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Cigarette of Anxiety

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Sometimes, things get worse rather than better.
Study: 30% Of People Who Quit Smoking Relapse After Shakily Raising Cigarette Up To Lips When Agreeing To Turn State's Evidence

So the world's about to end, you didn't save the girl, you did but she's about to give birth, or you just had a really bad day at work. While others might be 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. And sometimes all at once. 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 Off the Wagon 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 Truth in Television, as the nicotine in smoking does (sorta) 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. Also, if they keep up the habit, they'll have to deal with the stressor of addiction.

This began as an Enforced Trope. Edward Bernays pitched cigarettes as a narrative tool for Hollywood — a scene of an actor smoking and emoting can wordlessly convey a wide range of emotions. It caught on.

Often goes hand in hand with Must Have Nicotine. Compare Drowning My Sorrows, Heartbreak and Ice Cream, and I Need a Freaking Drink.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In Cat's Eye, 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 Men's Love, Kaoru spends an entire night chain smoking in an 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, The 'Verse the story is set in is entirely populated by stress smokers.
  • In Digimon Adventure, Mr. Ishida (Matt and T.K.'s father) lights up when he sees his ex-wife.
  • Doctor Stein in Soul Eater tends to do this when he needs to calm down. It's subverted once after his second fight with Medusa, where rather than calming down he's had a bout of Laughing Madness because of the Kishin being released. This is later exploited 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 Wolf's Rain, Hubb takes a cigar of anxiety when he realizes he's going to die on the cliffside.
  • One chapter of 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 One Piece is a chain smoker, usually smoking one cigarette at a time, but when he becomes really upset (like when Caimie was kidnapped and about to be sold as a slave), he has been seen smoking five cigarettes at a time. He even gets permission to smoke while being in Nami's body because she figured that he would be craving for them. One heartbreaking moment is him trying to light a cigarette in the rain after overhearing about the awful truth behind his wedding.
  • Jigen from Lupin III inverts the idea. The gunman only smokes when he's relaxed; he only puts the cigarette out if the situation is getting tense or exciting.
  • Inverted with Asuma from Naruto, as well. He stops chain-smoking when his friend is killed by Akatsuki because he's taking them as a serious threat.
  • In Damekko Doubutsu, Usahara can be seen doing this whenever he gets really annoyed or mad.
  • Lucia from Venus Versus Virus smokes and sometimes it's related to anxiety. For example, when she killed a little girl who had become a Virus she lit a cigarette while the girl's brother and Sumire cried.
  • In Death Note, all the Wammy's kids have some kind of obsession or tic, thought to be from the stress of the cases they handle and trying to live up to L. Matt's is smoking. Special mention goes to the cigarette he lit during the infamous Takada mission, which turned out to be his last.
  • Team Mom Reki from Haibane Renmei smokes a lot. Though it initially seems to be an example of Smoking Is Cool, it's actually the earliest sign that she's not quite as happy as she seems. Her quitting is a sign of her Character Development.
  • In JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Battle Tendency, Lisa Lisa usually has a long cigarette she smokes to relax. After Caesar's death she takes it out and tells Joseph to get over it, but it becomes this trope when Joseph notices she's trying to light the filter.

    Comic Books 
  • Silk Spectre II tried to light one of these on Mars in Watchmen. Dr. Manhattan extended her air supply so she could light it.
  • In Transmetropolitan, dealing with Spider Jerusalem causes Royce to smoke several cigarettes at once. On multiple occasions.
  • Sin City:
    • Lucille from "The Hard Goodbye," after revealing to Marv that Kevin cut off and ate her hand, and made her watch, breaks down in his arms and says that she could use a cigarette.
    • In "The Big Fat Kill," Dwight steals one of Jackie-Boy's cigarettes while driving him and his friends out to dump their bodies, then imagines Jackie-Boy taunting him about it and how screwed he is.
  • Ramona claims to have quit smoking in college by the time Scott Pilgrim takes place, but is shown doing it quite a bit when her and Scott's relationship is on the rocks in volume 5. Though by the end she seems to have kicked it again.
  • Happens a lot in Lucky Luke older volumes either when a bank manager has been robbed or a pianist gets stage fright. Lucky Luke did increase his cigarette usage or clearly had a problem rolling them when he was stressed. Less used nowadays as Lucky Luke kicked off the addiction.
  • Wonder Woman:
    • Volume 1: Steve lighting and smoking his pipe is often used as a shorthand to indicate he's stressed and/or worried but can't run in and deal with the situation with a well-placed bullet just yet.
    • Sensation Comics: A wide-eyed Steve Trevor pulls out and lights his pipe after Mona Menise drapes herself on him in front of Diana and calls him darling and is then pulled out of the room by her general father who is mad at her for wrecking a car, which she claims is a policeman's fault for trying to stop her.

