Smoking cessation (also called tobacco cessation or quitting smoking) is the process of stopping use of combustible tobacco products. Tobacco use can lead to nicotine addiction and cause serious health problems. Quitting smoking reduces the risks of developing serious health conditions and diseases. Many smokers often need to make several attempts to quit before they have successfully quit smoking. The good news is that many of those who try to quit are successful at smoking cessation and today there more former smokers than current smokers.
Smoking Cessation Overview
The following is an overview of smoking cessation methods, health benefits and side effects.
Smoking Cessation Methods
There are many methods that former smokers have used to quit smoking completely, and there is no one correct method that will work for everyone. Oftentimes, it can take a combination of smoking cessation methods and multiple attempts to achieve a successful quit.
Quit Smoking Cold Turkey
The term “cold turkey” refers to the sudden and complete cessation of all tobacco use. This quit smoking cold turkey method is by far the most popular way smokers attempt to quit and makes up about 75% of all quit attempts. Studies have found that the majority of recent quitters used the cold turkey method and found it to be helpful with their smoking cessation success.
Stop Smoking Medications
The use of smoking cessation medications has been shown to greatly improve chances of success. Some studies have reported 25% of former smokers who use medications were smoke-free for over 6 months. The following medications have been shown to help people stop smoking:
- Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT): This category of medications includes products that deliver nicotine without the risks of smoking. Over-the-counter nicotine replacement therapy products include nicotine patch, nicotine gum and nicotine lozenge, as well as prescription-only products such as nicotine inhaler and nicotine nasal spray.
- Varenicline: This prescription medication reduces nicotine withdrawal symptoms and is a first-line smoking cessation product. Popular varenicline brands include Chantix, created by Pfizer.
- Bupropion: This prescription medication is an antidepressant and is also a first-line smoking cessation product. Long term studies have shown bupropion to increase quit smoking success rates. People using bupropion to quit smoking should follow all warnings, including being monitored for any unusual mood changes. Popular bupropion brands include Zyban, created b y GlaxoSmithKline.
Hypnosis to Quit Smoking
Hypnosis (and hypnotherapy) for quitting smoking typically involves a hypnotherapist suggesting to a patient the unpleasant outcomes of smoking. However, studies on the success of hypnosis for smoking cessation have not been conclusive.
Counseling to Stop Smoking
Counseling for smoking cessation can take many forms. When combined with medications to treat tobacco dependence the results are often more effective than using one method alone. Counseling may include a brief discussion with a doctor during which they can provide advice and write prescriptions to assist in a quit smoking attempt. Counseling can be also be done in a group settings, typically at a location such as a community YMCA. Free counseling via quitline services is also available for people trying to stop smoking by calling 1-800-QUIT-NOW. Callers are routed to their state quitlines, which provide a number of smoking cessation services.
Smoking Cessation Apps
Using iOS and Android apps to quit smoking (such as the free Aeris free quit smoking app) has also been shown to improve success for those making a quit attempt. Many apps track smoking behaviors, provide tips and allow users to create a personalized quit plan around their chosen quit date. Check out our review of the best quit smoking apps available for download!
Smoking Cessation Health Benefits
The benefits of quitting smoking have been well documented. Through smoking cessation people can substantially reduce their chances of experiencing many detrimental smoking-related health conditions and diseases. A quit smoking timeline shows the health benefits that occur at the following milestones:
- 20 Minutes: Blood pressure and heart rate decrease
- 12 Hours: Carbon monoxide levels in the blood return to normal
- 48 Hours: Sense of smell and taste and nerve endings start recovering
- 3 Months: Lung function and circulation improve
- 9 Months: Decrease in cough and shortness of breath
- 1 Year: Risk of coronary heart disease reduced by 50%
- 5 Years: Risk of stroke falls to same as a non-smoker
- 10 Years: Risk of dying from lung cancer reduced by 50%
- 15 Years: Risk of coronary heart disease drops to non-smoker levels
Smoking Cessation Side Effects
Quit Smoking Symptoms
In a recent smoking cessation study, withdrawal symptoms such as anger, anxiety, depression, difficulty concentrating, impatience and insomnia were found to peak within the first week of tobacco abstinence and last 2-4 weeks.
Weight Gain from Stopping Smoking
Quitting smoking is associated with average weight gain of 8.8 – 11.0 lbs. after 12 months. Most of this quit smoking weight gain timeline occurs within the first three months of quitting. Possible causes of weight gain when someone stops smoking include:
- Increased Appetite: Smoking suppresses appetite, which may be caused by the affect of nicotine on neurons
- Lower Energy Metabolism: Heavy smokers burn up to 200 more calories per day than non-smokers who consume the same diet due to nicotine’s increase on energy metabolism.
Anxiety from Smoking Cessation
Studies have shown that people who quit smoking felt less anxious. This effect was greater in people how had mood and anxiety disorders.
Depression from Quitting Smoking
Nicotine addiction causes a down-regulation of dopamine production brain as it tries to compensate for the artificial stimulation caused by smoking. When people stop smoking they can therefore experience depression symptoms or actual depression as a result. However, studies that have compared current smokers to those who stopped for 3 months found that stopping smoking did not increase anxiety or depression.
For additional smoking cessation facts and resources, please visit the CDC Quitting Smoking website.