March 16, 2016
The purpose of the study was to find out whether it's better to gradually quit smoking or to quit all at once. Researchers recruited almost 700 smokers in England and had one group stop smoking immediately, while the other group reduced tobacco use over the course of two weeks. Both groups got nicotine patches and support from nurses to help them quit.
Six months later, 22 percent of people who had quit cold turkey were still tobacco-free, compared to just 15.5 percent of the group who gradually quit. Researchers used chemical breath analysis to confirm that the non-smokers really were abstaining.
Participants were also asked before the experiment whether they wanted to quit gradually or all at once. They were sorted into the groups randomly, so these preferences didn't affect which method they tried, but the preferences did affect how successful they were at quitting.
People who wanted to quit right away had a 52 percent chance of making it to four weeks without a cigarette, compared to 38 percent of the people who wanted to quit gradually. It's possible that the people who wanted to quit gradually had less motivation to stop smoking in the first place.
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