Is 'cold turkey' an effective way to quit smoking?
We often hear that many smokers quit ‘cold turkey’ (without professional advice or support) and that this must therefore be the most effective way to quit.
Of course this is rubbish! Research clearly shows that using willpower alone is the least successful method for quitting smoking. (1) The chances of successful quitting on your own are only 3-5% for any given attempt. (2). In other words, less than one in 25 cold turkey quit attempts succeeds.
On the other hand, quitting with professional help and medication gives success rates between 25-35%, which is about one in three or four, a big increase on cold turkey. (3)
Repeatedly failing to quit creates another concern. Every day you delay quitting after the age of 35 years, you lose 6 hours of life! (4) The best method is the one that gives you the best chance of quitting now, so you don’t continue to do further damage to your health.
In fact, smokers are realising that trying on your own rarely works and most are now getting help to quit. A recent Australian study found that 59% of smokers trying to quit used some sort of help, 52% using stop-smoking medication and 15% using counselling and support. (5)
Quitting smoking requires breaking a complex habit and a powerful addiction. The best way to quit is with professional advice and support and stop-smoking medication. Cold turkey belongs strictly in your lunchbox!
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1. Raupach T. The Most “Successful” Method for Failing to Quit Smoking Is Unassisted Cessation. Nicotine and Tobacco Research 2012
2. Hughes JR. Shape of the relapse curve and long-term abstinence among untreated smokers. Addiction 2004
3. Tonnesen P. Smoking cessation. How compelling is the evidence? A review. Health Policy 2009
4. Doll R. Mortality in relation to smoking, 50 years' observations on male British doctors. British Medical Journal 2004
5. Cooper J. Australian smokers increasingly use help to quit, but number of attempts remains stable: findings from the International Tobacco Control Study 2002-09. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health 2011