New Study Says THIS Is The Best Way To Quit Smoking

Photographed by Jessica Nash.
No matter how you look at it, quitting smoking is a daunting process. But a new study suggests that you might have more success going cold turkey than you think.

For the study, published this week in the Annals of Internal Medicine, researchers assigned 697 smokers to one of two groups. Everyone had to set a quit date: two weeks after they started the study. But participants in one group were told to quit abruptly (cold turkey) while those in the other were told to quit gradually over those two weeks. Both groups had access to quitting aids, like nicotine patches and counselors. The researchers then followed up with participants four weeks, eight weeks, and six months after their quit date.

Results showed that, overall, those who tried to quit gradually had a harder time actually doing it: At four weeks, 49% of those who quit abruptly versus 39% of those who quit gradually were still not smoking. And after six months, 22% of the abrupt quitters and only 15% of the gradual quitters had stayed away from cigarettes.

While there was a difference between the groups, it's still clear that quitting smoking is hard no matter how you go about it. In this most recent study, many participants relapsed within a month and the vast majority of participants relapsed before the six-month follow-up. And other research has shown that, even if you do manage to quit, your chances of staying off tobacco for over a year aren't great. However, those who stay quit for two years are very likely to stay that way.
So, this doesn't mean quitting is impossible. It means that keeping a longer timeline in mind makes sense, whatever your plan for quitting is.

The researchers even asked the participants which group they would have preferred to be in. Just over half said they'd rather be in the gradual group. (Although this had nothing to do with the group they actually ended up in.) "We found that more people preferred the idea of quitting gradually than abruptly," said lead author Nicola Lindson-Hawley, PhD, in a press release. "However, regardless of what they thought, they were still more likely to quit in the abrupt group."

In the end, one plan isn't necessarily going to work for everyone — the best quitting plan is the one that you can stick to. But this study can offer some guidance if you're flirting with the idea.

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