The Best Way to Quit Smoking
So you want to quit smoking? Obviously the most effective way are all those drugs and aids promoted by anti-smoking charities and governments, right?
Not necessarily. Unfortunately, the huge, huge profits involved mean the quit smoking methods most recommended are those which make most money for the pharmaceutical industry, not those which are the most effective.
But don’t fear! We are going to cut through the hype to find the smoking cessation methods scientifically proven to be most effective.
Smoking Cessation Aids
Numerous organisations promote smoking cessation aids, claiming that they are the most effective way to quit smoking. However, success rates are measured shortly after the user starts using the product, and in the long term many quitters return to smoking cigarettes.
So just how effective are they?
Not very, at least in the long term. The UK department of health estimated that just 5% of smokers who quit using NRT products were still off cigarette eight years. Meanwhile, Professor Michael Siegel, an expert in tobacco harm reduction, estimates the six month success rate of NRT as 6.8%.
Another study found even poorer results, with just 0.8% of smokers achieving continuous abstinence for more than a year. (The trial, which was funded by GlaxoSmithKline, was hailed as a success!)
Zyban and Chantix / Champix seem to be more effective. According to initial trials, Zyban has a 16% effectiveness while Chantix has a greater than 20% effectiveness. However, what the PR doesn’t tell you is that intensive counselling was provided to people on the trials – counselling that isn’t provided to the average user of the drug.
Then there are the side effects of Chantix – which include vomiting, depression, suicidal thoughts, suicide attempts and successful suicides. A successful quit attempt would probably outweigh a very small risk of suicide – but before you try Chantix try our next method. Not only is it more effective than NRT, it is also free!
Quitting Cold Turkey
While official policy is to give smokers smoking cessation aids and drugs, quitting without aids is actually more effective. One study by Larable found that smokers who quit without any aids were 2.3% more likely to be successful that those who quit with smoking aids. Surprisingly, the same study found that unplanned attempts were 2.5 – 2.6 times to be successful than planned attempts to quit.
With over 90% of ex-smokers having used cold turkey to quit, this method has to be worth a try – and best of all, it’s free!
The Allen Carr Method
The next method may surprise you. It’s not a drug, nor a device – it’s a book. With a peer reviewed rate of 53% the Allen Carr method is an effective method of quitting smoking. Don’t believe the figures? Neither did Deborah Arnott, Director of ASH UK, who poo-poohed them on National Radio – and was forced to apologise in court!
So how does the Allen Carr method work? It’s a method based on psychology. The book (now also available in an interactive CD ROM) attempts to persuade you that you get nothing out of cigarettes, that you are not addicted, and that it is easy to give up. Once you believe that, it seems, the rest is easy. And if it doesn’t work, you get your money back!
Methods of The Future
No one knows for sure whether electronic cigarettes will be effective, and with the first long term trial only just starting in New Zealand it will be some time before we do know. However, smaller trials from New Zealand do show that the e-cigarette can raise the level of nicotine in the blood, can reduce nicotine cravings and is well-tolerated by smokers.
In addition, there is great promise from a similar product, the liquid nicotine cigarette – a device which resembles a cigarette but which contains a nicotine-containing gel.
An initial, albeit very small, trial of the device found a success rate of over 50%. If the success rate is repeated in the large trials, the liquid cigarette could give Allen Carr a run for his money! If he was alive, that is – the former hundred a day smoker sadly died of lung cancer in 2006.