    Fan Works 
  • Kumiko in the Sound Euphonium fanfic Ambitious Love begins smoking again after she meets up with Reina after years apart. They haven't seen one another since their bad breakup years prior.
  • The Black Prince: Harry takes up smoking again after Eggsy leaves him. The cashier even notices that it's because he's heartbroken.
  • Duncan McSmurf decides to get stoned out of his mind with smurfnip in an Empath: The Luckiest Smurf 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.
  • Maki in Flowers Drenched in Vodka is trying to quit smoking using an e-cig, but she still smokes a cigarette in a particularly stressful moment.
  • Ghosts of Evangelion: Asuka sometimes smokes when something has her all worked up, such as raising her daughter properly.
  • In the RWBY fic Going Through The Motions, Adam has one of these after a bad breakup.
  • Kedabory's Elmore Chronicles: In the July 1st installment of "The Voicemails", Boris comes home to find his mother anxiously puffing on a cigarette in the kitchen, as she's been worried that after Boris's brother Steven left home for Elmore, Boris will follow suit.
  • In Last Call, it's mentioned that Lapis smokes when she's stressed. Jasper used to smoke for similar reasons but has quit.
  • In Laying Waste To Halloween, Jason has all but quit smoking. He still smokes when he's stressed, such as when he and Piper break up.
  • In the Lost in Time Series, 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.
  • In Project Powerpuff: Declassified, Professor Utonium picks up his pipe again after his girls are created. The stress of dealing with three children gets to him.
  • RWBY: Scars: Coco begins smoking and drinking often as time goes on. It gets to the point where her teammates intervene. She goes to a therapist and is diagnosed with PTSD. After her death, her girlfriend Velvet picks up the habit in memory of her.
  • Mike Schmidt does this in Something Always Remains to keep his head while dealing with the weirdness at Freddy's.
  • In (Un)Natural, Martha mentions that she only smokes when particularly stressed.
  • Hetalia: Axis Powers Canada ends up becoming a very heavy smoker in 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 comes 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.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In 40 Days and 40 Nights 19-year-old Matt by the 40th day of his celibacy is chainsmoking to distract himself.
  • In 1408, Enslin has a cigarette stored behind his ear for these types of situations.
  • In the award-winning documentary City Of Ghosts, the reporters from Raqqa smoke all of the time while working to expose the Islamic State's reign of terror. 100% justified (comprehensible at least).
  • The baker Enzo tries to light a cigarette in The Godfather 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. The scene gives a definite hint about what Michael's going to eventually become(it should be noted Michael is a combat veteran having served in the Marines in World War 2).
  • In the movie Children of Men, after Julian dies, Theo walks away from the group to smoke but ends up falling to the ground sobbing.
  • Saw
    • In Saw, Adam and Lawrence manage to find a box hidden in one of the Bathroom's walls, which has a cigarette and a note from Jigsaw inside. Lawrence proposes a plan — Adam will smoke the cigarette and pretend to die since the note implies that it's laced with poison. Although the plan doesn't work, Adam is clearly elated to see the cigarette and savors it while he smokes it, fluttering his eyelashes, dropping his shoulders and even smiling after he takes a drag.
    • Eric is seen smoking at least four times in Saw II, once during his argument with Daniel after the latter was busted for shoplifting, and another while calling Daniel to apologize for the aforementioned event.
  • The Brave One sees Erica Bain begin smoking after a vicious attack by a trio of gang members leaves her boyfriend dead and her in a three-week-long coma. She gives them up for killing people.
  • In National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, 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 The World's End, 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.)
  • The War of the Roses 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, 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 Divorce Assets Conflict with his wife, Barbara. Said conflict turned nasty, including 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 Zero Hour! (1957), Senior Pilot Treleaven, who has to talk a nervous ex-pilot through landing an airliner, bums a cigarette off the airport staff, muttering "Looks like I picked the wrong week to quit smoking." In a direct parody of this scene, in 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 amphetamines, and sniffing airplane glue.
  • Sabotage (2014) has Caroline Brentwood light up after she finds Neck nailed to the ceiling.
  • In Stranger Than Fiction, Karen Eiffel has a particularly affecting scene after she might have killed Harold Crick where she tries to anxiously light a cigarette before just grabbing it and tearing it apart.
  • In Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, 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.
  • In Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo, the American bomber pilots have already gotten on board the carrier and are far out to sea when Lt. Col. Jimmy Doolittle reveals to them their mission—a bombing raid over Japan. And because they're flying from so far away, it's a one-way trip; they will have to find somewhere in China to land, or ditch in the ocean, and if they land in China they'll have to try and avoid capture by the Japanese. This news is followed by one visibly nervous pilot standing up and asking Doolittle if it's OK to smoke at briefings.
  • Faye Dunaway gets so nervous in Chinatown that she lights a cigarette while her previous one is still burning.
