Quitting smoking abruptly is more likely to lead to lasting abstinence compared to quitting gradually, according to a study published in Annals of Internal Medicine.
Current guidelines recommend abrupt smoking cessation, where smokers choose a quit date and stop smoking; however, more people seem to prefer taking a gradual approach to quitting, where they cut back on the amount they smoke over time. Physicians need to know if both approaches are effective so they can provide evidence-based advice to their patients.
Researchers randomly assigned 697 adult smokers to quit abruptly or to gradually cut back on smoking before quitting. Participants in the abrupt cessation group chose a quit date with support from a nurse and stopped smoking on that day. Participants in the gradual cessation group reduced their smoking by 75 percent in the 2 weeks leading up to an agreed-upon quit date. Other than the cessation strategy, treatment was similar for both groups. Participants received behavioral support from nurses and used nicotine replacement therapy before and after their quit date.
The researchers compared 4-week and 6-month abstinence between the two groups, and also assessed whether outcomes differed based on participants’ preferred method of quitting. The researchers found that patients in the abrupt quitting group were 25 percent more likely to stop smoking in both the short and long term, regardless of their method preference. These findings suggest that clinicians should recommend abrupt quitting over gradual quitting to patients who want to stop smoking.