There is a number of smoking cessation methods that you can try out once you decide to kick the habit. Keep in mind that not everything works for everyone; some people get the best results from conventional therapy that includes nicotine replacement treatments while others prefer – and swear by – unorthodox methods.
There are two ways to quit smoking:
1. Complete Abstinence – also called going “cold turkey” means that you completely cease nicotine in all its forms. This is a difficult way to stop smoking as smokers crave nicotine both physically and psychologically.
Shaking, nicotine craving, extreme mood swings, and an urge to eat are all symptoms of nicotine withdrawal. It’s important to note that smokers that take this route are more likely to relapse and decide to ‘reward’ themselves with a cigarette. Resist the temptation as this sets the whole process back at square one.
This approach will work for strong-willed smokers. However, most are made from less resilient stuff – if you think that you won’t be able to make it ‘cold turkey’, try a different approach.
2. Assisted Cessation – most smokers do not have what it takes to give up smoking on a spur of the moment. That’s where assisted cessation comes to the rescue.
Tobacco nicotine is a highly addictive substance so substitution therapy, such as nicotine patches, chewing gums, and other medication, helps to relieve withdrawal symptoms. Learn more about nicotine replacement therapy.
Whatever way you end up choosing, you will need a method. Method is simply the approach you take to manage withdrawal symptoms, cravings, and relapses. There are many options to choose from here. We will list most of them and indicate whether there are any studies that back up their effectiveness.
Remember, a certain method might not work for you but that doesn’t mean that the right fit is not out there. Experiment with different approaches and you will find one that fits like a glove.
Quit Smoking Buddy System
Quitting is a hard if you’re at it alone. If possible at all, try to find a quit buddy who’s going to share your burden and commit to a healthier lifestyle.
The benefits of a quit smoking buddy system are numerous:
- You will start your cessation journey with someone who shares your goal and is committed to reaching it
- You will be able to share your results with someone and get support when you need it
- Mutual support will be crucial if one of you falters
- You will have someone to encourage you (or you them) should you relapse
Don’t overestimate the power of togetherness but also the power of peer pressure. Studies show that smokers are almost twice as likely to stick to their cessation commitment if they feel that other people would judge them should they fail.
Quit Smoking Competitions
Companies and campaigns have been known to organize quit smoking competitions with success. External motivators such as cash and peer pressure seem to be working as some studies show that smokers who participate in a contest are twice as likely to remain tobacco-free even up to 24 weeks.
However, you do not have to wait for a medical trial to come your way. Smokers usually socialize with smokers and you certainly have people in your life that share your unhealthy habit. Here’s a little secret: you share a common goal too – to get rid of nicotine addiction. Challenge your friends and coworkers to a quit-smoking competition. Even though a healthier life should be incentive enough you can make things interesting with a wager. Put the dollar amount you would usually use to buy cigarettes aside and whoever makes it for 6 months takes home the prize. The best outcome? Everyone walks away with their own money in their pocket.
Exercise the Cravings Away
Substituting tobacco with regular exercise can be extremely beneficial. Not only will it help you stay fit – most smokers gain weight during the cessation period – but it will help you manage your cravings.
- Regular exercise makes sure that you don’t gain weight excessively as a result of quitting smoking – without nicotine your blood sugar levels will drop and you’ll start experiencing hunger more often.
- Physical activity helps with nicotine cravings – studies show that preoccupying your mind with exercise helps fight off an urge to light up a cigarette.
- Withdrawal symptoms are reduced during exercise – this alleviating effect can last up to 50 minutes after exercise.
- Exercise improves your mood – cessation is associated with depression and regular physical activity can improve your overall state of mind.
Smoking Cessation Counseling
Enlisting the help of a professional counselor or psychotherapist can significantly improve your chances of quitting smoking. Individual sessions work best but group therapy can also be helpful because it puts things into perspective – namely, that you’re not the only one going through the withdrawal ordeal.
Therapy benefits are numerous and include:
- Helping you set a firm date when you’re going to quit smoking
- Identifying your smoking triggers
- Working around those triggers to avoid relapsing
- Visualizing yourself reaching your goal
The number of sessions will depend, but 4 should be enough to get you on the right track. If you cannot afford 4 counseling session even one short one will help you set your goal and identify your smoking triggers.
Even though there are reports of acupuncture being successful for some smokers in their cessation attempts, those claims have not been independently proven and are not scientifically backed.
Acupuncture is an old Chinese practice of inserting small needles into various body parts to help with medical conditions. For smoking cessation, several points on the ears and the body are stimulated with said needles. Proponents of the therapy claim that it reduces nicotine cravings and that the effects are long-term.
Make sure to do extensive research if you decide to try out this method and remember that its success is only anecdotal and not backed up by any serious medical research.
Hypnosis is a method in which a person is put in an altered state of mind. It’s used as pain control and management therapy and more recently in treating other ailments, such as obesity. When it comes to smoking cessation, hypnosis is met with mixed reviews primarily because it’s a therapy that is not effective for everyone – one of four people cannot be hypnotized.