  • 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.
  • In the 1962 adaptation of The Manchurian Candidate, Marco tries to light a cigarette on a train but is so nervous and wound up that he keeps fumbling with the matches.
  • In The King's Speech, 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 Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011), 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 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.
  • Evolution: When it seems that nothing can stop the alien menace, Harry Block lights up a cigarette, mentioning there's no point to clean living now. He only takes a couple of drags before he tosses it.
  • In 9 to 5, Violet's son offers to roll her a marijuana 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 ladies' pot party" at Doralee's house where they end up sharing their revenge fantasies.
  • There's a bit in My Favorite Year where Peter O'Toole's character, suddenly nervous when he finds out he will be on live TV, babbles about his stage fright and borrows a cigarette a girl is smoking for a quick drag in the middle of his rant.
  • The Firm: Tammy Hemphill (played by Holly Hunter) is the embodiment of this trope.
  • One of the prospective brides in the film The Bachelor, Buckley, is a chain smoker. Every time she learns a condition for marrying Jimmy and inheriting the fortune his grandfather left him, she lights up and barters for a loophole. By the third requirement, having children, her hand is shaking too much to smoke and she bolts.
  • At the climax of Snowpiercer when all seems lost, Minsoo gives Curtis what is likely the last cigarette on Earth. He smokes it as he tells his heartwrenching backstory and breaks down sobbing.
  • In Jaws, Mayor Vaughn is shown with a cigarette in his hand throughout the film, but he only lights up when the shark attacks the beaches on the Fourth of July, effectively ruining the town's summer season.
  • Played for laughs in The Ref. Gus, after discovering that one of his hostages is a smoker that recently gave up the habit, correctly deduces that she has a stash hidden somewhere and, upon relieving her of them, uses them to help cope with the stresses of the evening. At one point, he grows so agitated while puffing on one, he sets off the smoke alarms.
  • A dramatic example occurs in Downfall when it becomes apparent that the War is lost and Berlin is about to be taken. Hitler's top officers exit the bunker and wordlessly pass around cigarettes and matches, only pausing to take cover from incoming mortar fire. Doubles as One Last Smoke, given that most of them commit suicide shortly thereafter.
  • Causes a Black Comedy Disaster Dominoes in the Korean disaster movie Haeundae (2009). Dong-choon lights up after miraculously surviving the mega-tsunami which has slammed an oil tanker into the Gwangan Bridge. Burning his face in the process, he tosses the lighter away where it lands on a pool of oil. Cue Outrun the Fireball as first a fuel truck, then the tanker goes up, blowing a massive hole in the bridge.
  • After the plane is hijacked in Turbulence 2: Fear of Flying, one of the passengers lights a cigarette. A stewardess seemingly comes to reprimand him... only to instead demand one for herself.
  • D.E.B.S.. Amy insists on leading her Teen Superspy team into an Obvious Trap, whereupon they fall through a Trap Door into a room with no exits. Dominique takes out a cigarette and lights up, and when Janet panics that she's using up all the air, responds by blowing smoke in her face. Sassy Black Woman Max then storms over to Dominique...and bums another cigarette off her.
  • Twilight Zone: The Movie: In "Nightmare on 20,000 Feet", John Valentine lights up a cigarette to calm his nerves but the little girl reminds him that there is no smoking. The man sitting in front of him, who is later revealed to be an air marshal, stares at him intently until he puts it out.
  • At the end of Color Out of Space (2020), after everything that has happened, Ward, the by-now very traumatized protagonist, who had previously steadfastly rejected Ezra's repeated offers of getting a hit from his blunt, quietly smokes a cigarette as he reflects on what happened to the Gardners, as well as the terrifying visions he saw, and the horrible implications of it.
  • Backstreet Dreams: Dean tries to smoke one while Shane is in the hospital, but his hands are shaking so hard that he can't light it.
  • In First Man, Janet starts smoking more as the problems with the Apollo program start to mount up.
  • Ready or Not (2019): In Grace's first scene, she's having a pre-wedding ceremony smoke. At the end of the movie, she's sitting on the steps of the burning Le Domas mansion having another cigarette, apparently one she took from the case belonging to her now-deceased mother-in-law.
  • In Shredder Orpheus, Linus is seen with a cigarette when anxiously negotiating gigs for Orpheus and trying to pretend everything's fine.
  • In Chariot the protagonists are stuck on an airliner while the United States has possibly undergone a nuclear attack. Aden is shocked that Genevieve is smoking on board an aircraft, but when she points out how dumb that statement is he bums a cigarette off her, then admits he hasn't smoked one in a year.
  • The Exception: Brandt anxiously lights up a cigarette on learning Mieke's fellow Resistance fighter, a pastor, has been arrested and is being tortured for information by the Gestapo, knowing it's only a matter of time until he names her as a result.
  • In Perfect Days the protagonist mostly lives a healthy life. However at some point he feels sad, buys beers and cigarettes and starts smoking while also drinking (for just one night apparently). The one cigarette that he lights makes him cough, so he may not be used to it.
  • Please Turn Over: When Uncle Willie tells Rita that he can't keep seeing her until she divorces Roger and marries him in Naked Revolt, her first instinct is to ask for a cigarette.

