What is the best way to stop smoking?
Walking alone: A generally accepted 6-month stop rate for someone who tries to quit without motivation, education or support (called ‘cold turkey’ or ‘pure willpower’) is 10% (5% at 12 months). Don’t like your chance? I don’t blame you! Let’s look at some recipes, medicines, and smoking cessation programs …
Nicotine replacement therapy: This product includes patches, gum, e-cigarettes, nasal inhalers and lozenges containing nicotine. While many smokers (quite rightly) feel that there is something strange about nicotine addicts consuming nicotine to help them stop using nicotine (a bit like telling an alcoholic to drink wine rather than beer), producers claim that this product can ‘double your chances of stop ‘instead of using anything at all. But all this is to take the success rate of 3-5% to 6-10%. People were surprised by this poor success rate, but real-world OTC nicotine patch studies confirmed them by pharmaceutical industry consultants.
Hypnosis / NLP / EFT: while many practitioners make excessive claims about their level of success, these claims cannot stand to be scrutinized. According to Cochrane (‘biblical’ evidence-based care) “We have not shown that hypnotherapy has a greater effect at a six-month stopping rate than other interventions or no treatment.”
Champix / Chantix: Pfizer produces this drug (chemical name: varenicline). Their website claims a success rate of 44%, but it is essential to understand that this is at 9-12 weeks, not at 6 or 12 months, which is an accepted industry standard. For weeks 9-12, the quitter is still taking the drug. Of course, people who have the potential to quit smoking are more interested in what their opportunities are in the weeks and months after they stop taking the drug at the end of the 12th week.
We should also remember that people who quit smoking in this study also received self-help materials and one-on-one counseling (up to 25 sessions totaling more than four hours), so that even 18% of study participants who were given non-smoking sugar pills.
Regarding the long-term success rate for Chantix / Champix, one study showed a success rate of 6 months and 12 months to be similar to nicotine patches. A stand-alone 12-month stop rate, in the real world, might be around 9%.
Zyban (Wellbutrin): Zyban, produced by Glaxo is an antidepressant approved by the FDA as a smoking cessation drug in 2002. The most important thing about Zyban is the number of users who describe side effects (adverse side effects) when taking it. In a 2006 study, 70.4% of Zyban users reported adverse events. Some studies examine the effectiveness of Zyban. The 12-month success rate ranges from 8% to 23%.
Herbal pills and concoctions: After countless trials that showed they were no more than placebo, the medical community did not receive the benefits of homeopathic or herbal treatments to stop smoking. Many manufacturers of these products make excessive claims for their efficacy, but more often than not, this makes it difficult for them with the Federal Trade Commission and the Food and Drug Administration. In the May 2008 case, the FTC stated: ‘The defendants claim that their products have a 97% success rate, but there is no evidence for this claim.’
Acupuncture/laser therapy: According to the Department of Health and US Services Clinical Practice Guidelines for Treating Tobacco Use and Dependence ‘Evidence does not support the efficacy of acupuncture as a treatment for quitting smoking.’ The Cochrane Review said: ‘Long-term results do not show the effect of acupuncture compared to fake acupuncture.’
Education, motivation and support: People may argue that the low success rate of the other methods mentioned is entirely due to the fact that none of them help smokers with a real problem: the desire to smoke. If someone believes, for example, that smoking eases stress, then when they try to stop and experience a tense situation, they will have the desire to smoke, and will need to use determination to try to overcome that desire. This creates conflict: some of them want to quit, but some still want to smoke. It is this conflict that makes stopping difficult for many people. To find it easy to stop, the desire to smoke needs to be eliminated and this can be achieved through education, motivation and support. It is therefore not surprising that smoking cessation programs that really help smokers understand addiction and challenge the beliefs they have that create desire or the perceived need for smoking appear to have the highest success rates. In fact, in one program 53.3% of smokers who attended the five-hour seminar were still free of cigarettes 12 months later.
While it’s true to say that there are no magic bullets when you have to stop, you can load dice in your favor by doing some simple research.