A hypnotist attempts to convey 3 basic ideas to a person who is trying to quit smoking:
- Tobacco is poison and destroys your body
- You need your body to live
- You should therefore not poison your body
It might seem farfetched, but if you think about it hard all smokers actually know they are poisoning themselves but that knowledge is pushed far back into their subconsciousness. A hypnotist teaches a smoker how to put himself in a state of self-hypnosis and reinforce this common knowledge once the cravings kick in.
However, further research is required to fully determine success hypnosis has on smoking cessation. At this moment, limited studies have been published and data is inconclusive.
As you can see, there are plenty of smoking cessations methods available to those who are serious about quitting. However, the decisive factor in whether or not you will be successful in your attempts is your level of commitment. Most of the methods can and should be combined because they can have a reinforcing effect on one another. Smokers using nicotine replacement therapy will also want to consider one or more of these methods because the replacement therapy alleviates physical and psychological cravings effectively but cannot help with the feeling that most smokers trying to quit get: not knowing what to do with their arms and mouth.
Laser therapy as a method for smoking cessation is still being researched and there is no conclusive evidence to suggest that it works. The hypothesis is that laser treatments, which are administered to certain spots on the face and the wrist of a smoker, help reduce nicotine cravings by stimulating the nerve endings.
The laser is believed to stimulate the brain and cause it to release a flood of endorphins that will substitute the effect nicotine has on the system. Laser therapy for tobacco cessation has not been approved by the FDA and practitioners are not allowed to make claims about its success rate. However, you might want to look into it as a possibility as some former smokers claim that it did help them during their effort to quit smoking.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Cognitive behavioral therapy is extremely helpful in the cessation process. Tobacco addiction is both physical and psychological – before you can expect any results it’s important that you change the thought patterns that drive you to smoke.
A licensed therapist will assist you in finding the right motivators to stop smoking, change the thought patterns that triggered your smoking habit, increase your confidence in a successful outcome, and more. They will also help you identify the environmental triggers that are in your surroundings – the ones that you need to avoid in order to reach your goal of being tobacco-free.
Another alternative smoking cessation therapy is the transcranial magnetic stimulation. It relies on stimulation of deeper parts of the brain that are associated with cravings by using magnetic waves. Although initial research is promising, there is no validation that this therapy is safe to use and that it indeed helps with smoking cessation.
Further research is being conducted on TMS in relation to various mental conditions such as depression and psychiatric disorders, including addictions.
Internet Support Groups
Smoking cessation is difficult but it’s near-impossible if you don’t have a support system. Most smokers can rely on their family and friends but if you want to talk to someone who knows what you’re going through you might want to check out various internet support groups that have active members dedicated to helping each other out during tough spots.
- Freedom Forum
- WhyQuit Facebook Page
- Smoking Cessation Forum
- Quit Train Forum
- Quit Smoking
- KillTheCan Forum
- Nicotine Anonymous
- Network 54 Forum
- Quit Smokeless Org
Cessation Self-Help Materials
The internet is flooded with cessation materials that can help you stay on course – from booklets to pre-made quit plans, it’s all available for smokers that have firmly committed to quitting the habit.
Cancer.org has plenty of resources on this particular subject that can be accessed here. They also organize an event called the Great American Smokeout every November that is dedicated to helping people get the information they need about quitting smoking.
Smokefree.gov is rife with quit plans, support, daily challenges, and more – you can find out more about it right here.
Agency for healthcare research and quality has prepared a booklet you can download containing a lot of information about the cessation process and how to complete it successfully.
Also, if you have no one to talk to you might want to consider phoning one of numerous smoking cessation hotlines. Experts who man the phones are knowledgeable and have help thousands quit smoking. It’s estimated that nearly 50% of smokers who phoned wouldn’t be able to quit without the expert advice and counseling from hotline professionals.
Electronic cigarettes, also called vaporizers or mods by the e-smoking community – are a relatively new smoking cessation tool. While there is still some dispute amongst researchers as to whether e-cigarettes carry some risks, the prevalent majority of them agree that they are far less harmful than regular cigarettes.
Most e-cigarettes smokers cite that their number one reason for switching to e-cigarettes is that they help them wean themselves from regular tobacco products.
A couple of reasons in favor of e-cigarettes:
- They are a non-combustive nicotine delivery method
- E-cigarettes do not contain a large majority of toxins that can be found in regular cigarettes
- They easily substitute regular cigarettes in terms of handling (most smokers report that their major reason for relapse is not knowing what to do with their hands)
- E-cigarettes are environmentally friendly
- E-cigarettes do not pose a danger to others because they don’t emit smoke, only vapor
E-liquids are largely made from vegetable glycerin or propylene glycol – natural byproducts of petroleum and vegetable oil that are FDA approved in the food industry. Other components are flavorings, colors, and nicotine. It is important to note that there is an overwhelming choice of e-liquids that do not contain a trace of nicotine so this method is also suitable for people trying to quit regular cigarettes cold turkey – without substituting cigarette nicotine with any other form of that addictive drug.
Some research suggests that e-cigs are as effective cessation method as nicotine patches and that the adverse effects of two are comparable and miniscule. Also, e-cig users are less likely to relapse and go back to smoking regular cigarettes than are nicotine patch users.
More research is still needed to determine whether or not e-cigarettes carry some additional risks for their users. As of now, all research conducted points to it being a safe alternative to cigarette smoke.