Harvard Mental Health Letter

Ask the doctor: Is it better to stop smoking abruptly or gradually?

Q. I've tried to quit smoking three times. A friend suggested that instead of giving cigarettes up all at once that I try to kick the habit gradually. Which method is best?

A. The traditional view has been that establishing a "quit day" to stop smoking helps increase the chance that people will actually be able to kick the habit. But a review by the international Cochrane Collaboration concluded that a more gradual approach is just as effective and may be more appealing to smokers who want to quit.

The authors reviewed 10 randomized controlled studies, involving 3,760 participants, comparing the outcomes of quitting abruptly or gradually. They found that abstinence rates were about the same regardless of whether people quit smoking abruptly or gradually, whether they used nicotine replacement therapy, and whether they tried to quit on their own or participated in a support group.

To continue reading this article, you must login.
  • Research health conditions
  • Check your symptoms
  • Prepare for a doctor's visit or test
  • Find the best treatments and procedures for you
  • Explore options for better nutrition and exercise
Learn more about the many benefits and features of joining Harvard Health Online »