Going cold turkey 25% more successful for quitting smoking than cutting down
Forget trying to cut down - if you really want to quit smoking successfully you need the cold turkey treatment, new research has shown.
Scientists confirmed that smokers who try to kick their habit bit by bit are less likely to succeed than those with the willpower to give it up in one go.
Dr Nicola Lindson-Hawley, from Oxford University, who led the British Heart Foundation-funded study, said: "We recruited 697 smokers who had chosen to stop smoking. They were split into two groups. One group - the 'abrupt cessation' group - set a quit day and stopped all smoking on that day. The second group - the 'gradual cessation' group - set a quit day but gradually reduced their tobacco use in the two weeks leading up to that date.
"Both groups had advice and support and access to nicotine patches and nicotine replacement therapy, like nicotine gum or mouth spray."
A month after "quit day", 49% of the "abrupt cessation" group were still not smoking compared with 39% of the "gradual cessation" group, meaning the cold turkey participants were 25% more likely to have been successful.
The contrast between the two groups was seen at the outset, with more "abrupt" quitters managing at least 24 hours without tobacco than their "gradual" counterparts.
Dr Lindson-Hawley 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. If people actually made a quit attempt then the success rate was equal across groups.
"We also found that more people preferred the idea of quitting gradually than abruptly; however regardless of what they thought they were still more likely to quit in the abrupt group."
But she added that for smokers who find it quite impossible to make a clean break from tobacco, it was better to try to cut down than simply give up.
"For these people it is much better to attempt to cut down their smoking than do nothing at all and we should increase support for gradual cessation to increase their chances of succeeding," she said.
The research is reported in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine.