Strategy to Quit Smoking?

I’m determined to give up cigarettes. What’s the best way? Nicotine gum or patch? Acupuncture? Hypnosis? Cold turkey? Support groups?

– November 20, 2003

(Updated 1/24/2005)

I’m delighted to hear that you’ve decided to quit smoking. You couldn’t do anything better for your health. However, I won’t pretend to you that quitting is easy. Tobacco is the most addictive drug in the world, and nicotine is one of the strongest stimulants known.

All of the methods you mention – acupuncture, hypnosis, nicotine gum, cold turkey, support groups – can work, but not for everyone. Most smokers who quit successfully do it on their own after one or more unsuccessful attempts, and most find that stopping cold turkey is better than trying to cut down gradually.

According to the American Cancer Society, if you’re considering the nicotine gum or patch, you’re better off with gum if you want to avoid periodic cravings (you tend to smoke at irregular intervals) and need something to occupy your hands. You’re better off with the patch if you smoke at regular intervals and prefer not to chew gum.

Whatever method you choose, if you don’t succeed immediately, recognize that few people manage to stop smoking on their first try and that the best predictor for eventual success is making repeated attempts to quit.

Good luck!

Andrew Weil, M.D.

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