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How To Quit Smoking? Science Unravels Best Strategy For Smokers

Many smokers have grappled with one rather perturbing question for years: How to call it quits once and for all? Finally, a new study on smoking habits seems to have addressed the question compellingly. The study published in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine has brought to light some revealing findings in this regard.

Smokers are usually quite happy to contend that gradually cutting down the number of sticks each day over a period of time as opposed to quitting instantly or using the so-called “cold turkey” approach is perhaps the most effective strategy for quitting the habit. New findings from the Oxford University study based on a compelling survey of smokers has suggested that the latter could, in fact, be the best possible way to purge away the habit.

The study observed nearly 700 regular smokers in the UK who had demonstrated the inclination to quit the habit over the subsequent two weeks. Fifty percent of these smokers were encouraged to continue smoking the usual way until the end of the two-week period followed by a period of immediate abstinence. The other 50 percent were asked to gradually curb their number of cigarettes each day over the same period until the quitting day. Subsequently, smoking habits of both the groups were examined a month after quitting followed by another six-month follow-up survey.

The results revealed that the success rates after four weeks for smokers who had refrained from smoking altogether had been up to 25 percent higher than those using a gradual cessation approach. An almost similar success rate was documented between the two groups after the designated six months as well.

According to contributing researcher Nicola Lindson-Hawley, although these findings contradict the long-held common-sense way thought by many smokers as the best strategy to curb the tendency, attempting to quit gradually is still better than making no attempt at all.

“Health care workers should offer abrupt quitting first, but if that is not an option, gradual quitting can be a second-line approach. We understand that people might be dead set against quitting abruptly so if the only way they would consider quitting is gradually then the results of this trial suggest it shouldn’t be ruled out.”

Many smokers experience continuous cycles of recurring abstinence and relapse time and again. For most, quitting smoking can become an excruciatingly lengthy battle owing to the many nicotine withdrawal symptoms that follow within days and sometimes even hours after the last cigarette. However, studies have shown that these symptoms are most agonizing during the first three to five days and are likely to subside and even vanish after two to three weeks.

According to the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention, many smokers are tempted to resort to smoking once again owing to the highly unpleasant nicotine withdrawal symptoms oftentimes leading to stress and weight gain. These symptoms are known to include irritability, anger, anxiety, distraction, and sometimes erratic appetite.

The success rate of smokers who choose to cease the habit abruptly compared to those who prefer the gradual cessation approach may be explained by the first group’s early exposure to and, more importantly, success during the withdrawal phase. Similarly, the reduced success rate documented in the smoking habits of the second group in the study may be attributed to a delay in the onset of the same symptoms.

According to experts, few population-based studies have comprehensively studied relapse among former smokers. Researchers have historically maintained that the quantification of the relationship between the duration of abstinence and the likelihood of continued abstinence is critical for the understanding of ongoing public health interventions and the formulation of smoking-cessation initiatives

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