Health

'Cold turkey' best way to quit smoking, study shows

  • 15 March 2016
  • From the section Health
cigarette butts Image copyright Gareth Fuller/PA

People who want to quit smoking are more likely to succeed if they go "cold turkey" by stopping abruptly, a study in Annals of Internal Medicine shows.

Volunteers who used this approach were 25% more likely to remain abstinent half a year from the date that they give up than smokers who tried to gradually wean themselves off instead.

The NHS says that picking a convenient date to quit is important.

Make a promise, set a date and stick to it, it advises.

And sticking to the "not a drag" rule can really help too.

"Whenever you find yourself in difficulty say to yourself, 'I will not have even a single drag' and stick with this until the cravings pass," the service says.

And it recommends seeing a GP to get professional support and advice to give up smoking.

In the British Heart Foundation-funded study, nearly 700 UK volunteers were randomly assigned to one of two groups - a gradual quit group or an immediate quit group.

All of the participants were also offered advice and support and access to nicotine patches and replacement therapy, like nicotine gum or mouth spray - services which are available for free on the NHS.

After six months, 15.5% of the participants in the gradual-cessation group were abstinent compared with 22% in the abrupt-cessation group.

Lead researcher Dr Nicola Lindson-Hawley, from Oxford University, said: "The difference in quit attempts seemed to arise because people struggled to cut down. It provided them with an extra thing to do, which may have put them off quitting altogether."

Even though more people in the study said they preferred the idea of quitting gradually than abruptly, individuals were still more likely to stop for good in the abrupt group.

Dr Lindson-Hawley said that it was still better to cut down on cigarettes than do nothing at all.

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