  • Inverted in Bloodlines. After Sydney is taken at the end of book four, Adrian returns to all his vices except smoking.
  • In The Bronze Horseman by Paullina Simons, Dimitri finds out about Alexander's Secret Relationship and starts casually grilling him about it. Alexander gets out a cigarette, whereupon Dimitri smirks and points out there's already one in his mouth.
  • The Catcher in the Rye: Holden notes that his mother is a very nervous woman who often spends her nights smoking.
  • Trickster, the leader of the Travelers in Worm, smokes quite a few cigarettes this way.
  • Dr. Greta Helsing: After the final battle against Gladius Sancti in Strange Practice, Cranswell falls off the wagon in reaction.
    "I quit a couple years ago, but... can I bum a cigarette?"
  • The Famous Five: In Five go off in a Caravan, one of the villains Lou has a cigarette just before the difficult task of moving a caravan by hand, and again just after moving it back.
  • In Frozen Hell, Connant is so rattled that he may be a Thing and is, that at one point, he isn't even aware he already has a cigarette in hand when he lights another.
  • The Howling (1977): As she waits for Roy to return home or Chris to arrive from L.A., Karyn sits in her house smoking a cigarette to calm her nerves, knowing that the werewolf is somewhere outside and she doesn't have much protection against it.
  • In The Langoliers, Bob asks Bethany for a cigarette when they're on the ground in Bangor, mentioning that he'd quit a while back. Lighting cigarettes provides a "Eureka!" Moment that helps the Flight 29 survivors figure out their situation.
  • Lensman: Before the final battle in 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 Margin Play, Amber notes that "tobacco tastes better when your life is on the line". She also 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.
  • This is the main reason that August from Of Fear and Faith smokes. He also has an anxiety disorder, which means he ends up smoking a lot.
  • In the first Red Dwarf novel, we learn that Rimmer, a lifelong non-smoker, goes through 40 cigarettes a day when his astronavigation exams draw close.
  • Sherlock Holmes: Sherlock smokes a lot more than usual, both his iconic pipe and the cigarettes he actually uses more often, when working on a particularly difficult or frustrating case.
  • In Song of Solomon, Guitar Bains expresses his need for weed after enduring a session of dry heaving when thinking about his father's death as a young man.
  • They (1936): The protagonist lights himself a cigarette when Collins' talk about the creatures makes him nervous. Not that he's willing to admit that to himself as the reason for his smoke break. It's easier to blame the altitude.
  • Averted in Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. Smiley relates how he gave his lighter and a packet of cigarettes to KGB spymaster Karla, a chain-smoker who was being forced to return to Moscow and possible execution there. Karla makes a point of returning the unopened packet the next day, but hangs on to the lighter which he uses to cast suspicion on Smiley years later.
  • Underground: Despite telling himself he should quit, Andrew tends to smoke whenever he's anxious.
  • In Vampire Academy, Adrian had (mostly) quit smoking while dating Rose, but fell off the wagon after she cheated on him and broke his heart brutally.
  • In The Witches, the Boy (no name given since he's the narrator) explains to Grandma (also no name given) about his encounter with Witches and how they turned him into a mouse, she gets so upset, she grabs a cigar and smokes it, with the Boy noting in the narration how it seems to calm her down.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The Andy Griffith Show: 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-1960s, 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 everyone is doing well, he walks out to the porch and lights up. This was one of the very few times Andy smoked.
  • Band of Brothers:
    • In "The Breaking Point": During a hellish artillery barrage, Luz and Lipton see a shell land in their foxhole and...smoke a bit. Luz lights a cigarette and Lipton, without looking away from the shell, takes it out of his hand and has a drag.
      Luz: I thought you didn't smoke.
      Lipton: I don't.
    • In that same episode, a soldier asks for a cigarette after his leg is blown off by an artillery shell.
    • In another episode, one of the company's scouts is shot through the neck by a sniper. As he is seen to, an officer in the background tries several times with trembling hands to get a flame from his lighter, before finally throwing it away in disgust.
  • Barney Miller: 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.
  • Better Call Saul: Both Jimmy and Kim are occasional smokers who are prone to lighting up when stressed. This is despite the fact that the Saul of Breaking Bad is never seen smoking at all and doesn't take kindly to people smoking in his office.
  • Virtually everyone in 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.
  • Breaking Bad: Skyler has a couple in the aftermath of Walt's "fugue state". She starts smoking again early in season three, by which point she knows he's a meth cook but can't bring herself to tell their son or the police. In the final episode, she is smoking away in her kitchen, where it is probably implied she is a full-time smoker now. Walt bums a smoke off of Jesse in one stressful episode, which prompts a snarky Jesse to ask Walt if he has "enough cancer already."
  • Bridgerton: Second son Benedict and second daughter Eloise smoke cigarettes as they discuss their odd positions in life and their desires for the future.
  • Brooklyn Nine-Nine: One of Detective Amy Santiago's flaws, first revealed during a mandatory peer-review session, likely as her way of dealing with stress, given her obsessive-compulsive approach to work. She doesn't engage frequently (at least on screen), but in Season 2 it becomes a minor plot point when the precinct attempts to help her get over her addiction. Later on in the series, there are hints that she manages to switch to vaping.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
    • In "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 "Get It Done". Spike, who has been various flavors of The Woobie throughout the first half of the season, and who has just gotten curb stomped by a demon that he needs to kill to help Buffy, goes back to an old hideout of his to retrieve his duster, before going out to fight the demon again. After he dispatches the demon, he lights up a smoke to show that He's Back! 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.
  • In an episode of Clarissa Explains It All, 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.
  • Cold Case: In "Mind Hunters," DeeDee, the woman who got away from George, is smoking nervously as she recounts her story.
