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Cutting Back Helps in Quitting Smoking

Study Shows Reducing Cigarettes May Help You Get Started
By
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Dec. 7, 2006 -- Not ready to quit smoking? You may change your mind if you cut back on cigarettes.

A new review of the research shows that smokers who reduce their daily cigarette use often quit smoking completely, instead of permanently settling for fewer cigarettes.

The finding is a controversial one. Many experts recommend an abrupt end to smoking, arguing that simply reducing the number of cigarettes smoked is not enough to reap health benefits.

For your health's sake, you should quit smoking completely. This review shows no health benefits from reducing -- but not quitting -- smoking.

But if you can't quit immediately, cutting back may be a first step, the review suggests.

The review appears in December's edition of Nicotine & Tobacco Research.

Controversial Idea

"Cutting back is approved as a method of quitting in several European countries, but not in the United States," reviewer John Hughes, MD, says in a news release.

Hughes is a University of Vermont professor of psychology and psychiatry. He has researched nicotine and tobacco for 20 years.

"Our review contradicts the commonly held belief that quitting requires stopping abruptly, and provides evidence that smokers can quit successfully by reducing the amount of cigarettes smoked," Hughes says.

Cutting Back May Lead to Quitting

Hughes worked on the review with Matthew Carpenter, PhD, of the Medical University of South Carolina.

They analyzed 19 studies -- some of which haven't been published yet -- of smokers who weren't trying to quit smoking.

The smokers were followed for one to five years. During that time, some cut down on their daily cigarettes; others didn't.

Those who reduced their daily cigarettes were more likely to completely quit smoking, the review shows.

However, the data don't show any health benefits from merely cutting back. The reviewers call for more studies on that topic.

Recently, Norwegian researchers reported that heavy smokers need to quit smoking completely, not simply cut back, to gain health benefits.

That study, which wasn't included in Hughes' review, appears in the December edition of Tobacco Control.

Quitting Smoking

Here are 14 tips from the CDC for people who want to quit smoking:

  • Set a date to quit smoking.
  • Get rid of all cigarettes and ashtrays at home, work, and in your car.
  • Don't let people smoke around you.
  • Review your past attempts to quit. Think about what worked and what didn't.
  • Once you quit, don't smoke -- not even a puff.
  • Get support and encouragement from friends and family.
  • Talk to your doctor about quitting smoking.
  • Consider getting individual or group counseling to help quit smoking.
  • Consider getting counseling by telephone at (800) QUIT-NOW ((800) 784-8669).
  • Try to distract yourself from urges to smoke.
  • Do something to reduce your stress -- try exercise or reading.
  • Plan something enjoyable to do every day.
  • Drink a lot of water and other fluids.
  • Be prepared for relapse or difficult situations.

If you start smoking again, don't give up. It often takes several attempts to quit smoking for good.

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