Quitting smoking most successful with ‘cold turkey’ method

Quitting smoking most successful with ‘cold turkey’ methodA new study suggests going “cold turkey” is the best method when it comes to quitting smoking, as opposed to gradual quitting methods. Going cold turkey refers to stopping all at once. The researchers found that after four weeks, nearly half of those who went cold turkey still continued abstaining from smoking. For those who quit gradually over the course of two weeks, only 39 percent still weren’t smoking after four-weeks time.

Lead author Nicola Lindson-Hawley said, “Most people thought cutting down would suit them better, but whatever they thought, it turned out they were better to try to quit abruptly.”


Annually, nearly 400,000 Americans die from smoking, and for each person who dies from smoking three others are living with smoking-related illnesses. Smoking remains the number one preventable cause of death, and by quitting you can greatly reduce your risk of mortality.
Unfortunately, smoking cessation can be difficult, and smokers may experience stress, hunger, and weight gain as side effects from quitting smoking. For many individuals, it takes many attempts to quit in order to finally stop the habit completely.

The latest findings consisted of 700 adult smokers from England where the average smoker had 20 cigarettes a day or more. The volunteers were randomly assigned to either quitting smoking all at once – cold turkey – or gradually over two weeks. The study lasted for four weeks.

The gradual quitters used smoking cessation products like gums and patches and abrupt quitters only used patches. All the participants received counseling from nurses and short-term nicotine replacement medications after the quit day.

The researchers followed up with the participants at four weeks and again at six months. Blood testing was used to confirm smoking cessation.


At four weeks, only 39 gradual quitters still weren’t smoking, compared to 49 percent of those who went cold turkey. At six months, 16 percent of gradual quitters were still not smoking, compared to 22 percent of abrupt quitters. Although the percentages seem low, lead author Lindson-Hawley suggests these numbers are normal.

Lindson-Hawley suggests that smokers should attempt to go cold turkey at first, but can attempt to quit gradually as it is still a viable option. Speak with your doctor if you feel you’re ready to quit to see what options you have to assist you in smoking cessation.


Author Bio

Emily Lunardo studied medical sociology at York University with a strong focus on the social determinants of health and mental illness. She is a registered Zumba instructor, as well as a Canfit Pro trainer, who teaches fitness classes on a weekly basis. Emily practices healthy habits in her own life as well as helps others with their own personal health goals. Emily joined Bel Marra Health as a health writer in 2013.