  • Community: When Annie moves in with Troy and Abed, she ends up furious at having to adapt to their insular world (the last straw being discovering they'd set aside a room as a 'dreamatorium' while making a blanket fort for her to sleep in) and after a heated row storms out. Abed offers Troy a candy cigarette from a metal case and Troy snaps, "I don't want a cigarette; I want our Annie back!" but then takes one, muttering, "I picked the wrong week to quit."
  • Dark Shadows: Infamously, this happens when Willie Loomis breaks into the Collins Mausoleum to steal the priceless jewels rumored to have been buried with Naomi Collins. He finds the coffin sealed shut and has a smoke while he considers what to do. Loomis decides to rig up a pulley . . . opening the secret room where the locked and chained coffin of Barnabas Collins is hidden. Loomis releases Barnabus and finds himself reluctantly transformed into The Renfield for the remainder of the series.
  • For All Mankind: Molly Cobb does a risky Moon landing under tremendous pressure to succeed as the first American woman in space. On touchdown, she says, "I have never... wanted a cigarette more in my entire life."
  • In Foyle's War, the commander of a prison camp for German soldiers bursts out "Bloody 'ell, I need a smoke!" and frantically dives into his pockets when he's informed that a man (to all appearances an ordinary young man who had the bad fortune to be a German conscript) who'd gone missing on work release had been murdered.
  • Friends:
    • Chandler's an ex-smoker but can be seen lighting up again in particularly stressful situations. Apparently, he started due to the stress of his parents' divorce. His parents divorced when he was 9.
    • In "The One Where Rosita Dies", Ross and Monica's dad claims unconvincingly to have no idea why there's a packet of cigarettes in his garage until the situation (all Monica's childhood stuff was damaged by flooding) becomes too stressful for him to maintain the pretense.
  • Hightown: Jackie has one when she is stressed.
  • In the Sky adaptation of Hogfather, Adora Belle Dearheart's chain-smoking is presented as a coping mechanism she took up after Reacher Gilt and his cronies stole the Grand Trunk from her father, and she quits once the situation is resolved. This is not the case in the book.
  • How I Met Your Mother revealed that all the main characters were heavy smokers, but because Ted is an Unreliable Narrator, 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.
  • Played for laughs in the I Love Lucy episode "The Publicity Agent". Ricky lights up a second cigarette while his first one is still burning because he's so anxious. It takes him a few moments before he realizes what's going on.
  • Interview with the Vampire (2022):
    • "...After the Phantoms of Your Former Self": At the bar of the opera house, Louis de Pointe du Lac is apprehensive while puffing on a cigarette as he watches Lestat de Lioncourt lavish fake praise on the tenor. Louis dislikes killing humans, so he dreads the outcome that Lestat will eat the man for dinner later that night.
    • "Like Angels Put in Hell by God": Lestat is noticeably agitated while smoking in the Ponchatoula hotel room, as he finds it difficult to deal with his vampire daughter Claudia sniping at him and his boyfriend Louis' perpetual brooding.
  • On Intimate, Leo smokes all the time anyway, but he also uses it as a coping mechanism when he's in an uncomfortable situation, such as right before admitting to his boyfriend that he cheated on him. Later, he sees his now ex-boyfriend and his affair together, trash-talking him, and struggles with lighting the cigarette due to his hands shaking.
  • In Mad Men, 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.
  • In the Malcolm in the Middle episode Traffic Jam, as the family is stuck in traffic, Dewey was left at home with a babysitter but wanders off when she gets taken away by an ambulance (it's unclear if she died or not). A farmer woman finds him and tries to take him back home, but he ends up driving her crazy until she pulls over at a convenience store and says "You know what? I need to buy a pack of cigarettes... for the first time in 20 years."
  • On Married... with Children, Marcy and Steve are visiting the Bundys when a Mall Santa dies in their backyard. While the Bundys themselves are blase about it, the Rhodes are quite shaken and Marcy is smoking a cigarette.
  • Political Animals: Elaine breaks out the cigarettes when under particular stress from either her political career or family issues (which is often, given the nature of the series!).
    Margaret:You're smoking. Uh-oh. What country isn't going to exist by morning?
  • Nathan Thurm, a big business lawyer played by Martin Short on Saturday Night Live, chain-smokes whenever he or his clients have something to hide, which they always do.
  • Sherlock: In "A Scandal in Belgravia", it is a sign of how anxious Mycroft is that he smokes a cigarette.
  • At the start of the Small Wonder episode "Smoker's Delight", Ted tells Joan that an efficiency expert at work has made him nervous enough to start smoking.
  • The Spy:
    • Israeli spymaster Dan Peleg takes up smoking again due to the stress of sending out the talented and enthusiastic spy Eli Cohen, who reminds him of his greatest failure.
    • Cohen takes up smoking as part of his cover identity as a wealthy Syrian playboy but keeps smoking even when back home in Israel due to anxiety (and likely the onset of addiction).
  • On That '70s Show, 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.
  • The Twilight Zone (1959):
    • In "Nervous Man in a Four Dollar Room", Jackie Rhoades 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.
    • In "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet", as soon as he takes his seat, Bob Wilson starts to light up a cigarette to calm his nerves. However, his wife Julia reminds him that he can't smoke until the plane has taken off.
    • In "Stopover in a Quiet Town", Millie Frazier almost has a breakdown when she and her husband Bob discover that one of the trees outside of the Centerville church is fake. Bob lights up a cigarette for her in order to calm her nerves.
  • The Twilight Zone (1985): In "The Crossing", Father Mark Cassidy smokes heavily in order to calm his nerves as he desperately tries to raise money for the new children's wing of the hospital.
  • The Umbrella Academy (2019): Emotionally distraught after killing Harlan, Allison takes a smoke in the Sparrows' staircase.
  • The West Wing: Several of the main cast, most obviously C.J. and President Bartlet. It's especially glaring since before the start of the series, both had basically quit smoking, but the constant stress and the scandals send them back to carrying around nicotine. Even then, it's usually only broken out when things are really dicey.
  • The X-Files, episode "Syzygy": Agent Scully had one because there was a planetary alignment and everybody was being Not Himself.
  • Young Sheldon: In "A God-Fearin' Baptist and a Hot Trophy Husband", George Sr. catches Mary smoking out in the yard late at night, too worried about Georgie to sleep. Mary tries to hide the cigarette, prompting George to say to her "You've earned it."

