Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Best way to quit smoking: Does such a thing exist?

A question that most smokers hoping to quit would like to know the answer to is "what is the best way to quit smoking?" - and with good reason. The average smoker who quits will take seven attempts over several years to achieve their goal of becoming smoke free. During that time, they will suffer many bouts of low self-esteem as they normally fail time and time again. It can be a soul destroying objective.

When I was a smoker I tried to quit smoking about three times a year. Once every New Year and then again at my birthday in May and again while on my summer vacation. I tried cold turkey more times than I care to remember and never got past 9pm the same day I quit.

I was convinced that Nicotine Replacement Therapy was the key. The mass advertising and the swathe of public opinion that surrounded NRT made me think it was going to be the best way to quit smoking. It all took me in.

I tried nicotine patches about ten times. I never managed more than a couple of days before I quit 'the quit'. I tried lozenges - disgusting. I tried the microtabs which left a 'lump' in my throat which was foul. I tried the inhalator which did the same as the microtabs. I tried silver acetate which is supposed to makes cigarettes taste horrible. It does but it also makes everything else taste horrible.

For me, Nicotine Replacement Therapy was not the best way to quit smoking. But, studies suggest that between 1 in 10 and 1 in 20 people who would not have quit using just will-power alone, manage to quit with NRT.

I heard about Zyban (wellbutrin or bupropion) and though that was it. The 'cure-all' pill I had been longing for. The bad news was that when my doctor checked my blood pressure before prescribing it to me, my BP was through the roof. You see, smokers suffer from high blood pressure because they smoke so much. It is a catch-22. You want to use the smoking cessation aid but you can't because you have health problems from smoking. That's irony for you!

Studies have shown that Zyban can help about 1 in 10 people quit smoking over and above those that would have quit anyway but for me it didn't matter, it wasn't the best way for me to quit smoking.

Now we have Chantix (or Champix in the UK or varenicline) available and Pfizer, its manufacturer, are claiming up to 44% of smokers quit using it. The truth of the matter though is that these claims are highly exaggerated. It is thought to help 1 in 7 initial quit attempts succeed over and above the ones that would have succeeded anyway. However, the long term success rate is only about 15-20% which is a long way off the 44% claimed by Pfizer.

Quitting smoking for a short period of time is a good thing for your body, but smokers don't want breaks from smoking, they want to quit smoking for good. To this end, I don’t think that Chantix is the best way to quit smoking either.

What other methods are available? Well there is hypnosis, cognitive behavioural therapy, acupuncture, laser treatment, herbal remedies and the old favourite - will-power!

Hypnosis is a proven method for quitting smoking and can be used in many areas of ones life to change ones approach to things. Although statistical evidence is hard to come by, anecdotal evidence suggests that hypnosis can be a very good method for quitting smoking. To this end, I cannot say hypnosis is the best way to quit smoking.

Cognitive behavioural therapy means "think-behave" therapy. It is a process of changing the way you think about something to enable you to change the way you behave towards it. It is the method I use in my own book on quitting smoking.

People who quit using this method often report 'knowing' that they will never smoke another cigarette again. In terms of long-term success, if you quit using this method, you usually stay quit for good. But does that make cognitive behavioural therapy the best way to quit smoking? I'll answer that later.

As for herbal treatment, acupuncture and laser treatment, there is no evidence what so ever that these methods are effective. It is impossible for anyone to say whether any of these methods are the best way to quit smoking.

Finally, there is cold turkey. This is clearly one of the least effective methods for getting you to quit smoking, but if you do quit smoking using a method without the support of drugs such as NRT, Zyban on Chantix, the evidence suggests you will be a happier long-term non-smoker.

In answer to the initial question, I believe the best way to quit smoking is by overcoming your addiction to nicotine through the strength of your character and using the focus of your mind. Absolutely everyone has the will power within them to beat smoking but they don't believe in themselves and so they think they need 'chemical' support.

In broader terms, the best way to quit smoking is simply any method that works for you. Everyone is different and will find a different solution for them.

I know people who have simply walked away from cigarettes at a moments notice and never touched them again. I also know people who have succeeded with hypnotherapy and I know that only 4% of my own customers take me up on my guarantee. I know the statistical evidence for the other methods. The point is, the best way to quit smoking is by using the method that works for you and you can only know which method that is if you have tried it. So keep trying all the methods until you find the one that works.

As ever, never quit trying to quit smoking.

Pete Howells has written the EasyQuit System that will help any smoker quit tobacco. Visit http://easyquitsystem.com/ to find out more about his incredible process for quitting smoking that boasts 96% customer satisfaction.