally on ''Series/{{Friends}}''. Chandler's an ex-smoker, but can be seen lighting up again in particularly stressful situations.
* Occurs in ''Series/BuffyTheVampireSlayer'':
** In the episode "Spiral", Spike tries it. Problem is, his hands are screwed up from the fight they were just in, so Xander ends up lighting it for him.
** Reversed in the episode, "Get It Done". Spike, who has been various flavors of TheWoobie throughout the first half of the season, and who has just gotten [[CurbStompBattle curb stomped]] by a demon that he needs to kill to help Buffy, goes back to an old hideout of his to retrieve [[IconicItem his duster]], before going out to fight the demon again. After he dispatches the demon, he lights up a smoke to show that HesBack to his old BadAss self.
** Faith, having returned to help only to be shunned by Buffy, sneaks into the basement when the potentials get too much for her when we (and Spike) discover she has taken up smoking. This continues into the comics, where she has regressed to her earlier cynical self and smokes, needing nearly a whole pack before she is ready to assassinate a psychotic slayer. As things improve and she gets with Giles and then Angel she seems to drop the habit.
* ''Series/HowIMetYourMother'' revealed that all the main characters were heavy smokers, but because Ted is an UnreliableNarrator, he never mentioned it in the story he is telling his kids. After this revelation, smoking is not shown again in the series for a long time until a crucial episode that changes a lot of the status quo. Robin is going through a very rough time and is on the roof smoking. The implication is that it was such an important and stressful moment that Ted clearly remembered the cigarette and found it worth mentioning years later.
* On ''Series/MadMen'', when Betty finally tells Don that she knows about his secret identity, not only do Don's hands shake when he lights the cigarette, but he actually ''drops'' the cigarette, and Betty has to light it for him. Given how cool, calm, and confident Don had been portrayed for three years, it came off as a very dramatic moment.
* On ''Series/MarriedWithChildren'', Marcy and Jefferson are visiting the Bundys when a MallSanta dies in their backyard. While the Bundys themselves are blase about it, the D'Arcys are quite shaken and Marcy is smoking a cigarette.
* ''Series/{{Sherlock}}'': In "A Scandal in Belgravia", it is a sign of how anxious Mycroft is that he smokes a cigarette.
* In one episode of ''Series/BandOfBrothers'', a dud mortar round impacts right on the edge of Sgt. Lipton's foxhole. The soldier next to him lights a cigarette and Lipton, without looking away from the shell, takes it out of his hand and has a drag. The soldier says that he thought Lipton didn't smoke.
--> ''I don't."
* At the start of the ''Series/SmallWonder'' episode "Smoker's Delight", Ted tells Joan that an efficiency expert at work has made him nervous enough to start smoking.
* On ''Series/That70sShow'', Kitty's efforts to quit smoking are derailed by a visit from her mother-in-law; she runs to the basement and demands that one of the kids give her a cigarette.
* ''Series/TheXFiles'', episode "Syzygy": Agent Scully had one because there was a [[WhenThePlanetsAlign planetary alignment]] and everybody was being NotHimself.
* ''Series/BreakingBad'' - Skyler has a couple in the aftermath of Walt's "fugue state". She starts smoking again early in season three, by which point [[spoiler: she knows he's a meth cook but can't bring herself to tell their son or the police.]]
* ''Series/TheAndyGriffithShow'' - Andy and Barney are suspicious of a farmer who never leaves his farm, plows at night, and has a wife whom no one has ever met. After investigation, they discover that she is pregnant and about to give birth (don't forget, this episode was shown in the mid-60s, when this was extremely unusual for any television show, never mind The Andy Griffith Show!). Andy delivers the baby because the doctor didn't show up in time, and after every one is doing well, he walks out to the porch and lights up. This was one of the very few times Andy smoked.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Newspaper Comics]]
* Occurs in ''ComicBook/GastonLagaffe'' with a PanickyExpectantFather.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Video Games]]
* ''VideoGame/MetalGearSolid4'' lets Snake smoke to reduce his stress index, though doing so also depletes his life.
* Sophia Lamb, BigBad of ''VideoGame/BioShock2'', is reduced to this at the end of the game when you, a Big Daddy {{dual wielding}} {{BFG}}s and [[LegoGenetics plasmids]], are standing right outside her office window after a RoaringRampageOfRescue through her army of followers.
* A minor character in ''VideoGame/BioshockInfinite'' mentions on a voxophone going through half a pack of cigarettes while waiting to ambush the False Shepherd.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Webcomics]]
* ''Webcomic/{{Freefall}}'': The Mayor does with with a cigar after being confronted with a difficult choice.
* ''Webcomic/SomethingPositive'': At the end of "Dungeons & Dumbasses", [[http://www.somethingpositive.net/sp02162011.shtml Aubrey]] is smoking a cigarette after having to put up with [[JerkassWoobie Mike]] all night.
* Zii does this in ''Webcomic/MenageA3'', explicitly reserving her cigarettes for such use.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Web Original]]
* Goes hand in hand with PanickyExpectantFather in ''WebAnimation/SpyAndPyro'', and parodied when the [=PEF=] [[MouthFullOfSmokes crams his mouth chock full of cigarettes]].[[note]][[Memes/TeamFortress2 Gentlemen.]][[/note]]
* Trickster, the leader of The Travelers in ''Literature/{{Worm}}'', smokes quite a few cigarettes this way.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Western Animation]]
* In ''WesternAnimation/FamilyGuy'', Brian lights up in his therapist's office.
* Disney's WesternAnimation/{{Goofy}} has been known to do this in some of the older cartoons featuring him.
* Done in an exaggerated manner by a rooster waiting for his death by axe in the morning in a [[WesternAnimation/LooneyTunes Merrie Melodies]] cartoon. He has a conveyer belt set up to repeatedly bring a cigarette to his lips so he can kill it in one drag before the next arrives.
* In ''WesternAnimation/KingOfTheHill'', Hank, despite having quit over a decade ago, will occasionally smoke a cigarette when badly stressed.
* In the episode ''Krusty Gets Cancelled'' of ''WesternAnimation/TheSimpsons'', Krusty insists that Gabbo's new show doesn't worry him. Cue shot of ashtray overflowing with burned-out cigarettes.
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