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Kick The Habit of Smoking

Updated on April 22, 2010

Find out how you can quit smoking.

Kick the habit

Giving up smoking is notoriously difficult - many smokers make multiple attempts before they finally become successful non-smokers.

If the thought of giving up cigarettes completely is too much for you, take it one day at a time – and you can start with the Great American Smokeout. On the third Thursday in November each year, the American Cancer Society encourages smokers to either smoke less or quit for the day. The purpose of this day is to draw attention to the deaths and chronic diseases caused by smoking, and raise awareness of the many ways a smoker can quit successfully1.
If you've tried quitting before and struggled, then the good news is that some therapies, combined with willpower, give you a better chance of quitting. In the U.S., approximately 45 million adults smoke and half will die prematurely from the habit.

According to the U.S. Surgeon General, "Smoking cessation represents the single most important step that smokers can take to enhance the length and quality of their lives."2

Most of us are aware of the health benefits of quitting smoking....reduced risks of cancer, better skin, healthier teeth and gums, more energy and more money. Why not make a list of the reasons why you want to quit and keep it where you can see it everyday.
Did you know that in workplaces where smoking restrictions are in place, employees smoke fewer cigarettes and more employees kick the habit for good! This seems to be true when cities enact smoking restrictions as well.

Throughout the last decade, many state and local governments have implemented strong tobacco-control laws that have caused reductions in smoking rates and lung cancer deaths. For example, in the first three years after New York City implemented a municipal smoke-free law, raised cigarette taxes, launched a media/awareness campaign and distributed free nicotine replacement therapy, the smoking rate among adults decreased by 15 percent3.

Nicotine replacement therapies

Nicotine replacement therapies (NRT) such as chewing gum, skin patches, tablets, nasal sprays and inhalers are designed to help the smoker to break the habit while providing a reduced dose of nicotine to overcome withdrawal symptoms like craving and mood changes.

Studies have shown that NRT is more effective than no therapy in helping smokers to stop (particularly among people who smoke a lot) and that quit rates remain high after smokers finish using the NRT.4 The nicotine patch works by delivering a measured dose of nicotine through the skin. The nicotine inhaler is a hand-held device designed to combat both the physical craving for nicotine and the behavioral dependence of handling cigarettes. Clinical trials have shown that the device can help people to stop smoking at least in the short term.


Zyban (bupropion) is a prescription drug available in tablet form. Zyban interacts with receptors in the brain to reduce the cravings commonly associated with stopping smoking. The course of treatment lasts around eight weeks. You start taking the drug while you're still smoking and set a quit date eight days after starting the treatment.

Zyban is safe for most healthy adult smokers. However, it is not suitable for people who have high blood pressure or heart complaints, are at risk of seizure or have eating disorders. Zyban should not be used during pregnancy or while breast-feeding, and caution is advised while driving5. The most serious side-effect risk with Zyban is seizures, but this is estimated to be less than one in 1,000.

There are other possible more common side effects including, among others, dry mouth, stomach pain, insomnia, tremor, headaches, and increased skin sensitivity. Zyban and nicotine replacement therapies are the only clinically proven effective aids to stopping smoking. Both products have an important role to play and will meet smokers' needs in different ways. The products may also be most effective when used in combination.


Chantix (varenicline tartrate), is a prescription drug available in tablet form that was approved by the FDA in 2006. This smoking cessation therapy has proven effective for people 18 years old and older who are motivated to quit smoking. Chantix provides some relief from nicotine withdrawal, and it blocks the effects of nicotine if the smoker resumes smoking again after quitting. In clinical trials, Chantix helped more people quit than Zyban.

The course of treatment lasts 12 weeks. If the smoker is successful in quitting, the doctor may prescribe an additional 12 weeks to increase the likelihood of long-term success. Side effects may include nausea, vomiting, gas, constipation and insomnia. This drug should not be used in combination with other smoking cessation products, and has proven most effective when coupled with counseling or behavior modification education.

Lozenges, pouches, capsules and tablets

Some of these products contain small doses of nicotine and aim to reduce the cravings, while others contain silver acetate which produces an unpleasant taste when a cigarette is smoked. Because these products are considered "smokeless tobacco" and not quit smoking aids, the Food & Drug Administration does not regulate them2. Few of these products have been clinically tested although they may be of assistance to some people5.

Acupuncture and hypnosis

There is little evidence to support the effectiveness of either acupuncture or hypnosis as a means of stopping smoking, but such methods may suit some smokers. For some people the belief that acupuncture helps is an effective placebo.

Herbal cigarettes

These are not recommended as an aid to giving up smoking because they produce both tar and carbon monoxide. Some brands have a tar content equivalent to tobacco cigarettes. In addition, the use of herbal cigarettes reinforces the very habit of smoking that smokers need to overcome.

Telephone counseling/quitlines

Phone-based counseling typically involves the smoker working with a trained counselor to plan a quitting strategy that is specific to each smoker's patterns and habits. According to the American Cancer Society, smokers are twice as likely to quit when using such a service.

Telephone quitlines are available all across the U.S. Smokers can call 1-800-ACS-2345 for help finding a quitline in their state2.

Clinics and self-help groups

A review of smoking cessation products and services found that smokers are up to four times more likely to stop smoking by attending specialist smokers' clinics than by using willpower alone, although smokers should be cautious about claims of high success rates made by some clinics.6

5 tips to help you quit

  1. Set a date, like the Great American Smokeout on the third Thursday in November, and stick to it. This is a good day to start as you know you won't be alone!
  2. Write down all the reasons you want to stop.
  3. Keep a diary.
  4. Tell the world you're quitting - or as many people as you can. Friends and family can encourage you to kick the habit.
  5. Try to quit with a friend or colleague.

Click here for more information on the Great American Smokeout


  1. Great American Smokeout. American Cancer Society. visited October 24 2006.
  2. Guide for quitting smoking, American Cancer Society, visited October 24 2006.
  3. State Tobacco Activites Tracking and Evaluation (STATE) System. Smoking and Tobacco Use, Centers for Disease Control & Prevention. visited August 30 2007
  4. Foulds J. Does Nicotine Replacement Therapy Work? Addiction. 1993:308: 21-26
  5. Hughes JR, Stead LF, Lancaster T. Anxiolytics and antidepressants for smoking cessation (Cochrane Review). In: The Cochrane Library: Issue 3.2000. Oxford: Update Software
  6.  West R. Getting Serious About Stopping Smoking - A Review of Products, Services and Techniques. 1997.


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