Longtime smokers tend to use a variety of tools and techniques when trying to quit the vice. But a new British study suggests that the hardest way may actually be the most effective way – quitting smoking cold turkey. Per the study’s results, smokers who quit their habit abruptly were 25 percent more likely to quit smoking for good than those who merely tried to wean themselves off cigarettes by gradually quitting.
The researchers studied close to 700 cigarette smokers who had wanted to quit the vice for good. The smokers were divided into two groups, one of which went cold turkey, or stopped smoking abruptly regardless of their daily consumption. The second group gradually reduced their daily consumption over a two-week period. Both groups were given access to various quit-smoking tools, such as nicotine patches, mouth sprays, nicotine gum, and counseling and support from the researchers.
The participants were checked up on once a week during the four-week study, and received another follow-up after six months. They were asked about how their attempts to quit smoking were going, and the amount of carbon monoxide they exhaled was also measured, to provide the researchers actual proof that the participants were following through on their plans to quit.
After the four-week period, 39 percent of those who opted for “gradual cessation” of their habit had successfully quit, as to 49 percent of those in the “abrupt cessation” group. Doing the math, this means those who quit smoking cold turkey are 25 percent likelier to quit short-term than those who cut back their usage gradually. Further, only 15.5 percent of those who quit gradually still didn’t smoke any cigarettes after the six-month follow-up, as to 22 percent of those in the cold turkey group.
“Our results should be particularly useful for those who want to quit and have no strong feelings about how they want to do it,” said lead author Nicola Lindson-Hawley of the University of Oxford in a press statement. “For them, the best approach is abrupt quitting. Still, 40 percent were successful in the reduction group, and this is better than we would expect if people received no support at all.”