Evidence Based Strategies To Quit Smoking

Updated: Dec 30, 2020

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About 2 out of 3 of smokers say they want to quit and about half try to quit each year, but few succeed without help. Only 8% are able to quit smoking successfully. Why is this number so low? It’s highly likely that this is because most people simply do not follow the right steps to quit smoking. Let's discuss 10 distinct points, that include at home strategies to professional help. You won’t need to watch another YouTube video after you’ve read this.

It is common for ex-smokers to have made a number of attempts to stop smoking (often using different approaches on each occasion) before achieving long-term abstinence. Smokers make between 6 and 30 attempts before successfully quitting. The most frequent unassisted methods are "cold turkey", and "gradually decreased number" of cigarettes, or "cigarette reduction”. As far as the clinical evidence is concerned, there is no difference in the efficacy of both quit methods. Whether you plan to quit cold turkey or with gradual reduction, follow these steps to help you along the way:

1. Make A Quit Plan

It is easy to put off quitting by saying “Oh, I’ll stop later” or “I can quit next week”, but if you come up with an actual plan and date on which you will stop smoking, it can give you the power to make a change. Setting a quit date, and planning for it a few days, or even a week ahead of time will help you prepare for the change. You can also get your loved ones and family involved in the process. Not only will they encourage you, this will also help you hold yourself accountable.

2. Avoid Cues That Trigger Smoking

The mind is very sensitive to associations, so removing all tobacco products from your home can help lessen some of the cravings associated with nicotine withdrawal. Smokers are accustomed to smoking in certain situations like in the pub, with friends or after a meal. If you can identify your trigger situations and avoid them, the chances of relapse will be much lower.

3. Stay Busy

One of the biggest problems you will have after quitting cigarettes is the cravings and urges you will feel, to restart. However, if you distract yourself by staying busy and throwing yourself into another activity, you can minimise these thoughts and feelings. Exercise such as weight lifting or jogging can do wonders for making a craving go away. Exercise is associated with a spike in the body’s reward system, the same system that is triggered by smoking. Along with exercise, doing easy things throughout the day to keep the body busy like chewing gum, drinking water, or relaxing with deep breathing can help you get a physical fixation to distract you.

4. Find Other Ways To Cope With Stress

Because smoking is often used as a way of coping with stress, smokers need other ways of dealing with stress if they want to stop smoking. Methods that people have found helpful include meditation and breathing exercises, regular exercise, cutting down on alcohol, and eating a well-balanced diet, and most importantly, reaching out to loved ones in times of emotional crises instead of smoking.


Making changes takes time and effort - progress is often slow. Be patient. You may not be able to control all the factors that contribute to your stress, but identifying the source of your anxiety and trying to find ways to reduce or overcome it is as important as finding new ways to cope with stress.


5. Get Support From Family And Friends

Stopping smoking can be easier if you talk about it to family and friends and let them support you. If other people who live with you smoke, it may be harder for you to give up. You could try to get other household members who smoke, or friends who smoke, to stop smoking at the same time. At the least, encourage them not to smoke around you or leave their cigarettes, ashtrays or lighters where you will see them.

6. Be Prepared For Withdrawal Symptoms

Withdrawal symptoms will happen, whether you smoke 1 cigarette a day, or 10. Drinking more fresh fruit juice or water, eating more high fibre foods and reducing the caffeine and refined sugar in your diet all help cope with withdrawal symptoms.

7. Counselling

Talk therapy can help you change your behaviour by thinking and acting more positively. Through counselling, smokers can learn to identify environmental and social cues which motivate their smoking, and use cognitive and behavioural methods to break the link between the cue and smoking. They can also learn stress management and coping strategies to improve quit rate and prevent relapse.


8. Nicotine Replacement

Most people are aware that items like nicotine patches, gums and sprays exist, but aren’t aware of how helpful they can be. These types of short-term nicotine replacement methods can help overcome the intense cravings that you will experience when you first quit using tobacco. In fact, smokers are twice as likely to quit using NRT than if they had no treatment. NRT is even more effective when combined with counselling.


9. Medications

If nothing else works, consult your Psychiatrist and have yourself prescribed medications to manage your craving for cigarettes. The two most widely used medicines for smoking cessation are Varenicline and Bupropion, although a number of other medicines are under research for the same. Remember, medicines that are used for craving may have side effects, and be fully informed while starting the treatment.

10. Be Prepared For Relapse