Science Has Finally Found the Best Way to Quit Smoking

By Valerie Tejeda 03/18/16

A research study may have answered the age-old quitting question—taper or cold turkey?

Science Has Finally Found the Best Way to Quit Smoking
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For decades, many have debated over the best way to quit smoking. There is the theory of slowly tapering off, and then there’s the method of dropping the habit cold turkey. But if you’re serious about finally kicking that cigarette addiction, a new study published in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine, found that cold turkey is officially the best way to go. 

"If you're training for a marathon, you wouldn't expect to turn up and just be able to run it. And I think people see that for smoking as well. They think, 'Well, if I gradually reduce it's almost practice,'" said the study’s author, Nicola Lindson-Hawley from the University of Oxford. 

The research followed 700 smokers in England who were planning on quitting, but at the time were smoking about a pack a day. They checked up on the participants four weeks after the quit date, and then followed up again in six months. At four weeks, the smokers who quit cold turkey were more successful with a 49% quit rate compared to 39% in the gradual group. Once they hit six months, 15% of the gradual group were cigarette-free compared to 22% of the cold turkey group.  

"I think that's the piece that's so convincing, which is that regardless of your stated preference, if you're ready to quit, quitting abruptly is more effective," said Dr. Gabriela Ferreira, of the Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Jersey. "That's a compelling number, and I think that translates to the patient. It gives them the encouragement, I think, to really go for it."

Although the quit rates were highest with the cold turkey group, most participants reported tapering off as their preference for kicking the habit. Regardless, many in the medical field believe studies like these are a great way to start conversations and give doctors the tools to help their patients quit more effectively.  

But if you still don’t think quitting cold turkey is for you, here is the good news: future research studies plan on looking at how tapering off can be more effective for smokers. Lindson-Hawley added, “If there are people who really feel they can’t quit abruptly, and they want to quit gradually—otherwise they won’t try to quit at all—we still need to support them to do that.”

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Entertainment journalist and author Valerie Tejeda spends her days reporting on books, television, and all things pertaining to pop culture, and spends her nights writing novels for teens. Her stories have appeared on a variety of different publications, including but not limited to: VanityFair, MTV, The Huffington Post, TeenVogue, She Knows, Latina, The Fix,, Cosmopolitan, and more. You can find Valerie on Linkedin and Twitter.