Snap Decision Can Help Quit Smoking
Unplanned Attempts Tend to Last Longer, Study Shows
Jan. 26, 2006 -- Want to quit smoking? Now is as good a time as any, even if you haven't planned for it, a new study shows.
In the study, more than 1,800 smokers and former smokers described their last attempt to quit smoking. More than half said they had made an instant decision to try to quit smoking without planning ahead.
Unplanned attempts to quit smoking were more successful than planned attempts. That is, those smokers were more likely to quit smoking for at least six months.
The study, published in BMJ Online First, comes from researchers including Robert West, PhD, a professor of health psychology at University College London.
Nicotine-replacement therapy and counseling should be immediately available to people who make unplanned attempts to quit smoking, write West and colleagues.
Just over one in five U.S. adults are smokers, according to the CDC. Smoking has been
in America for more than a decade. Most smokers make several attempts before quitting for good.
Quitters' State of Mind
The researchers don't knock planned attempts to quit smoking. Planning ahead can help line up counseling, support, and nicotine-replacement therapy, which can help kick the habit, write West and colleagues.
Instead, they focused on the smoker's frame of mind. Here's how their theory works.
The smokers knew that quitting smoking would be a good idea, and it becomes harder for them to ignore that fact. Eventually, they hit a tipping point and decide to make a serious attempt to stop smoking, ready or not.
The smokers in West's study, who live in the U.K., weren't asked why they suddenly tried to quit smoking. Even a small trigger might have spurred them to action, write West and colleagues.
Imagine a rubber band that stretches farther and farther, suddenly snapping after one last little stretch. The rubber band represents smokers' growing tension about quitting smoking ("motivational tension," as West calls it). The rubber band's tiny, final stretch is their trigger to quit.