  • "Is It Just Me?" by Emily Burns refers to the singer, who is dealing quite badly with a breakup, having "only cigarettes for company".
  • In the Doctor Who parody of "The Ballad of Barry and Freda", David Tennant as Russell T. Davies is constantly smoking as he complains about how stressful making Doctor Who is. When he learns the location studio for "Fires of Pompeii" has had an actual fire, he's got lit cigarettes between all his fingers and is switching from one to another.

    Video Games 
  • BioShock
  • Buckshot Roulette: One of the items from the second round onwards is a pack of cigarettes. You can use it to "take the edge off" and regain one health point. You can still smoke if your defibrillator is cut off in the final round, though it no longer serves a practical purpose.
  • V doesn't smoke in Cyberpunk 2077, but Johnny does, and he tries to convince V to light up every so often, usually after something stressful has happened. Finding Evelyn comatose and near death is one such instance. Finding out that the degradation of the biochip is terminal and absolutely cannot be stopped is another.
  • Subverted in The Evil Within. Sebastian reaches for his smokes after just barely escaping with his life from a hulking, deformed, chainsaw-wielding maniac, but the pack was already empty, much to his frustration.
  • In HunieCam Studio, some of the camgirls smoke cigarettes, which reduces the stress she takes doing her activities. Her stress skyrockets if the player runs out. There is an accessory that suppresses the need to smoke, but it comes with the tradeoff of not being able to cater to as many fetishes.
  • Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots lets Snake smoke to reduce his stress index, though doing so also depletes his life.
  • In My Big Sister, Sombria has a smoke break during one of her hospital visits to a comatose Luzia.
  • In Undertale, the few times Burgerpants doesn't act nervous or tense in any way, he's smoking a cigarette.

