Harvard Mental Health Letter

In Brief: Mindfulness training helps people quit smoking

Multiple options exist to help people stop smoking, from nicotine replacement therapy to psychotherapy and self-help programs. But for the most part, the success rates of these programs are discouraging. Most people addicted to cigarettes have to make several quit attempts before they can finally kick the habit.

Even then, they may have trouble staying abstinent. Environmental cues and triggers — such as the smell of a cigarette or the pressures of a stressful day — can induce powerful cravings, including recollections of the pleasures of smoking, that a person may find hard to resist. That's why most tobacco cessation programs encourage people to avoid triggers, reduce stress, and find alternatives to cigarettes.

One study suggests that a different approach — which involves learning to accept and tolerate the challenges of withdrawal from addiction, rather than finding ways to avoid these unpleasant experiences — might be a better way to quit cigarettes. The study is believed to be the first randomized controlled trial of mindfulness training as a stand-alone treatment for nicotine addiction. The results are promising.

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 »