“What is the most effective way to quit smoking?”
There are a number of possible answers to this question. Exploring them can teach us something about the nature of quitting smoking. But first, let’s consider if you might need to:
Develop the deep level of motivation needed to quit smoking.
Find the desire to quit smoking even though you really enjoy cigarettes.
Get honest with yourself about your smoking and whether or not you want to quit.
If you’ve gotten past those potential blocks, and you’re still ready to quit, then let’s get on with the analysis:
1) “The most effective way to quit smoking is the one that works for you.”
This is actually not a bad answer, and it certainly rings true for the successful quitter. The idea here is that it doesn’t really matter how you quit, whether you use the patch, the gum, hypnosis, cold turkey, etc. What’s important is that you finally quit successfully and manage to remain smoke-free so that you can enjoy the benefits and longevity of a smoke-free life. So this answer is somewhat useful, but it doesn’t give much direction to someone who is still smoking, and looking for advice on how to quit. So let’s look at another possible answer to the question, one that provides more help for the potential quitter:
2) “The most effective way to quit smoking is to combine any and all techniques that are available to you.”
In my opinion, this is an even better answer, and one that offers real hope to someone who is considering quitting. This is also closer to describing how I eventually managed to quit smoking successfully. I used the knowledge that I gained from previous quit attempts to formulate a better quitting strategy for the future. I learned that certain things helped me (like chewing on toothpicks) while other things did not (like the nicotine patch). Obviously, some things will work better for different people. So a good strategy for quitting is to stay open-minded and try to incorporate anything and everything that you think might help you to quit successfully. Perhaps you will end up outlining a quit strategy that utilizes a number of different techniques, ranging from medications such as Chantix and Zyban, and possibly combining that with some more holistic methods, such as acupuncture or hypnosis. If something doesn’t work for you, try something else. Try everything. Try everything all at once. Remember that the payoff for a successful quit is huge. It is well worth the price of this experimentation. Figuring out how to quit smoking has a near infinite value to the individual.
One final answer to the question might be:
3) “All of these quitting smoking “techniques” are merely gimmicks, and–in the end–we all quit cold turkey. Eventually you must remove nicotine from your system.”
This is a very useful answer as well, and it provides insight into the problem of quitting smoking. The idea here is that even if you use a form of Nicotine replacement therapy, such as with the patch or the gum or the inhaler, eventually you have to quit using that too….and then your body will still go through a nicotine withdrawal at that point. Weaning yourself down with these nicotine therapies might sound like the easier, softer, way, but I found the final withdrawal when you take off that last patch to be just as uncomfortable as a real “cold turkey” quit. Nicotine replacement therapies have lousy success rates if you measure a couple months after the person stops using the patch or the gum.
But don’t let this idea close you off from the option of using the patch or the gum. There are plenty of people out there who have quit successfully by using nicotine replacement therapies. Simply realize that the “weaning down” process is not a free ticket past any and all withdrawals–most people will still experience a great deal of discomfort, even with the patch or the gum. Our first answer still applies here: use whatever works for you. If the patch or the gum can lead to your successful quit in the long run, then by all means, do it.
In light of all this discussion, perhaps the best answer is that the most effective way to quit smoking is to keep trying until you get it right. There are a lot of different techniques and therapies out there, and every single one of them is more cost effective than long term smoking. We are talking about extending your life by 10 to 20 years if you successfully quit, so no excuses!