    Visual Novels 
  • The protagonist of Daughter for Dessert man is shown to be a smoker at the beginning of the story. He relates his smoking to his situation as the diner is about to go out of business. Notably, after the diner becomes successful, he is never seen smoking again.
    • Possibly true with Kathy as well. She smokes right along with her boss, and she’s dealing with a lot at the time.

    Web Animation 

  • In The Croaking, Tiraa secretly smokes to calm down her anxiety whenever she has to visit her fiancé's house for dinner with his speciciest mother.
  • Freefall: The Mayor does this with a cigar after being confronted with a difficult choice.
  • The Guide to a Healthy Relationship: Julian is suffering from hallucinations, several anxieties, and an abusive relationship, among other things. The kid is smoking like a chimney.
  • After the Lackadaisy speakeasy is attacked by angry pig farmers and Rocky's babyfaced cousin goes nuts on them, Zib shakily lights a cigarette—it takes him about ten or twelve tries.
  • The Less Than Epic Adventures of TJ and Amal: After TJ realizes he's fallen in love with Amal he starts chain smoking for a bit. Amal notices he's smoking quite a bit that next day, which TJ brushes off as nerves without explaining what caused said nerves.
  • Zii does this in Ménage à 3, explicitly reserving her cigarettes for such use.
  • Sarilho: Franquelim goes through a lot of cigars during his train ride to Salamanca until he's finally able to ask Nikita about the Lusitanians.
  • Something*Positive: At the end of "Dungeons & Dumbasses", Aubrey is smoking a cigarette after having to put up with Mike all night.
  • Stick in the Mud: After finding a hidden door at the end of a dark corridor, Rod finally decides it's time to buy some cigs.
  • Unknown Lands: When Kai comes outside to join Vard after Inara points out she and him aren't so different:
    Kai: I didn't know you smoked.
    Vard: On occasion. I somehow feel I might have more occasions in the future.
  • In Weak Hero, Wolf absolutely terrifies Grape after viciously beating him up back in middle school. So while Forrest and Robin meet with Wolf for business reasons, Grape can be seen outside with a dozen cigarette butts around his feet.

    Web Videos 
  • Dream SMP: Throughout the bulk of his mental health spiral in Pogtopia (read: the culmination of a Trauma Conga Line that would end in his assisted suicide), Wilbur occasionally dabbled in substance abuse, including smoking and vaping. His younger brother-figure, Tommy, has been confirmed by Word of God to disapprove of this behaviour.
    tommyaltinnit: (replying to a piece of fanart on Twitter that depicts Wilbur smoking) Can't believe Canon Wilbur Smokes. As a big Anti-Drug Guy, this is really just fucked up to me. Canon Tommy would never smoke, or even secondhand smoke. I hold my breath whenever canon Wilbur chooses to smoke.
  • One Take: Jasmine has been chased out of her house by her Abusive Parent. She lights a cigarette, her hands visibly shaking. Her brother James, dealing with the ramifications of a Teen Pregnancy he created, takes a drag from the same stick.

