Quitting cigarettes cold turkey may be more effective than gradual approach

By Laura Mize • Published: June 13th, 2016
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Are you determined to ditch your cigarette habit? Kicking it all at once may be the way to go, a recently published study has found. This may seem surprising, since quitting cold turkey is generally seen as an extremely difficult thing to do.

Yet the findings by scientists in England were clear. Among 700 heavy smokers, those who quit cigarettes abruptly were more likely to remain smoke-free one month later and six months later when compared with people who tapered their habit over a period of several weeks.

At the one-month mark, 49 percent of the cold-turkey quitters had stayed away from cigarettes since their quit date. But among people who quit gradually over two weeks, only 39 percent were smoke-free after a month. At six months, 16 percent of the gradual quitters and 22 percent of the abrupt quitters were still not smoking, the study found. The research was funded by the British Heart Association and published in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine.

The study participants received patches, gums and lozenges to help them before and after their date for quitting cigarettes.

Smoking is still the leading preventable cause of death for approximately 400,000 people a year in the United States, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The researchers also reported that people who initially said they preferred to give up smoking gradually were less likely to be successful, regardless of which method they adopted during the study.

It looks like quitting smoking is a bit like ripping off a bandage: not drawing out the process beats prolonging the pain.