    Western Animation 
  • In Family Guy, Brian lights up in his therapist's office. He also does this after hitting a dog with his car, one of his own kind.
  • Disney's 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 what he believes to be his death by axe in the morning in the Merrie Melodies cartoon "Each Dawn I Crow." He has a conveyor belt set up to repeatedly bring a cigarette to his lips so he can kill it in one drag before the next arrives.
  • In King of the Hill, Hank, despite having quit over a decade ago, will occasionally smoke a cigarette when badly stressed.
  • The Simpsons:
    • In "Krusty Gets Kancelled", Krusty insists that Gabbo's new show doesn't worry him. Cue shot of ashtray overflowing with burned-out cigarettes.
    • In "Lisa's First Word", Krusty sets up a scratch-off game in which every time the US wins a gold medal in an event, the owners of the card will win a free Krusty Burger. However, the game was rigged for only games in which the Soviets would win. However, this was the 1984 Olympics, and the Soviets ended up boycotting it, leaving the US to win all the games, and Krusty to lose $44 million. The next time we see him, he is puffing away on a cigarette.
  • In an episode of American Dad!, the family members all give up bad habits for Lent, signing an agreement saying that whoever breaks first will get their finger chopped off. To get Francine, who gave up smoking, to break, the others fake their deaths, waiting until after she lights up a cigarette to reveal that they tricked her.

    Real Life 
  • Very much a Truth in Television for high-stress and high-risk positions, such as military personnel, as smoking rates in the US military (as of mid-2014) are still higher than the US civilian population. Many soldiers claim that it is used for a stress reliever, while anti-smoking experts argue back that the smoking itself is just an added stressor. At the time of writing, (2014) there are talks about banning tobacco from the military entirely, but it is promising to be a battle that the pro-smoking side won't lose easily.
  • During his time in office, Adolf Hitler ran very aggressive anti-smoking campaigns, as German doctors were among the first to find a link between smoking and lung cancer. These had varying degrees of success, as Germans, especially soldiers, tend to be very heavy smokers. Once he committed suicide, everyone who was left in the bunker finally felt it was safe enough to light up. This moment was included in Downfall.
  • This may have contributed to the death of ABC World News Tonight anchor Peter Jennings from lung cancer in 2005. Jennings had been a heavy smoker until the mid-1980s but had a moment of weakness following the 9/11 attacks (which he reported on for seventeen straight hours) where he briefly resumed the habit.
  • Because of the way nicotine impacts stress, this is why smoking is still highly relevant amongst the lower classes. Lack of access to healthier forms of reducing stress causes many poor folks to take up smoking instead.
  • Before becoming king, George VI smoked twenty cigarettes a day (a full pack), which was not uncommon in that era for a man of his age and social background; his grandfather Edward VII had done the same, plus ten cigars. After his accession, the stress of being king caused him to bump it up to forty cigarettes a day. He died in 1952 at 56 of aggressive lung cancer—though all the cordite smoke he inhaled as a naval turret officer in the First World War probably had something to do with it as well (after all, Edward VII, who smoked about as much what with the cigars, and otherwise lived far less healthily, had made it to 68).
  • On September 26, 1983, a fire broke out in the booster rocket of the Soviet space mission Soyuz T-10 before launch. Just before the rocket exploded, the launch escape system was activated, firing a small rocket engine that blasted the crew capsule free, shooting it a couple miles away to come down by parachutes. The first thing the two cosmonauts requested after rescue crews opened the hatch were some cigarettes. They were also brought vodka to help them relax.
  • Ron Evans, command module pilot of Apollo 17, famously asked for a cigarette upon returning to Earth on December 19, 1972. NASA now has a strict policy against astronauts smoking but this wasn't always the case, and space flight is a rather stressful occupation.
  • During the Battle of Midway, James Muri, the pilot of the B-26 bomber Suzie-Q, found his squadron deployed against the incoming Japanese, but, thanks to the short notice, they had had no briefing, only being told to get into the air as soon as possible. Muri had no idea what he was getting into until the clouds broke and he and his squadron got their answer from the Japanese Fleet staring right back at them. One of the first things Muri did when he realized what kind of day it was going to be was fish a cigarette out of his pocket and put it in his mouth, but he didn't even have time to light it up before his plane was lit up by Japanese AA fire and fighter planes. Muri recalled dropping the payload, dodging flak, and flying up the flight deck of the Japanese carrier Akagi before finally managing to limp back to base, his plane riddled with holes. During the return trip, he wondered what had happened to that cigarette—turns out he had bitten it in half and swallowed it in all the chaos.
  • The Troubled Production of the film version of Pink Floyd's The Wall drove director Alan Parker to chain smoking for the first time in his life.
  • This may be a reason Israel has quite a high percentage of smokers. Universal conscription among the secular and Religious Zionist population accounts for some, while Haredi Jews worldwide (who have a high rate of poverty and limited secular education) are heavy smokers.